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February 20, 2021 2 min read

By Emily Hirsch, MS, RD

Collagen has gained popularity as a nutrition supplement for its potential ability to combat the signs of aging, support joint health, and even assist with weight management. A lesser known, yet impactful benefit of collagen may be its role in improving and maintaining heart health.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, making up 90% of your connective tissue and 70% of your skin. Often referred to as your “body’s scaffolding,” collagen is a major component of your bones and connective tissues in addition to your skin, tendons, ligaments and muscles. 

Collagen can help strengthen and provide elasticity throughout your body, which also includes the cell walls of your veins and arteries.Collagen provides the structural integrity for your arteries, which are responsible for keeping the blood flowing from your heart throughout your body. Unfortunately, collagen production declines as we age. In fact, collagen loss can begin anytime between the ages of 18 and 29, however, after age 40 the body tends to lose approximately 1% of its natural collagen per year.

Without enough collagen, arteries may become weaker, leaving you more susceptible to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by the narrowing of the arteries that can lead to cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke. 

Moreover, plaque buildup can clog your arteries preventing blood flow to other organs. Collagen supplementation may help strengthen your arteries and reduce plaque buildup, helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In one study, 31 healthy people took a daily dose of 16 grams of collagen for six months. Study participants experienced a decrease in artery stiffness, LDL/HDL ratio, and arterial plaque buildup as a result of collagen supplementation.

Another promising clinical study found that supplementation with collagen derived from pork taken for 12 weeks significantly decreased arterial wall stiffness in subjects who were at risk for developing atherosclerosis.

In oneanimal study researchers found that administering collagen tripeptide to rabbits with high cholesterol reduced their arterial plaques and improved cholesterol levels.  

Collagen Supplementation

The typical American diet generally doesn’t include many foods that naturally contain collagen; therefore supplementation may be beneficial. In order to be utilized by the body, most collagen supplements are hydrolyzed. This means that the collagen is broken down into smaller pieces (peptides), making it easier for your body to absorb and use.

There are different types of collagen supplements derived from various animal sources.Collagen can be made from the connective tissue of almost any animal, but the most common are cows, chicken, and fish. 

Cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death worldwide.Arterial stiffening along with arterial plaque buildup are considered risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and collagen can help.While eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising are important mainstays of protecting your cardiovascular health, increasing evidence suggests that collagen supplementation may be a game-changer for risk of heart-related conditions.

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