What you need to know about collagen supplements

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Collagen supplements to look and feel younger are a multi-billion dollar industry but our doctor says your money may be better spent.

Dr. Colleen Fogarty, the Department Chair at Highland Family Medicine, explained what collagen is and how millions of people are using it Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“Collagen is a protein that’s found throughout the body,” Dr. Fogarty explained. “It actually composes about 75% of the dry weight of the human body. So really, it’s in the joints, it’s in the skin, it’s in the hair, it’s in the muscle fibers. It’s pretty much what holds us together.”

Dr. Fogarty said there are different forms of it, including pills that can be ingested. “People think that if there’s collagen in my skin and I lose it as I age if I get more then my skin is going to be healthier.”

For people seeking the so-called ‘Fountain of Youth,’ the question is, does collagen offer tangible anti-aging benefits? Dr. Fogarty said the evidence is very thin at this point. “In January of 2019, there was a study that came out that reviewed about eight other studies. These studies tend to be small. They tend to not be well-controlled. There were some early suggestions that there may be some benefit for minimizing joint pain or maybe skin elasticity. In terms of any drug that would be approved, the findings are thin enough that we would not support everyone going wholesale and eating a bunch of collagen.”

One estimate says people spent over $3.7 billion on collagen in 2016. Dr. Fogarty said anyone who chooses to use it should be aware of the potential dangers. “One of the issues is that these products are not FDA regulated and so it can be very difficult to know if exactly what’s in the bottle is exactly what’s being advertised. You’ll hear things about, is it collagen one or collagen two or this or that, hydrolyzed collagen or whole collagen? We don’t really understand the evidence of one versus another and without regulation, it’s very difficult to know what you’re getting. So again, in the area of supplements, it’s often a bit of the Wild West. You don’t know what you’re getting. You don’t know if you’re getting quality for what you’re paying for. I talked to my patients honestly about economic harm. If you’re spending $20 on a bottle of something and it’s depriving you of spending $20 on a healthy food plan or something else, then that gets to be a problem.”

When asked if she would recommend collagen to a patient, Dr. Fogarty said, “So generally speaking, something that’s touted as a miracle cure is automatically suspect. And if people are making lots of money on it, again, in my mind, that’s automatically suspect. So I don’t think there’s enough clinical evidence at this time to recommend collagen supplements. And, in fact, we don’t know if simply eating a higher protein diet would be as beneficial. I’m always back to a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and a good mixture of whole grains.”

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