How to Increase Collagen Production: Science, Fact, Fiction

UPDATED LAST ON

June 8, 2022

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Medically Reviewed ✓

By Dr. Cate, M.D., a board-certified Family Physician, biochemist trained at Cornell University, and New York Times Bestseller.

Dr. Cate's Takeaway

We have limited but still ample science supporting the idea that eating collagen rich foods or taking supplements boosts fibroblast activity and therefore your body’s collagen production in a real-world meaningful way. We have zero evidence that fruits and vegetables do the same.

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Quick Summary

Collagen production starts to decline around the age of 25 and the impact of the aging process starts to accelerate. Since collagen is the “glue” that holds us together, we need to replenish our body’s collagen loss. Collagen is produced through cells called fibroblasts — the key to boosting collagen. To help fibroblasts create more collagen, you need to eat animal-based foods. Scientific evidence proves it through tissue culture studies of fibroblasts, animal studies, and clinical human studies. You have two options to eat collagen: 1) Consume foods that contain collagen; bone broth, certain organ meats, meat on the bone (including cartilage, skin, bone, joint material), and eggs (more specifically, eggshell membrane), and/or 2) Take a collagen supplement. Foods that claim to be “collagen-boosting”, but do not contain collagen (e.g. leafy greens, red peppers, berries), have not been shown to actually boost collagen production.

How do you get more collagen?

This is about as science-y as it gets with collagen. And we need a lot of science in this conversation to separate fact from fiction.

You’re probably here because you’ve read a statistic recently that shows our collagen production starts to decrease around 25 to 30 years of age. Yes, this is true. And yes, it is unsettling. Especially for those who turned 25 many moons ago, like me!

Should that scare you? That depends on how much you value your health (we hope it’s a lot!) Collagen makes up 1/3 of our body’s protein composition — it’s the “glue” that holds us together. As Charlie our founder says:

When you look at a person, you’re basically seeing 3 things: Water, Gas, & Collagen.

Collagen decreases, aging process increases

When collagen decreases, the impact of the aging process increases. We all feel the impact of less collagen on the outside of our bodies (skin, nails, hair) and the inside (cartilage, bone, connective tissue, ligaments, tendons, arteries, organs, gut lining, and more!). Wrinkly skin, stiffer ligaments, and gastrointestinal problems are just a few examples of this collateral damage. Collagen, truly, is the glue that holds us together and we want as much collagen in our bodies as possible, all the time.

25 year old should start taking collagen
Happy Birthday! You now have less collagen. Sorry.

How do we combat the decrease of collagen loss?

Aside from a panic attack, is there anything proactive we can do to help our bodies boost collagen production? The answer is not topical collagen creams, it’s actually pretty easy (nom, nom, nom).

Before we dive into that, let’s first take a minute to understand how the body manufacturers collagen. Understanding the science behind collagen production will help you separate fact from fiction. Don’t let misinformation mislead you — the more you can de-mystify this process, the better!

The science of collagen production

Does an organ create collagen, like the heart or liver? Where does this “glue” come from? Is collagen stored away in some hidden place and disbursed magically whenever our bodies need it? If I eat a cup of blueberries, will the extra Vitamin C jumpstart the collagen engine?

Collagen Fibroblasts
Fibroblasts: the key to increasing your collagen!

Collagen is produced through cells called fibroblasts.

These cells create the collagen in our bodies and live in all our connective tissue. They’re “developmentally programmed to produce collagen matrix, which is the main structural component of connective tissue”, per NCBI.

Because fibroblasts make collagen, and collagen holds all our cells together, fibroblasts are the unsung heroes of multicellular life.Dr. Cate, M.D.

Fibroblasts: the key to boosting collagen

The key to increasing your body’s collagen production naturally is about these collagen-making cells, fibroblasts. If you want more collagen, you must focus on fibroblasts. They are your friends — even though they decide to work less efficiently starting at age 25. But, let’s stay positive here. 🙂

Here’s the somewhat bad news. Motivating fibroblasts to make more collagen is a radically complex process.

Optimizing a complex process like stimulating fibroblast cells to make more collagen in all your collagenous tissues requires just about every nutrient there is.Dr. Cate, M.D.

Fibroblasts hold the keys to the castle in the complex process of collagen production. So, how do we get fibroblasts to boost our collagen? Is there anything we can do?

Can we motivate fibroblasts to make more collagen?

Like many parents, I use ice cream as a motivational tool — ya’ll who are parents feel me! Now, we know fibroblasts probably don’t like ice cream (shame on them), so what will motivate these cells to create more collagen?

Kid deciding on ice cream parent using as motivation
Can we motivate our fibroblasts, like we motivate our kids for ice cream?

Here’s where this conversation about how exactly to boost your collagen production gets dicey. There are too many opinions around this and not enough science, unfortunately. As we’ve learned, the linchpin to all this is fibroblasts. How can we motivate these little guys to produce more collagen?

How to increase your collagen

OK, the answer we’ve all been waiting for. How, exactly, can we increase our collagen? This is pretty simple, folks.

Eat more collagen!Dr. Cate, M.D.

Nom, nom, nom.

Eat collagen rich foods boosts fibroblast collagen production

You need to EAT collagen to increase your collagen, and you have 2 options:

  1. Collagen-rich foods (from animals). There are only 4 foods that contain collagen: bone broth, certain organ meats, meat on the bone including cartilage, skin, bone, joint material, and eggs (more specifically, eggshell membrane).
  2. Collagen supplements (made from animals). Yes, collagen is made from animals. We’re partial to powder, but you need to decide for yourself on the best way to take collagen in all its available forms.

As I said, this is simple.

2 ways to increase collagen production - foods or supplements
You can increase your collagen via foods that contain collagen and/or use supplements.

Is there any other way to help motivate our fibroblasts to create more collagen? What about eating “collagen-boosting” foods, like berries, grapefruit, garlic, bell peppers, and leafy greens? If you Google enough, you’ll find all kinds of these lists citing vegetables and fruits boosting your collagen. But, is that accurate? Is there evidence to support fibroblast stimulation? Jump to ‘Fiction’ below.

This gets confusing fast, but we’re here to help you separate fact from fiction. Let’s start with the evidence that shows eating collagen-rich foods and/or supplements actually increases collagen production.

Facts about increasing collagen

We have a ton of evidence showing that eating animal-based foods, including collagen supplements, helps those fibroblast cells do their job, which is to increase collagen production.

Let’s dig into the evidence.

Evidence: Eating collagen stimulates collagen production

Here are 5 studies that show components in bone broth and collagen peptides can stimulate collagen production.

Takeaway Quote from Study Our Translation
Study #1 "Our work confirms that Pro-Hyp and Hyp-Gly do play crucial roles in proliferation of fibroblasts." The two bioactive peptides studied (pro-hyp and hip-gly) stimulate skin cell fibroblasts to make more collagen.
Study #2 "70 percent of patients subjectively found significant improvement or improvement in swelling and joint painfulness and movement capability." The ingredients in a multi collagen complex supplement (specifically the combo of hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulphate) helped 70% of people who had joint pain to experience less pain.
Study #3 "The oral intake of bioactive collagen peptides used in the current investigation led to a statistically significant reduction of activity-related joint pain in young active adults suffering from knee joint discomfort." Collagen peptides were shown to improve joint pain in young athletes. More about collagen for athletes.
Study #4 "Studies on pepsin soluble collagen from red sea cucumber (a sea creature/animal that is full of collagen) have proved its wound healing role through induction fibronectin synthesis." Collagen peptides accelerate wound healing.
Study #5 "Collagen peptides fed to mature rats improve their bone mineral density." Collagen peptides help build stronger bones.

There are the facts from independent studies showing that eating collagen directly impacts collagen production. And there’s more evidence than just these studies.

OK, let’s now move on to what doesn’t boost collagen production.

Fiction about increasing your collagen

Vegetables do not contain collagen, woman-surprised
Is there a case that certain fruits & veggies can boost collagen production?

Let’s flip the coin. What types of things will not directly motivate your fibroblasts to increase collagen production?

Eating fruits and vegetables.

There is zero evidence showing that eating fruits and vegetables simulates fibroblasts to create more collagen in our bodies. Dr. Cate, M.D.

Why don’t fruits and veggies boost collagen production? Because fruits and veggies contain zero collagen protein. Remember, you need to EAT collagen to replenish your collagen.

Listen, fruits and veggies are a good thing. One of Dr. Cate’s four pillars of a healthy diet is raw food! We’re not telling you grapefruit, blueberries, leafy greens, red peppers, etc. are not important to eat regularly. This conversation is simply about whether consuming these foods directly impacts collagen production.

Let’s take a closer look at this lack of evidence.

Foods that do not help your body create more collagen

zero collagen in fruits and veggies
How much collagen is in fruits and vegetables?

Let’s debunk the numerous lists you may see when you Google “collagen boosting foods”. These lists outline certain fruits and veggies that boost your body’s natural collagen production.

Here’s a listing of those typical foods that claim they boost collagen:

  • Grapefruit. Zero evidence.
  • Berries. Zero evidence.
  • Red Pepper. Zero evidence.
  • Leafy Greens. Zero evidence.
  • Garlic. Zero evidence.
  • Beans. Zero evidence.
  • Cashews. Zero evidence.
  • Tomatoes. Zero evidence.
  • Bell Peppers. Zero evidence.

When sources link to studies claiming these foods improve collagen, read the evidence. These studies do not support the claim that [insert fruit or vegetable here] improves collagen health. But, what about vitamin C? Some sources will cite studies stating vitamin C’s importance in collagen synthesis. But, all these studies show is that not having enough vitamin C is problematic — that’s it. Learn more about Vitamin C and collagen.

Quick review:

  • Fruits and vegetables are important to a healthy diet, but they do not contain collagen.
  • There are zero animal and/or human studies of vegan foods and their impact on collagen production.
  • When sources claim fruits and veggies impact fibroblast production, there is no evidence supporting these claims.

Other ways to naturally support your collagen

Aside from eating collagen via food or supplements to boost our collagen production, is there anything else we can do to help our collagen conundrum? Absolutely. You can help your body not work against itself when it comes to manufacturing collagen!

Here are 3 things you can avoid:

  1. Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Radiation and inflammation from UV light will destroy your collagen, especially if you’ve got seed oils in your diet.
  2. Smoking. Smoking decreases collagen in the skin — in particular, type I and type II collagen. If you stop, it’ll reduce collagen destruction because of less inflammation and theoretically could improve blood flow to the skin — which could increase the production of collagen.
  3. Stress. Decreasing stress will potentially reduce blood sugar levels. Excess sugar sticks to and damages collagen.

Conclusion: The best way to improve collagen

We know there’s a lot of information out there when it comes to collagen. We hope we’ve been able to clear up what’s true about increasing your collagen, and what’s not.

The only way to improve your body’s natural production of collagen, that’s proven through tissue culture studies of fibroblasts, animal studies, and clinical human studies, is to eat collagen-rich foods and take collagen supplements.

Drink 8oz of bone broth daily. Eat some tripe. Gnaw on a turkey leg. Buy multi collagen protein and experiment with the various ways to use collagen peptides powder (there are at least 16 ways!) Whatever method you choose, just have confidence that you’ll be motivating those fibroblasts to produce more collagen!

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This Collagen College™ article created by:

Author

Eric Sharp CMO

Eric Sharp

Eric discovered collagen back in 2019 (thanks to Charlie) and been a believer since. He brings 20+ years of digital marketing experience to the CB Supplements team. As CMO, he's directly responsible for crafting the CB Supplements positioning, content, branding, and overall marketing direction.

Contributors

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Dr. Cate

Dr. Cate Shanahan is our Medical & Scientific Advisor. She is a Board-certified Family Physician, biochemist trained at Cornell University, and New York Times Bestseller.

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