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5 Key Nutrients That Boost Collagen Production Naturally
As researchers continue to publish studies backing up the benefits of collagen supplementation, more and more people are jumping on the collagen bandwagon.
This is excellent news for anyone interested in supporting the health of their joints, skin, and gut.*
But how do you know if you’re getting the most out of your collagen supplement? Is it possible to gain even greater benefits by adding supportive nutrients?
The human body is much more complex than most people give it credit for, and it’s often the case that we overlook some crucial components to our biochemistry.
One thing that many people overlook when it comes to supplementation is that most nutrients that you consume require supportive processes involving other nutrients in your body in order to be properly assimilated. And collagen is no exception.
Read on to learn why your body needs nutrients to support collagen synthesis, and which nutrients to focus on to optimize collagen maintenance and production.
Why Does Your Body Need Nutrients To Support Collagen Production?
Taking a collagen supplement is a fantastic way to get the amino acids (protein building blocks) that your body needs to produce collagen. With that being said, nothing in your body happens in a vacuum.
In other words, to produce collagen optimally, you need all of the collagen synthesis pathways to be working at full capacity. Collagen production is a complex process that requires a multitude of nutrients. From absorption and assimilation to cross-linking of proteins, your body requires specific vitamins, minerals, and cofactors.
That's why consuming a diet rich in a diverse array of whole foods can help not only with collagen production but with every biochemical pathway in your body.
There are a handful of nutrients, in particular, that can assist with collagen production that you may want to add to your supplement or diet regimen. These nutrients work synergistically in your body to up-regulate the process of collagen synthesis and help to keep your collagen stores strong and healthy.
5 Nutrients That Support Collagen Production
#1 Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that also plays a role in the production of proteins and neurotransmitters.*
Among the nutrients needed for collagen synthesis, vitamin C may be considered one of the most vital. This is due to its role in converting a specific amino acid, proline, into a collagen-building compound.
The structure of collagen comes primarily from three amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Hydroxyproline is synthesized from proline, and this process requires vitamin C.* Without enough vitamin C and the subsequent hydroxyproline synthesis, your body's ability to produce collagen will decline.
This is seen in the most drastic form in those with scurvy, where their connective tissue is so weak that they experience loose gum, poor wound healing, and muscle weakness.
Hydroxyproline is crucial to the structure of collagen, and without it the helix of amino acids can degrade at room temperature.*
What's more, vitamin C also promotes collagen gene expression. Gene expression is essential to the synthesis of collagen, as this is the process that directs the production of proteins from your DNA. In other words, vitamin C "turns on" your cell's ability to produce collagen.*
You can find vitamin C naturally in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some examples of specific foods that are particular rich sources of vitamin C including citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, etc), red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli.*
Zinc is a mineral that's best known for its role in immunity. It plays a crucial role in the activity of over 100 enzymes and supports protein production, DNA synthesis, and cell division.*
In regards to collagen production, zinc acts as a cofactor for proteins that are needed for collagen synthesis. A cofactor is a compound that is required for the activity of an enzyme. It can also be considered a catalyst, which is a compound that increases the rate of a chemical reaction.*
By acting as a cofactor, zinc helps to upregulate the protein production pathway that your body needs to make collagen.
In addition, zinc plays a role in the activity of an enzyme called collagenase. Collagenase helps your body break down or turn over old or injured tissues to make way for healthy collagen production. Animal research shows that zinc deficiency can lead to a reduction in collagenase activity by up to 80%.*
Therefore, maintaining sufficient zinc levels in your body is crucial not only to collagen production but also to the maintenance and turnover of your existing collagen.
If you’re looking for zinc from food sources, nothing beats oysters. However, you can also find zinc lobster, beef, crab, pork, beans, and pumpkin seeds.*
#3 Vitamin A
Vitamin A is involved in vision, reproduction, immune function, and cellular communication. One of the most well-known functions of vitamin A is in the support of skin tissue.*
A specific form of vitamin A, called retinoids, are particularly beneficial for skin health and are often used in anti-aging beauty products. Retinoids can help to protect your collagen from breakdown and enhance the production of new collagen proteins. In part, this may be due to vitamins As the ability to induce angiogenesis -- the production of new blood vessels.
Increasing blood flow to any area of the body will help bring more nourishment to the tissues there. Therefore, vitamin A may enhance collagen production by increasing the flow of nutrients to the tissue.*
Another way vitamin A supports collagen production is through its inhibition of Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMPs degrade the proteins in your extracellular matrix (ECM), which is the scaffolding that provides structure in all the tissues and organs in your body.
The primary protein that makes up your ECM is collagen. Research shows that vitamin A can inhibit the activity of MMPs while simultaneously stimulating collagen production.*
Some of the best sources of vitamin A include cod liver oil, beef, sweet potato, spinach, and carrots. You can also find significant amounts of this vitamin in eggs, milk, red peppers, apricots, and salmon.*
Copper is a mineral that’s involved in a wide range of functions in your body due to its role as a cofactor for enzymes. Energy production, iron metabolism, connective tissue production, and neurotransmitter synthesis are just a few of the vital activities that involve copper.*
Copper plays an essential role in collagen structure through its involvement in the activity of an enzyme called lysyl oxidase. Lysyl oxidase creates structure in tissues by assisting in the process of cross-linking.
Acting as a cofactor for this enzyme, copper is a necessary component for the activation of lysyl oxidase. When lysyl oxidase is activated, it cross-links collagen with other supportive tissues and creates the scaffolding surrounding your organs. Research shows that in the presence of a copper deficiency, this enzyme fails to carry out its functions.*
In addition, copper is another nutrient that can promote angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), thereby increasing the flow of nutrients to connective tissues. This may be a second way in which copper promotes the synthesis of collagen.*
Copper can be found in trace amounts in a range of foods. Some of the best food sources of copper include beef, oysters, chocolate, mushrooms, cashews, sunflower seeds, tofu, chickpeas, millet, and salmon.*
Manganese is an essential trace mineral involved in the metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrates. It also plays a critical role in bone formation, immunity, reproduction, and free radical scavenging.*
Manganese plays a role in collagen production through its involvement in the activity of the enzyme prolidase. Prolidase is required for the liberation of the amino acid proline from larger molecules. As mentioned above, proline and hydroxyproline are two of the amino acids that play a crucial role in the structure of collagen.
You can think of prolidase like a pair of scissors that goes around snipping off proline molecules from larger proteins to make them available for collagen synthesis.*
Manganese comes into the picture because it’s required for the activation of prolidase. In fact, there’s a genetic disorder known as prolidase deficiency (PD) in which abnormal manganese metabolism causes disturbances to this enzyme. People with PD experience issues like skin lesions and impaired wound healing due to the downstream inhibition of collagen production.*
One of the best sources of manganese is mussels. If you aren’t into shellfish, however, hazelnuts, pecans, brown rice, spinach, pineapple, and oatmeal also provide great sources of this nutrient.*
Supplementing with collagen is a fantastic way to support the health of your connective tissue. Everything from skin health to gut health relies on collagen for proper function and maintenance.
If, however, you lack one or more of the nutrients that your body needs to keep your collagen production healthy, then you may only be getting a fraction of the benefits that collagen has to offer.
This is why supplementing with a single nutrient is rarely the answer to your health goals. Along with a varied diet rich in whole foods, focusing on targeted nutrients to support collagen production can take your supplement regimen to the next level.
Song, Wenkui, et al. "Identification and Structure–Activity Relationship of Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Function Protective Collagen Peptides from Alaska Pollock Skin." Marine drugs 17.8 (2019): 450
Bolke, Liane, et al. "A collagen supplement improves skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density: Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, blind study." Nutrients 11.10 (2019): 2494.
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Starcher, Barry C., Charles H. Hill, and Judy G. Madaras. "Effect of zinc deficiency on bone collagenase and collagen turnover." The Journal of Nutrition 110.10 (1980): 2095-2102.
Mukherjee, Siddharth, et al. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety." Clinical interventions in aging 1.4 (2006): 327.
Varani, James, et al. "Vitamin a antagonizes decreased cell growth and elevated collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen accumulation in naturally aged human skin1." Journal of Investigative Dermatology 114.3 (2000): 480-486.
Harris, Edward D., et al. "Copper and the synthesis of elastin and collagen." Ciba Foundation Symposium. Vol. 79. 1980.
Gérard, Catherine, et al. "The stimulation of angiogenesis and collagen deposition by copper." Biomaterials 31.5 (2010): 824-831.
Muszyńska, Anna, Jerzy Pałka, and Ewa Gorodkiewicz. "The mechanism of daunorubicin-induced inhibition of prolidase activity in human skin fibroblasts and its implication to impaired collagen biosynthesis." Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology 52.2 (2000): 149-155.
Larreque, M., et al. "Prolidase and manganese deficiency. Apropos of a case: diagnosis and treatment." Annales de dermatologie et de venereologie. Vol. 109. No. 8. 1982.
Pałka, J. A. "The role of prolidase as an enzyme participating in the metabolism of collagen." Roczniki Akademii Medycznej w Bialymstoku (1995) 41.2 (1996): 149-160.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.