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The Connection of Collagen and Cortisol

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 24 March 2022
The Connection of Collagen and Cortisol

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone synthesised from cholesterol in the cortex of the adrenal gland. Cortisol has a variety of functions but is primarily known for its role in the body’s stress response. 

Cortisol also participates in the inflammatory response and regulation of metabolism. Glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, bind to both glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) and mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs). GRs exist in almost all tissues in the human body. MRs have a more restricted expression with the highest concentration in the kidneys. Both GRs and MRs are expressed in the dermis.

A possible connection between stress and skin and joint health
Research indicates that cortisol may have a relationship with collagen in the human body. This research may point to a possible connection between stress and collagen-containing tissues such as skin and joints.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and comprises much of the extracellular matrix. Supplementation with collagen has been shown to improve skin moisture and elasticity. Skin in the human body consists primarily of collagen type I. Collagen type I inhibition may be mediated by GR activation through the cortisol-mediated inhibition of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β).

The effect of cortisol on collagen type I synthesis
A recent study assessed collagen type I synthesis in the presence of cortisol. The study explored the gene and protein expression levels of collagen type I human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) in the presence of three different concentrations of cortisol (1 nM, 10 nM, and 100 nM). 

The researchers reported that protein expression levels of procollagen type I were reduced in the presence of cortisol in a dose-dependent manner. This research indicates that cortisol may inhibit collagen type I synthesis. 

The study’s conclusion indicates that GR is the primary receptor type responsible for fibroblast changes in the presence of cortisol. 

Collagen peptides may modulate the effects of cortisol
The same study explores this relationship further by treating HDFs with cortisol and certain collagen peptides. The authors report that the presence of collagen peptides diminished the effect of cortisol-dependent reduction in procollagen type I. 

They suggest that collagen peptides may modulate the effects of cortisol at a cellular level. In addition, while cortisol was shown to downregulate TGF-β expression, collagen peptides supported the recovery of the cortisol-mediated TGF-β signalling cascade. The authors postulate that collagen peptides may act as inhibitors to GR signalling. 

Supplementation with collagen peptides may support skin and joint health. This recent study also suggests that collagen peptides may also support skin health under conditions related to stress. Further exploration into the connection between collagen and cortisol may offer additional understandings of this relationship.


Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsCancerStressJoint HealthSkin


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association