When you hear the word ‘collagen’ the first thing that comes to mind is the firm buoyant wrinkle-free skin of youth. Pinch-test proof skin that bounces back from manipulation without a trace of stress; nails that are both strong and flexible; hair with length, strength, moisture, and shine; and knees that don’t ache after a morning run or flight of stairs. Luckily, aging no longer guarantees exile to a collagen-deficient island.
Collagen is a very important structural protein found in our bones, ligaments, skin, and cartilage and we have all heard what wonders it can do for our skin and bones. For the formation of any protein, the raw materials needed are amino acids and these get woven into long protein chains. The required amino acids come from our diets, particularly from the proteins we eat. Later the cells use them to build the proteins our body needs.
So, should you add collagen to your diet?
Read on further to find out.
Here is all that you will find in this report:
- What is collagen?
- There are actually different types of collagen…
- How does the body produce collagen?
- What about our diets – are we getting enough collagen in?
- How is collagen depleted?
- Where Can You Find Collagen?
- So what type of collagen is best for you?
- Collagen vs Gelatin
- Which is better– How do you take your collagen?
- Vegan collagen?
- Production Standards
- Final facts on Collagen
- What do we use collagen for?
Modern technology and research have uncovered ways to not only boost natural collagen production but to add collagen to both topical and ingestible products in formulations that are impactful. Collagen is now one of the biggest health and beauty additives sold in so many forms and products you have no doubt been using or consuming it regardless of intentions.
Let’s look at how collagen is being used for medical and cosmetic purposes today. Logically, the first question to ask is:
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein found naturally in the human body; accounting for a third of all protein present in your body. It is the building block of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, vessels, and teeth. Think of it as the glue that holds your cells together providing structure. Collagen is a protein that is composed of amino acids in very unique sequences, giving it a different shape than all the other proteins that are spoken about.
A lot of proteins, particularly the dietary proteins, are round or globular in shape; but collagen is long and thin- like fiber and can be packed very tightly together to provide structural support.
There are actually different types of collagen…
So far, there have been around 28 different types of collage identified, but of all these basics, there are only four that most of us have heard of.
- Type I: This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
- Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions joints.
- Type III: This type supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.
- Type IV: This type helps with filtration and is found in the lower layers of your skin.
Most people think that they should consume the type of collagen that matches their concerns. However, there just isn’t enough data on the impact of supplemental collagen to support causal relationships between compositional improvements and what is ingested. Further, there is hardly any long-term research on the subject.
How does the body produce collagen?
All human collagen starts off internally as procollagen. The body produces procollagen by combining amino acids: glycine and proline using vitamin C.
Consumption of foods high in the following nutrients will accelerate collagen production by your body’s internal mechanisms:
- Vitamin C: Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries
- Proline: found naturally in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms
- Glycine: is found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatine, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods
- Copper: found in organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils
What about our diets – are we getting enough collagen in?
- The healthy human body naturally produces enough collagen to remain whole and functional. The body does not technically require outside/artificial collagen. Collagen production decreases after the age of 25 at a rate of 1% per year until menopause in women when the reduction is accelerated specifically during the first five years of menopause tapering off completely once the transition is completed.
- Few of us will develop a true medical problem where we don’t make enough or have enough collagen in our bodies. Here are some conditions or diseases that can harm our natural collagen production.
- One of these diseases is Scurvy, the one where your Vitamin C levels are so deficient. We know that vitamin C is a very important building block – it leads to collagen production in the body. Without Vitamin C as a building block, collagen in your body is really ineffective. Scurvy has symptoms such as bleeding gums, weak hair, even blood leaking from the skin though there are no scratches or cuts.
- Another could be from the group of Autoimmune Diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. These are known to attack your collagen fibers, so you can imagine how they weaken your whole body’s structural integrity.
- What about Infections? When you have bad bacteria or viruses in your body, they can secrete an enzyme called collagenase – literally breaking down collagen and which is really bad. If you have an autoimmune disease, collagen supplementation might counteract the negative effects.
- How is collagen depleted?
- Sugar and refined carbs: Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. Minimize your consumption of added sugar and refined carbs
- Excess sun exposure: Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure
- Smoking: Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles
- Excess Alcohol Consumption
- Illicit Drug Use
Where Can You Find Collagen?
- Much like humans; mammals such as cows, chickens, and pigs are also composed of collagen. As such, collagen supplements are regularly sourced from such animals. It is important to note that not all ingestible collagen is bioavailable and absorbed. However, at its most available collagen is absorbed at a rate of 90-95%.
- If you want to know what the most common source of collage supplements is, it is cowhide. Chicken sternums are also used which is a rich source Type II Collagen. Fishbones, scales, and skin are also options used. As well as sow skin and fat.
- Once the collagen is separated from the animal source, it then gets hydrolyzed. Read about the whole process here. Little bits of collagen are left which are called collagen peptides. These collagen peptides are also called collagen hydrolysate. The collagen bits can be easily absorbed from the GI tract and are used directly in the creation of collagen in the body. Speaking of collagen in the world of supplements, these are all the same:
- Collagen hydrolysate
- Collagen peptides
Regardless of the source, it should be noted that all collagens have almost exactly the same compositions.
So what type of collagen is best for you?
- You will get some marketers who will want to promote one over the other. Some people who claim to be “experts” will tell you that their fish collagen, for instance, is better, because of its smaller atomic weight, meaning the fish is more absorbable. Or that the chickens are better because they are ‘cleaner’, and so on. When it comes down to it, all that is actually just a means to push their own product as better than others.
- Collagen is collagen in the world of supplements, no matter which source it comes from. Remember we said that the collagen that is turned into smaller bits for supplementation is called collagen hydrolysate – known to be absorbed by as much as 90-95%, regardless of the source.
- Sometimes which one you buy will be determined by the price, depending on how much collagen you are getting for your money’s worth. In general, it will be the beef collagen that offers a higher yield for the lower costs, chicken second and fish last.
Collagen vs Gelatin
- When you talk about the topic of collagen, you are inevitably going to hear about gelatin as well, like they are one and the same.
- If you have read up a lot or studied a bit about collagen, you will know that gelatin is collagen, but it’s more like a processed form. Gelatin is collagen peptides that you have heard of above, that have been further processed by hydroxylation. Because of this, gelatin interacts differently with moisture.
- A collagen supplement that has been well made will easily dissolve in water but for gelatin, not so. It might be with water, but it won’t gel with water. Get the pic? But otherwise, it is all the same between gelatin and collagen. Both have the same amino acids in them and also the same nutritional benefits. Gelatin might take a bit longer to digest and can help even a bit more than collagen does with the lining of your stomach. So it also makes sense that if you have a health condition where your gut needs some healing, then gelatin would be the way to go.
Which is better– How do you take your collagen?
Collagen is available in many forms and products. Here are some popular ways to find collagen.
- Bone broth is a mix of animal bones, spices, veggies, and salt in water cooked for ten plus hours. This old-fashioned process of cooking bones and vegetables did result in the gentle extraction of crucial nutrients- particularly collagen. Collagen in bone broth is bio-available, therefore much of it can be absorbed during digestion through the intestines.
- Collagen peptides are sold as pills, dissolvable powders, and flavored/unflavored solutions and are also added to other nutritional supplements like vitamins and protein powders.
- Hair Products Collagen can be found in hair growth stimulants. Topical agents like conditioners, scalp serums, shampoos, and styling aids.
- Skincare Collagen can be found in many skincare products categorized as anti-aging. Serums, creams, treatments, and suspensions use collagen to give the skin a temporary reduction in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sagginess, and cellulite.
It’s unfortunate that those who are vegan and vegetarian will need to forego drinking bone broth because it is an animal byproduct as are most readily available collagen products. However, there is hope yet for the vegans and vegetarians looking to get their daily dose of collagen without compromising their commitment to exclude animal products; because science has actually found a way to make vegan collagen!
Vegan collagen type III is derived from yeast and outperforms animal collagen by 200% when applied topically in skincare formulations. Read about it here and see what you think.
Collagen Production Standards
- But for the non-vegans, because collagen is derived from animals, it means that you must have wondered what the animal was eating too. You need to make sure that your collagen supplements are pure. The best, pure, rich, collagen supplements must come from non-factory-farmed cattle and pasture-raised ones are best.
- They must be grass-fed cattle, not fed with genetically modified feeds or with inflammatory ingredients such as dairy, gluten, corn, soy, grains, or legumes.
- The grass-fed cattle must also be free of antibiotics in their bodies and also be free of hormones that some manufacturers feed them to bulk them up.
- They must be free of mad cow disease.
- Chickens too should be free-range, and the fish should be wild-caught. No bottom trawling for instance.
Final facts on Collagen:
- Let’s be clear that first: collagen is not a complete protein. Complete protein refers to foods that contain an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary within the human diet, because collagen isn’t a complete protein it shouldn’t be used as your sole protein source.
What do we use collagen for?
- Hair, skin, and nails
- The GI tract, especially the lining
- Reduces joint pains and degeneration
- Helps heal leaky gut
- Boosts muscle mass, metabolism, and energy output
- Improves the health of the liver
- Protects cardiovascular health
- The above are already good reasons to take collagen in the diet. It is absorbed completely, being utilized to make collagen fibers in all the important places of our body.
- Regular collagen intake has been shown to support healthy gut lining, strengthen the GI tract, promote tissue repair, and build a healthy gut wall. Can you see that it’s a no-brainer health recommendation?
- Leaky Gut sufferers could benefit from adding a daily dose of collagen to help support digestion. For those with issues with pain and joint discomfort, when you add collagen to your diet, you are going to notice a reduction in joint pain and arthritic symptoms.
Get your collagen to start looking and feeling your absolute best!