Is Collagen Bad For You? The Pros and Cons of Collagen Supplements
Why Collagen is Bad For You
Collagen is the most popular supplement on the planet. However, it can do more harm than good for you.
Here’s why, there is a deep dark underbelly in the industry that you need to know about. There are serious side effects worth noting: gas, bloating, constipation and stomach pain.
Also, the sourcing and manufacturing methods make most of it a GMO and hyper processed food that is made using solvents, sprays and chemicals.
Is it a good fit for your goals? Read this article for a full review of what you should be worried about.
Before we begin, I'll mention that you can get all the benefits of collagen and way more by drinking a high quality bone broth powder. The best one you'll find is Bluebird Provisions Instant Powder.
Disclaimer, that is my company so you may think I'm biased, but if you do your research, you will find out why we are the best one.
If you're sensitive to it or concerned about sourcing and ethics, give bone broth a try.
Do collagen supplements work?
Collagen supplements work for certain people in specific settings. For example, when combined with Vitamin C before exercise, it can help with joint pain. It can also help your skin's hydration status (after 8 weeks of use) and can encourage proper digestion.
But it is really the amino acids within it that are responsible for the health benefits. That is because it is broken down into these individual proteins when they are digested.
So if you have good gut health and proper digestion, and you take it for long enough, it can work. But they do not work for everyone. More on that below.
Potential Health Benefits of Collagen Peptides
Because it makes up so many critical parts of our bodies, collagen products are not only beneficial but essential to maintaining good health.
However, the benefits are still debated. While there is reasonable evidence that they help maintain hydrated skin and relieve osteoarthritis pain.
More research is needed into less well-understood benefits, like lowering blood pressure and blood sugar level results.
Here are some potential benefits (read our collagen benefits article for the full list):
As you age, your bones become less dense and more brittle, breaking more easily and taking longer to heal.
Studies have shown that daily supplements can help make your bones denser, slowing the aging process that makes them brittle and helping your body to support new bone production.
Collagen and Skin Health / Elasticity
Collagen supplements have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity for older people. They might also help to lessen wrinkles and crows feet around your eyes.
The dosage is 10g daily for 8 weeks. That is a lot of product before you know the results.
While more men go bald , many women also experience hair loss or more thinning as they age. In one study, a group of women with thinning hair saw significant increased results in their hair's quantity, scalp coverage, and thickness while taking a powder version daily.
Some people's nails break more easily than others, and don't grow as fast. One study in a group of women showed faster nail growth and fewer broken or chipped nails after only four weeks of daily intake.
Reduced Osteoarthritis Joint Pain
For people with knee osteoarthritis, taking it might act as a mild pain reliever and improve joint function. It may take about three to five months of daily treatment before you see these improvements.
Increased Size of Muscles
A combination of supplements and strength training could potentially help increase muscle mass and strength. This evidence is mixed and the results are not all that strong.
There is better evidence that is helps your tendons and ligaments get stronger than your actual muscles. This could be responsible for the positive effects.
Why is collagen bad for you?
Collagen is bad for you because of the nasty gums, natural flavors, fillers, sweeteners and preservatives that brands use in it. These are seriously harmful to your gut health and can cause diarrhea, bloating, constipation, kidney stones and allergic reactions.
Also, it is heavily processed using solvents, sprays and chemicals the strip the hides and make it into a fine powder.
Finally, it comes from GMO sources from Brazil which are subject to more antibiotics and hormones.
10 Dangerous Side Effects of Collagen Supplements
The most common side effects noted are digestive issues like diarrhea, bloating, heartburn and allergies.
1. You Might Have Gut Health Issues
If you have underlying gut issues, it can make them worse or better. Some people report it helps their leaky gut or IBS issues, while others claim is leaves them feeling full or bloated with heartburn -- regardless of the diet they are on.
2. Some People are Sensitive to it
A portion of people are sensitive to collagen protein, which means that when they take them, their immune system identifies it as a foreign substance and attacks it. This can cause an allergic symptoms or other problems.
It is made from the skin, bones and connective tissue of animals. So if you are sensitive to those then you may get a reaction.
3. Collagen Might Make You Feel Bloated
Collagen might make you feel bloated, queasy or full as your body's stomach acids break it down to amino acids. This usually passes except for rare cases. You are likely feeling these symptoms because you body is not used to the amino acids found within it.
4. You Could Feel Constipated
If taken in large amounts, it might make you constipated. This is backed up by some of the research where a small group of participants noted feelings of constipation at the beginning of the study. This usually improves as your body gets used to it.
5. Collagen May Cause Kidney Stones
Collagen may cause kidney stones because it has an amino acid called hydroxyproline. Some studies show that hydroxyproline is quickly converted into oxalate in the body, which may increase oxalic acid in the urine. This is how we get kidney stones.
However, the levels are not high enough for most people to develop them. You would need to consume hydroxyproline on its own.
We don't know how the collagen in supplements may affect kidney stone formation when consumed in normal quantities. If you are high risk for them, best to avoid it.
6. It Can Cause Allergic Reactions
Collagen is known to cause an immune reaction in people who have a sensitivity to gelatin, which is a cooked form of it. In rare cases this can be threatening.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching, tingling, or skin irritation, swelling in your tongue or other areas on your face, wheezing, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. If you have any of these symptoms, then stop use and see a doctor.
7. You May Be Wasting Your Money
Many people simply do not respond to collagen products claims. This could be for a host of reasons. The body is a complex thing and some proteins do not get digested or broken down in our guts the same way others do.
Given the expense of it, you might be better off eating foods like bone broth instead of supplementing with peptides.
8. It is Not Vegan
There is no vegan or vegetarian source of collagen. It is as simple as that. There are tons of big companies marketing precursors or boosters that may be vegan. These are garbage and are not giving you benefits.
They are other ingredients that are thought to increase collagen production in your body.
9. Other Unknown Ingredients Might Cause Problems
There are many gums, fillers, preservatives, sprays, dye's and anti-caking agents that do not appear on ingredient lists but are very harmful to your gut health. If they are in small enough quantities, they do not need to be on the package.
But they are common allergens and come from GMO sources. They are not things you want in your body. The supplement industry is rife with these things and no one talks about it.
10. You Might Get Diarrhea from Collagen Protein
Collagen can cause diarrhea because it is a hydrophilic molecule, which can help to attract water and acidic molecules to your GI tract as it moves through.
This can help food move through the gut more smoothly, but it also causes some people run for the toilet.
This condition often lasts for a few weeks or months. For most people, this diarrhea goes away for a little bit, then comes back later.
Potential Risks of Collagen Powders
The potential risks of collagen supplements are that 95% of them are imported from Brazil and China, they're sourced from factory farms that use hormones and antibiotics, they come from GMO beef sources and are heavily processed using chemicals, solvents and sprays.
Let's break these down one by one so you know what you're dealing with.
Comes From China and Brazil
I bet you didn't expect to read that. Why? Collagen is a commodity product, and with commodities, the cheapest source and manufacturer wins.
Brazil and China can do it cheaper than anyone else because they have abundant sources of beef and relatively cheap labour.
This makes it impossible for Canada or USA made powders to compete on price.
China and Brazil have the largest factory farm beef operations in the world. They export a lot of it.
This is why you do not see any certified organic versions in North America. It is technologically and financially impossible to supply these cows to make it.
Most of it is GMO From Beef
The term "GMO" stands for "genetically modified organism." As you read above, most of the beef used to make collagen comes from factory farms that use hormones and antibiotics. These are also GMO beef that are subject to poor living conditions and animal welfare.
It's Heavily Processed Using Chemicals, Solvents Bleaches and Sprays
Most of it comes from cow hides. And it is not easy to make it from such a tough and dense material. In fact, it requires a lot of chemical processing using enzymes, chemicals and sprays to remove collagen molecules from the hides.
This is a problem because innovators come up with whatever technology will process the hides quickest and cheapest.
The processing removes natural vitamins and minerals, leaving you with a synthetic powder without much nutrition. For example, bone broth has way more nutrition than any collagen. That is because it is not heavily processed.
Synthetic nutrients are not absorbed the same way in our bodies. This is another big issue that deserves its own article.
Consuming lots of healthy foods can help your body produce collagen naturally. From a practical perspective, eat real food rich in glycine and proline (like bone broth) to ensure that your body produces as much as possible.
But you can't just drink any bone broth. It must be a traditionally made beverage without junk fillers, natural flavors or yeast extracts.
The absolute highest quality bone broth you'll find is made by Bluebird Provisions. The instant powder is available throughout the USA and has 12 g of collagen per serving and natural calcium for your bones.
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you get your daily vitamin C dose too, which is needed to produce it efficiently.
Is collagen suitable for vegans and vegetarians?
Collagen is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians because it is made from animal sources. There is marine sourced versions available, so if you eat fish then you can try those.
But they taste awful and must be eaten on their own because it dominates the flavor of anything you mix it with. Scientists are trying to isolate lab grown versions of it, however, there are no on the market yet.
Are collagen supplements safe?
Collagen supplements are not safe for everyone because there are dangerous side effects and serious quality issues. You can keep taking it, but just know this.
It has downsides and serious side effects including diarrhea, bloating, allergic reactions, cramps and other digestive issues.
Unless you find an organic version sourced from North America, you are most likely getting a GMO product sourced from a factory farm in Brazil that uses hormones and antibiotics in the beef.
Also, even the top brands we've all heard of have gums, fillers, sweeteners that do not always need to appear on the ingredient list. That is because they are in such small quantities. These are awful for gut health.
Bone broth is a healthier alternative that has all the benefits plus so much more. Bone broth has hydrating electrolytes (300mg potassium) along with more protein.
Bluebird Provisions makes a non-gmo bone broth that ticks all the boxes and has 12g collagen protein (more than your powder) per serving. Try some today and let me know what you think.
What is the deal with collagen and breast cancer?
Research shows the potential for collagen to slow cancer spreading from one site to another in your body.
But there is not enough evidence to recommend taking it after a cancer diagnosis or during treatment.
Patients should always consult with their doctor before taking it or anything else as it can interrupt treatment.
I feel stuffed all the time now very heavy and fat and yes urine has turned darker and this feeling of feeling stuffed is before I even eat anything only took it for a week
Hi Raquel, not to my knowledge. Hope they heal up soon!
Hi Meg ,
Sorry to hear that. I would consider trying bone broth instead.
Can collagen cause hemorrhoids?
I used it for the first time today. I woke with gut pains and then severe diarrhea at 2:00 am. It was horrible!
I’m afraid to use it again.
Hi Donna G,
I am not familiar with that brand so I can’t weight in.
I am not 100% familiar with that brand. It looks okay, but I cant fully recommend it.
Darn I am a bit stumped on that one. I would ease off and see if the symptoms go away.
let me know how it goes
Is Les Nessman marine collagen healthier than other collagens?
Hi Connor, How about Collagen + Biotin by youtheory made in the US? I have topical allergies and kidney stones when i was 8 yrs old. What’s your recommendation? Thank you Godspeed!
Every sense I started taking collagen, my urine has been a “bright” yellow. I have tried reading side effects of collagen but have not found any with information about color or strong urine.
Should I be concerned?
Hi Val, I would try something else if the symptoms don’t get better in a day. It should not cause those issues.
I’m taking neocell peptides. It’s made in USA. What do you think about it?
2nd at today – having diarrhea. But hoping if I break the dose for 4 times a day (I’m taking 10g a day) it will help solve the problem….
Thanks for your comment Esther. They taste awful but you’ll get the amino acids from collagen if that’s what you’re looking for. I’ll always recommend bone broth instead because of the additional electrolytes and hydration.
Thank you for sharing this important info. I do take a marine collagen sourced in Canada. What are your thoughts on that?