Dr. Andrew Myers answers your questions on the benefits of collagen supplements for your skin and how fiber can improve your health.

Q:Dr. Myers, what are the benefits of taking a collagen supplement?

A: You’ve probably seen collagen listed as an ingredient in skin products, often accompanied by claims of rejuvenating or reviving skin. What you might not know is that it also has benefits as a nutritional supplement.

Collagen is a fibrous protein that is a major building block for skin, bones, teeth, cartilage,muscles, tendons and other connective tissues. There are different types of the collagen protein: Types 1 and 3 are found predominately in connective tissue, while type 2 is known to aid in joint cushioning and lubrication. The levels of all three types naturally decrease with age, starting in a person’s 20’s.

As levels drop, the results are both seen and felt. Wrinkles begin to form on the skin as elasticity is lost, and pain and stiffness in the joints accompanies a slowing of cartilage repair. Supplementation is a good way to help provide the body with the protein building blocks it needs to help maintain healthy connective tissues. I recommend taking 3 to 6 grams daily of a supplement that contains collagen types 1, 2 and 3. As always, talk with your doctor before starting a supplementation regimen.

Q: Dr. Myers, I want to make sure I’m getting plenty of fiber every day. What should I know about the nutrient?

A: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that comes from plants. Found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, bran and other sources, the nutrient is a bulking agent critical for the function of the digestive system. Interestingly, fiber contains no calories, and the body can’t digest it.

Adequate fiber intake has a number of additional benefits to the body. Fiber supports healthy blood sugar levels by helping the body digest sugar slowly, offsetting the effect of sugar entering the bloodstream. Getting enough fiber can also reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. An added bonus is that eating foods high in fiber promotes a feeling of fullness, which helps curb appetite and support a healthy weight. And perhaps most important, total fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer and other types of gastrointestinal cancers.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough fiber, and many don’t realize that men have significantly higher fiber needs than women. The recommended daily intake for men ages 19 to 50 is 38 grams per day, while men over 50 should get 30 grams daily. For women ages 19 to 50, the recommendation is 25 grams per day; women over 50 should get 21 grams daily. These numbers reflect total fiber intake, which includes both dietary fiber (natural fiber you get from food) and any supplements you take.

Since dramatically increasing fiber intake can cause gas, cramps and bloating, be sure to increase the amount slowly and drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water per day. As always, be sure to talk to your health care provider for advice.

Do you have a question about supplements? Email us at hlms@samsclub.com, or write to us at Healthy Living Made Simple, 1703 Phyllis St., Suite 202, Bentonville, AR 72712.

Dr. Andrew Myers is an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of Health Is Wealth: 10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds of Living to 100 and Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition. Visit healthiswealth.net for more information.