Why You Should Be Taking a Collagen Supplement


collagen supplement

Why do you need to this article?

Not only is collagen essential for protecting the gut, improving metabolism, keeping joints and bones healthy, it’s also responsible for keeping your skin firm and elastic.

Our skin is the main barrier against external contaminants and it's constantly subject to deterioration that comes from hormonal disorders, the environment, and the unavoidable aging process. Sadly, our society is constantly accelerating our aging process by adopting unhealthy life choices such as smoking, alcohol, and excessive sun exposure.

Luckily, we can slow down our aging-process by adopting some nutritional practices that include a balanced diet and food supplements (if needed). Collagen supplements are getting more attention as more evidence shows that it helps improve skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkle reduction. Considering that about 70% of the dermis consists of collagen - which is what gives the skin a youthful, vibrant look - we can say hydrolyzed collagen is our ally in the war against aging skin.

What is Collagen?

The name 'collagen' is used as a generic term for a group of proteins, and it’s actually the most abundant structural protein in the human body. [1] Some call collagen the glue of the body because it’s mostly found in our soft tissues such as bone marrow, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and the linings of your body organs. [2]

There are many different types of collagen. The different collagen types are characterized by different complexities and structures, but in general terms, they make up 30% of the tissues in our bodies and 70% of the skin. [2]

Hydrolyzed collagen is what all collagen supplements are made of, but it’s not the same as the collagen in our bodies. Hydrolyzed means the protein has been broken down into individual amino acids, which are easier for the body to absorb. These amino acids help your body produce more collagen.

Hydrolyzed collagen is basically connective tissue – usually from cows, chicken or fish – that has been broken down into a liquid. It’s similar to how bone broth is made. The difference is that this collagen liquid is then filtered and turned into powder.

Types of Collagen

There are different types of collagen in your body that differ based on the location within your body, their amino acid composition, and the functional and biological characteristics. The types are:
  • Type 1: the most abundant since it forms more than 90% of our bones. It’s mostly located in the dermis, tendons, ligaments and bones.
  • Type 2: mostly found in cartilage, vitreous body (in your eye) and nucleus pulposus (in your spinal discs).
  • Type 3: it’s found along with types 1 and 2, which makes it the main component of the skin, vesels, and organs such as lungs, liver, etc.
  • Type 4: this type forms the basal lamina and other membranes that works as supportive structures.
  • Type 5: this type is present in the lungs, corneae, hair, membranes, and bones.

Why is Collagen Important?

To roughly summarize, collagen gives the skin its firmness, strength, and structure. As mentioned above, a lack of collagen in the skin can contribute to a decrease in skin health leading to wrinkles, dark spots, and in the worst cases, to infections in the dermis, and according to the Dermato-Endocrinology Journal, the collagen content of the skin declines approximately 1% per year, making your skin more vulnerable to sagging, wrinkling, and less resilient overall with age. [3]

But if we take a broader view on collagen’s impact on the body, on the internal organs and blood vessels, collagen functions as a protective barrier that covers, seals and also holds everything together.

Health Benefits of Collagen

As we saw before, collagen is involved in various roles throughout the body. It’s not just about the skin; it’s about body wide health and function. There are innumerable benefits to making sure your body has everything it needs to synthesize and use collagen, some of which are that it:

benefits of collagen

  • Supports healthy skin. The most broad benefit of collagen peptides. It helps give skin its structure and strength and helps it retain moisture and elasticity. The best part is that more and more studies are coming out quantitatively supporting this.
  • Improves sleep. Collagen contains an amino acid called glycine which can help increase serotonin levels without increasing dopamine levels, helping improve sleep quality.
  • Supports lean muscle mass. At the end of the day, we are talking about a protein, so it’s vital for the growth of muscle and, in combination with training, it helps burn fat more efficiently, which could lead to weight loss. [4]
  • Promotes gut health. Collagen helps heal the lining of the stomach and digestive tract as well as aids in digestion. [5]
  • Supports cartilage, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Collagen has been shown to improve healing times and decrease pain, which makes sense since collagen is a main component of these tissues. [6]
  • Helps reinforce the structure of the bones. As we age, our collagen network breaks down, making our bones less resilient. Some studies have shown that collagen helps prevent bone collagen breakdown. [7]
  • Plays a vital role in the repair of almost all the body’s tissues. Did you know that collagen activates coagulation in wounds to stop the bleeding and scars are mostly made of collagen? [8]
  • Improves nail health. Collagen has been proven to help keep our nails strong -- decreasing the frequency of broken nails, it’s an aid in growth and helps improve their appearance. [9]
  • Prevents hair loss. Although hair-thinning and loss mechanisms are still not clear, there are new studies coming out showing that a deficiency in collagen can accelerate aging in hair stem cells, causing premature hair loss. [10]
  • Supports healthy eyes, heart, and brain. Mainly because these structures are formed by collagen, so literally, collagen keeps us breathing and thinking.

Foods to Naturally Boost our Collagen Production

We can always incentivize the production of collagen by carefully choosing what we eat. What we should eat, in a few words is: real food.

According to the USDA Food Composition Database, there are many foods we can include in our daily diet that are protein-rich and have the 12 amino acid that are needed to form collagen: [11]

  • Gelatin.
  • Seafood. Some of the ones that have more proteins are: cod fish and salmon.
  • Meat. Particularly the lean meat from animals like deers, veals and chicken - bacon is included too.
  • Cheeses like parmesan, romano, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
  • Nuts and seeds. Specifically pumpkin seeds, peanuts and cashews.
  • Bone broth.
  • Citrus fruits and berries.
  • Egg whites.
  • Veggies like peppers, garlic, leafy greens, and beans.

How to Make Sure your Collagen Supplement is the Best it Can Be

 

  • First of all, look for 'hydrolyzed collagen', 'collagen peptides', 'hydrolyzed collagen peptides'.
  • The most researched collagen source that has been proven to actually have an effect on our skin, joints, bones, muscles, tendons, etc is bovine collagen. Bovine collagen contains type I, type III, and type IV collagen. The next best collagen is probably fish collagen (marine collagen), rich in type I. Other sources are: porcine collagen and chicken collagen, but I’d be careful with these, because there can be contaminants in them.
  • Try, if possible, to ensure that your collagen supplement comes from a grass-fed source. This is the best quality you can get.
  • Make sure it has clean ingredients (this goes along with the previous point). Make sure to read the ingredients and if you find things like sugar, fillers, or artificial flavors, don’t buy it. You don’t want to compromise your gut microbiome. Instead look for gluten free, non-gmo ingredients, natural flavors, and healthy sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract.

How Much Should I Take?

It’s important to know that there isn’t a lethal dose of collagen. It’s also important to talk to a professional, such as a nutritionist or your doctor because every human being is different and we all have different needs. They will know your recommended daily serving.

In general terms, research has shown that 10 grams of collagen is the minimum effective dose, which is about 2 tbsp of collagen peptides. Almost every collagen supplement has a suggested serving size, you just need to make sure you read the instructions carefully. [12]

When Should I Take It?

There isn’t a specific time when it’s better to take it than another. No matter when, your body will absorb it and use it throughout the day or night. Collagen peptides are great for recovery in general, so it may be better to have them before or after your workout, right when you wake up to boost your amino acids, or before you go to sleep to relax and recover.

How Should I Take It?

Collagen supplements are versatile. You can take it with water or any milk of your preference, especially if the collagen supplement comes with natural flavors. You can add it to your smoothies, shakes, iced coffees, yogurts, or basically any meal or recipe like cookies, cakes, pancake puddings and any other type of treats you may make. I frequently share recipes with collagen peptides on our Instagram that you can use!  

Fortunately, collagen is hot and cold stable, so you can add it to your favorite cold and hot recipes and still get all the benefits. In fact, collagen is one of the few protein powders that's good for cooking and baking.

Is Collagen Safe for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women?

There is not a right answer here and there are no studies that can assure this, so if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your doctor.

Are Collagen Supplements are Veggie/Vegan friendly?

Collagen peptides are not veggie nor vegan friendly as collagen powders comes from animal tissue. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you should ensure you’re taking all the micronutrients your body needs to produce collagen. The best way to know this is by talking to a professional.

Summary

No one can deny that collagen supplements are a great option if you’re trying to slow down the aging-process. Several studies have proven that collagen helps improve tissue hydration, elasticity, and wrinkle reduction, along with many other benefits in your bones, joints, nails, hair, tendons, heart, brain, and eyes.

Making sure you’re getting all the benefits of supplementing with collagen without compromising your health is key. Carefully choose which collagen peptides you take. The two most important considerations in a collagen supplement are that they come from grass-fed bovine collagen and have only natural ingredients.

As with anything in life, consistency is vital. The results usually show up after 1-2 months of regularly use, but we can conclude that hydrolyzed collagen is a must in our war against aging.

 References

  1. Gelsea, K., Poschl, E., & Aigner, T. (0AD). Collagens—structure, function, and biosynthesis. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/2756387.pdf
  2. What is Collagen? (0AD). Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://cdn2.hubspot.net.
  3. Ganceviciene, R., Liakou, A. I., Theodoridis, A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. Skin anti-aging strategies. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/.
  4. Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M. W., Gollhofer, A., & König, D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26353786.
  5. Chen, Q., Chen, O., Martins, I. M., Hou, H., Zhao, X., Blumberg, J. B., & Li, B. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Retrieved from https://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2017/FO/C6FO01347C#!divCitation
  6. Yang, G., Rothrauff, B. B., & Tuan, R. S.  Tendon and ligament regeneration and repair: clinical relevance and developmental paradigm. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4041869/.
  7. Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bone metabolism. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2015.1038377?journalCode=bfsn20
  8. Krafts, K. P. (2010). Tissue repair: The hidden drama. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3055648/.
  9. Hexsel, D., Zague, V., Schunck, M., Siega, C., Camozzato, F. O., & Oesser, S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.12393/abstract. 
  10. Matsumura, H., Mohri, Y., Binh, N. T., Morinaga, H., Fukuda, M., Ito, M., … Nishimura, E. K. Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912707.
  11. Examine.com. Type-II Collagen Supplement - Science-based Review on Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved from https://examine.com/supplements/type-ii-collagen/.

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