Collagen supplements have taken the world by storm. There are collagen pills, powders, and injections. With millions of people attesting to its multiple health benefits, it’s well on its way to creating a permanent place for itself in our medicine cabinets. We all aim for a healthier lifestyle. Thanks to collagen, we may be one supplement closer.
Collagen’s sudden importance in the health and beauty industry is partly brought about by the many glowing reviews and recommendations about it which has, in turn, boosted sales and made it even more popular.
As a protein, collagen is the most abundant one in our body. It has many benefits which include great-looking skin, healthier joints and bones, and increased muscle mass.
But what is collagen, really? Does it live up to the hype or is it just another trend that will fizzle out in time? If you’ve been thinking about taking collagen for yourself or a family member, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about collagen: what it is, what it can do for you, and anything you might need to watch out for.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein that comprises about a third of our body’s protein composition. It has the important responsibility of being the main component in our connective tissues.
In a nutshell, collagen makes up most of our body parts from tendons and ligaments to skin and muscles. It’s also found in teeth, blood vessels, and corneas.
The word collagen is derived from the Greek word “kolla” meaning glue. It’s an apt description when you think about how collagen holds our body parts together. It also plays a protective role in the anatomy of our body.
Collagen supplements allow us to take advantage of this protein’s benefits. If you’re averse to taking supplements, you can add pork skin, bone broth, or any other collagen-rich food to your diet.
What Is Collagen Made Of?
Collagen is made up of amino acids synthesized from carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It contains three amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.
Where Does Collagen Come From?
Collagen, as a protein, can be found in the body or can come from supplements. To better understand where it comes from, we’ll need to look at these two sources.
Collagen From the Body
The body has its own collagen-making process. It produces collagen by breaking down dietary proteins into amino acids which are the key components for building various types of proteins in our body.
The natural production of collagen in our bodies lessens as we age. Excessive smoking and a poor diet also affect our body’s ability to produce this important protein. On the other hand, having a balanced protein-rich diet with nuts, dairy, beef, eggs, and other fresh produce can significantly stimulate collagen production.
Collagen in Cosmetics
You might have heard of collagen’s beautifying benefits for our skin. However, don’t fall into the trap of buying cosmetic products that claim to increase collagen. Collagen particles are too big to be absorbed by the skin so it is just not possible. Invest in supplements or focus on having a more balanced diet instead.
Collagen From Supplements
Collagen is mostly found in our skin, hair, nails, bones, and ligaments. Beef and fish are rich sources of it. For vegans out there who are reading this, no, collagen is not vegan. However, there is a vegan alternative.
How is that possible? By experimenting with multiple potential sources, scientists found a way to synthesize its production with genetically modified bacteria and yeast. A bacterium called P. pastoris is commonly used in the process and is known to be the most effective.
To make vegan collagen, four collagen genes found in humans are added to the structure of microbes. After this step, the yeast or bacteria get to work and start producing the necessary structure and building blocks. The addition of a digestive enzyme called pepsin turns these building blocks into the exact structure of human collagen.
And there you have it, a vegan alternative for collagen.
How Does Collagen Help the Body?
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in our body. There are 16 types of collagen that are spread across four divisions. Each of the four parts has a role of its own.
Here’s how each part contributes:
- Type 1 helps build skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons. Type 1 collagen makes up 90% of the body’s collagen and has densely packed fibers. Gram-to-gram, they’re stronger than steel.
- Type 2 helps in making cartilage, a flexible tissue found between bones that also act as a cushion to our joints. Type 2 collagen is mostly made up of loosely packed fibers.
- Type 3 helps in creating and maintaining muscles and blood vessels.
- Type 4 helps with filtration. Type 4 collagen Is mostly found in the layers of our skin.
Collagen has multiple health benefits. However, only some of its benefits have been scientifically proven. Even if we’re still waiting on definitive evidence with regards to other benefits, there are a few key advantages that experts agree on.
What Is the Best Reason for Consuming Collagen?
Collagen is an essential component of our body. It helps us have better skin, relieve joint pain, and prevent bone loss. However, when it comes to additional benefits like lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, there is still a significant amount of research to be done.
Here are the commonly cited benefits of consuming collagen:
Better skin health
When collagen production in our skin drops, it can lead to dry skin and wrinkles. Our skin becomes more vulnerable and susceptible to damage as we age. Since collagen makes up 75% of our skin’s dry weight, including collagen in our diet helps to maintain our skin’s natural elasticity and moisture.
In 2019, a review of eight studies involving 805 patients concluded that preliminary results of short and long-term use of collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging were “promising.”
Introducing collagen supplements in the form of pills, peptides, and powder also helps to promote the production of other essential proteins that make up the skin’s structure. In short, collagen helps improve the overall health of our skin.
Alleviates Joint Pain and Improves Bone Health
Another natural result of aging is the decrease of bone minerals. This can cause our bones to become brittle, break easily and take a significantly longer time to heal.
Collagen helps maintain the strength of our cartilage, a soft rubber-like tissue that protects our joints. It slows down the aging process that contributes to brittle bones, facilitating denser bones and going so far as helping the body produce new bones.
The good news is, this benefit is a sure thing. It’s backed by multiple studies and research. People who take collagen daily are known to have significantly less joint pain. Collagen further promotes joint health by reducing inflammation and joint pain while promoting bone health. This is a tried and tested solution for people with joint disorders.
Helps Preserve Muscle Mass
Collagen is a fool-proof way of ensuring you don’t lose body weight. This is a particularly important benefit for people with conditions like sarcopenia, hyperthyroidism, and people who work out. Collagen helps us keep our muscles strong and fully functional.
Pair a collagen supplement with exercise to stimulate muscle growth and creatine production, a protein that helps in muscle strength.
Improves Heart Health
Collagen supports and provides structure to blood vessels. Since blood vessels carry blood to and from the heart, consuming collagen is all the more important as it can help reduce the risk of heart conditions.
Collagen consumption can minimize unhealthy cholesterol levels while reducing stiffness in our arteries. It helps us maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
There are multiple studies to back up these claims. However, we’re still waiting on more conclusive results to firmly establish this as a benefit.
There are other benefits attributed to collagen consumption. However, these have yet to be indisputably proven by scientific tests.
Additional benefits of oral collagen intake are:
- Improves eye health
- Improves the appearance of skin and nails
- Helps you live longer
- Alleviates mood
- Promotes better sleep
- Improves brain health
What Are the Negative Effects of Taking Collagen?
Collagen is generally safe but like every supplement, it has its fair share of potential side effects.
Here are the most commonly reported side-effects of taking collagen:
- May cause mild digestive symptoms including but not limited to heartburn
- Tastes bad
- Increases oxidative stress
- Can contain allergens. People with allergies should check the ingredients of collagen supplements before purchasing them. Steer clear of common food allergens like eggs and fish.
- May cause rashes
- May cause kidney stones
Since there is still a significant amount of research that needs to be done concerning collagen, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and people who are on medication should check with a doctor before including collagen supplements in their diets.
Should You Take Collagen Every Day?
However, a smaller daily dose of 2.5 grams can benefit hydration, skin health, and joint pain. A higher dose of five grams per day has the potential to improve bone density.
Higher doses of up to 15 grams are mostly used to improve muscle mass and body composition.
Best Collagen Supplement
Using supplements is a convenient way to ensure our body doesn’t experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The popularity of collagen has given rise to many collagen supplements available in the market today. Collagen supplements vary. It would be hard to find two brands that are exactly the same.
Before going out to buy a collagen supplement or ordering one online, you may want to decide on a few factors:
- Type of collagen: pills or collagen powder?
- Vegan or non-vegan
- Testing, FDA approval, and certification
- Price per serving
With regards to brands, here are our top picks:
BestVitamin Best Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides are formulated by using collagen sourced from grass-fed bovine. It does not have a distinct flavor, odor, or colour.
Best Grass-Fed Collagen is simply the best all-around bovine collagen peptides on the market. This option puts a "boost" in each scoop thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C!
In addition to grass-fed collagen, which supports healthy hair, nails, skin, and joints, comes skin-loving hyaluronic acid plus vitamin C, which helps promote the body’s natural collagen production and promotes a more youthful appearance.
Since it comes in powder form, you can add one to two scoops of it to any drink!
Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder is so named because of its brand promise of providing “ancient nutrition for the modern world.” Their protein powder uses collagen from five types of food sources. The collagen comes from eggshell membrane, fish, beef, and chicken.
This protein powder also contains vitamin C and probiotics, live microorganisms that can potentially improve and restore balance in the digestive system. Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder boasts of promoting skin and joint health. It is odorless and flavorless making it easy to blend with your favorite drink or food.
Manufacturers claim that the Multi Collagen Protein powder:
- Improves exercise recovery by 53%
- Rapidly reduces joint discomfort in 7 days
- Reduces the appearance of crow's feet in a month
The powder also comes in different flavors like chocolate, strawberry lemonade, and vanilla.
Garden of Life Grass-Fed Collagen Beauty comes with a sweet strawberry lemonade flavor, a delicious mix to motivate your collagen intake for the day.
Extracted from grass-fed cows, Garden of Life’s collagen powder contains vitamin C, probiotics, biotin, and silica. Silica is a particularly beneficial compound when taken with collagen because it boosts collagen synthesis and also helps improve skin elasticity and strength.
This product includes type 1 and type 3 collagen. Its collagen peptides are highly absorbent and contain a relatively high amount of valuable amino acids in its formulation.
Garden of Life Grass-Fed Collagen Beauty is certified keto and paleo-friendly. It is also gluten-free and free from GMOs.
Vital Proteins’ collagen is derived from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle which means it’s free from pesticide-laden grains and hormones. The cows used are raised according to the 5-step animal welfare rating standards.
This product has no flavor and is dairy and gluten-free.
As our bodies’ collagen supplies and production naturally dwindle with age, it makes sense to look into adding a collagen supplement to our daily regimen, not only to maintain things like your hair and skin, but also to maintain bone, muscle, and joint health as you age as well!
We hope this helped bring you some clarity on how and why you can include collagen into your health routine! We always encourage you to do your own research and comparisons and to speak to a health care provider to make sure adding any supplements is right for you.
Overall, collagen is great for so many things that can help improve your health as you age. Here’s to glowing skin, strong joints, and better health made simple.