While collagen is well known and C vitamins have enjoyed a long history of use both as a topical vitamin and an intervention for cold and flu symptoms, the combination of these supplements is not often discussed. Is it possible for ascorbic acid to positively impact the formation of collagen in the body? First, let's take a look at what exactly antioxidant vitamins like ascorbic acid are, and what collagen is.  

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in the body, most commonly found in connective tissues, but present in virtually all other areas of the body as well, including the bones, skin, and muscle tissue. As we age and as different parts of the body break down, including bone mineral density, the production of collagen slows. Collagen production can also slow down in response to the loss of nutrients, a lack of a nutrient-dense diet (including low amino acid content), and in response to other environmental and internal factors. 

Collagen powders, enriched gelatin, and capsules are safe supplements typically derived from marine animals and bovine sources, and can be found in the scales and shells of aquatic life, and the organs and connective tissues of cattle. Collagen is a type of protein, but there are many different types of collagen, and all play a different role in the body, from supporting bone mineral density to increasing joint stability. 

Collagen Powder

What Are the Benefits of Collagen?

Collagen supplements have grown in popularity because their beneficial effects extend far beyond healthy skin and hair and they have been proven to be relatively safe supplements to take for most populations. Collagen has been shown to improve a host of conditions, while supporting overall health, and has been used in all of the following applications:  

  • Alleviating joint pain and improving healing times. Some studies have indicated that collagen supplementation can assist in alleviating joint pain and inflammation by strengthening the joints and improving the production of collagen in these areas of the body, and increase the rate of ligament healing, tendon healing, and more, including improved composition in ligaments. 
  • Bolstering muscle mass. Collagen may be an abundant protein, but its lack may not be as uncommon as you might think. Taking collagen means taking in more protein, and can therefore help increase muscle mass in individuals looking to improve their strength and well-being--and the presence of collagen in cells means even intestinal cells can experience a "bolstering" effect when taking collagen or a collagen synthesizer.  
  • Reducing the risk of heart conditions. The beneficial effects of collagen extend to other muscles and the blood vessels, making it a supplement of interest in supporting overall cardiovascular health. 

What Is Vitamin C?

Most of us have heard of C vitamins and have perhaps even chugged a few glasses of the supplement at the first signs of cold or fever, but many of us are still not entirely certain what ascorbic acid is and how healing with vitamin C is possible. This single vitamin is a powerful antioxidant, and the most obvious benefits of vitamin C center around those antioxidant properties. Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C supplements are common because this particular antioxidant is not naturally produced in the body, making baseline vitamin c levels frequent culprits in illness. Exogenous vitamin supplementation, through diet or capsule, is necessary. Vitamin C deficiency, and even minutely low vitamin C levels can cause disruption to health. 

vitamin c benefits with collagen

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin C?

The benefits of vitamin C are vast, because ascorbic acid is such a powerful antioxidant. The most common uses of ascorbic acid include: 

  • Improvements in skin aging. Ascorbic acid is a commonly used topical vitamin. As an antioxidant, L-ascorbic acid can help fight the free radical damage caused by sun exposure and environmental stressors and toxins, as one clinical study demonstrated when topical treatments were applied to porcine skin and human skin explants. 
  • Contributions to the defense against the common cold.  As a common oral vitamin, ascorbic acid and other antioxidant vitamins are found on virtually every store shelf with a medicinal section. By fighting free radical damage, it is thought to help "shore up" the immune system and ward against the onset of illness and lessen the course of illness when it has already set in. 
  • Lowering high levels of stress. The antioxidant power of ascorbic acid has been shown to lower stress levels in a clinical study, suggesting it is an important nutrient to include in your diet in order to ward off illness and the early aging and oxidative stress caused by high levels of stress. This can have a positive natural effect on skin and tissue repair, as well. Stress can also be linked to lowered pain responses; one review determined that postoperative vitamin levels of ascorbic acid positively impacted pain responses. 

How Does Vitamin C Interact with Collagen?

Although ascorbic acid and collagen (marine collagen or otherwise) may not initially seem to be related, the two can actually interact quite a lot in the body, whether it is through healing musculoskeletal tissues, or providing an accelerated rate of healing to skin cells or tissue. Clinical studies have suggested all of the following regarding the interactions of these two nutrients found in the body:  

  • One study suggested that vitamin C stimulates collagen production in human skin fibroblasts by increasing the steady-state level of both collagen type I and III mRNA. Put simply, vitamin C can boost collagen production in the skin, leading to improvements in the texture, appearance, and even tensile strength of the dermis. Type I collagen synthesis is an important factor in maintaining skin health.  
  • Another study, published in Safe Journal, determined that the action of vitamin C could accelerate bone healing following a fracture to increase the synthesis of collagen type I, and reduce the effects of oxidative stress. This means that higher collagen levels are synthesized during these definitive treatment protocols, and bones and musculoskeletal injuries experience an improvement in healing. 
  • Another study confirmed the synthesis of collagen in response to ascorbic acid intake, determining that the benefits of vitamin C directly involve collagen synthesis. A human study of this experience shows that taking both of these nutrients in tandem can result in greater benefits coming from each, including improvements to musculoskeletal injury settings. Injury locations with high levels of collagen content will experience a more substantial improvement. 
  • One current study evaluating the skin-based effects of oral vitamin C intake and collagen production found that ascorbic acid stimulated the biosynthesis of collagen and prevented an advanced state of aging in skin. Used as a topical vitamin in skincare products or an oral vitamin in a dietary supplement routine, ascorbic acid and collagen can work together to improve the appearance of skin, resulting in smoother, more youthful-looking epidermis and stop an accelerated rate of aging. 
  • As all of the aforementioned studies displaying a heterogeneity in vitamin C evaluations can attest, ascorbic acid transforms proline and lysine into amino acids called hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, or essential components of collagen and activity for procollagen. The action of vitamin C on collagen synthesis is profound during treatment in patients, which can lead to improvements in bone mineral density, the health of smooth muscle cells, the health of joints, and the health and appearance of skin.  

What Are the Health Benefits of Taking Collagen and Vitamin C Together?

Because clinical studies of both of these nutrients have determined that they work well in tandem, those same human studies have suggested that taking antioxidant vitamins like ascorbic acid can aid in the formation of the structural protein hydroxypropyl, which is a key component in the body's manufacture of collagen molecules. The combined health benefits include all of the following:

  • Improved skin health. Skin health relies on ample structural proteins like collagen to maintain tight junctions and healthy cells. Improving the production of collagen is one of the ways to improve skin healing after vitamin C administration. 
  • Reduced inflammation. Inflammation reduction has long been associated with collagen supplementation. Because collagen is considered a safe supplement, with very little clinical evidence to suggest adverse effects, the combination of ascorbic acid and collagen can successfully reduce inflammation by targeting both oxidative stress and an accelerated rate of damage in the body, and deficiencies in essential amino acids and proteins, effectively improving health quality with vitamin C. 
  • Improved joint health. While ascorbic acid itself might not have a strong tie to improved joint health, collagen is a powerful intervention for musculoskeletal tissues and connective tissues. The mechanism of action behind collagen can work wonders for health, including diminished recovery periods following joint damage, and strengthened connective tissues even in the absence of joint damage. This includes evidence for tendon healing and joint stabilization and overall improved tissue composition. The role of vitamin C is that of a collagen synthesizer.  
  • Strengthened bones and teeth. Doses of antioxidant vitamin C, including intravenous vitamin C supplementation and simple oral supplementation, can help strengthen both bones and teeth. The implementation of vitamin C supplementation can be useful for individuals who have a history of brittle bones and teeth, because both ascorbic acid and collagen have been linked to improvements in bone mineral density. The role of vitamin C serves two functions in these cases: collagen synthesizer and direct support for bone mineral density. 
  • Enhanced tissue repair and muscle recovery. The effects of vitamin C administration can not be overstated regarding enhanced tissue repair and muscle recovery, as the administration of vitamin C and collagen can work in tandem to improve tissue health and muscle recovery after a tear or sprain. Vitamin C deficient individuals can struggle to see substantial results during working out, but recovery after vitamin C supplementation can improve substantially when paired with collagen. 

Potential Side Effects of Taking Collagen and Vitamin C Together

While both forms of treatment are typically considered extremely safe, ascorbic acid and collagen treatment methods do have the potential to cause side effects, particularly when collagen supplements are preloaded with a synthetic form of ascorbic acid. These possible side effects include the following: 

  • According to one source, ascorbic acid can make collagen oxidize during storage, effectively diminishing the efficacy of collagen. That means that some supplements will have an observed increase in oxidation during storage, and will render collagen either diminished in its ability to aid in healing and cellular activity or not of value at all. 
  • Excess supplementation of the antioxidant vitamin C can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Current studies indicate low-dose vitamin C is typically recommended for this reason. 

Apart from these concerns, there is a lack of evidence to suggest that either supplement is hazardous when taken according to recommendations. With a high compliance rate and a low dropout rate in clinical studies, the supplementation of vitamin C and collagen are considered highly safe. 

Recommended Dosage

Most human studies suggest that the optimal dosage of ascorbic acid is between 50 and 90 mg. It is important to note that these determinations were made in human studies, as different bodies will respond differently to supplementation according to vitamin C status and bio-individual needs. The action of vitamin C combined with collagen can be found in our Hyaluron and Collagen product, which contains 100 mg of ascorbic acid, a collagen synthesizer--doses of vitamin c that does not exceed the recommended amount from clinical studies, and provides what is needed for the improvement of skin's tensile strength, bone mineral density, the health of smooth muscle cells, and even the stimulation of collagen synthesis.

Conclusion

Whether you take a marine collagen supplement and consume a diet rich in vitamin C, or you take advantage of the mechanism of action of vitamin C through a vitamin C supplementation protocol, current studies have determined that the combination of ascorbic acid and collagen can result in an accelerated rate of collagen synthesis. The mechanism of action of different types of collagen is able to improve bone fracture healing, decrease inflammatory cells in joints, strengthen soft tissues, and even improve the appearance of skin. By combining antioxidant vitamins and collagen, it may be possible to reduce stress after injuries, observe an increase in type I collagen levels, improve the texture and appearance of skin and hair, and improve outcomes in strength training.

Preclinical studies and future studies alike will be able to provide more insight into the the interactions of antioxidants and collagen-producing cells, but current studies evaluating bone biomarkers, healing of bone fractures, and even simple texture of skin can all attest to the value of combining ascorbic acid and collagen to reduce age-related collagen loss and assist in type I collagen formation. 

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