Dr. Kassam What's up with Collagen

What's Up With Collagen?

Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND

      With summer fast approaching people are fine-tuning their fitness goals with more regular visits to the gym and getting that CORE ready (YES!). For you women out there, it is also the time to get your skin glowing and looking healthy as ever.  Collagen has gained immense popularity in this regard as a nutritional supplement and ingredient in many skin products. What is collagen? Where does it come from? How is it beneficial? Keep reading to get the answers!

What is Collagen?

First, here is a little background on skin for you. Skin is kinda a big deal as it serves many important functions in the body.  It is composed of 2 main layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis consists of fibroblasts, which produce elastin and collagen (Type I and III), as shown in the picture below. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body – it makes up the gut, skin, joints, bone and ligaments.  It literally holds your body together, being responsible for the strength and toughness of cartilage and provides strength and elasticity to skin! WOW, Clearly collagen is really important!! Natural collagen peaks in our early 20’s and declines with age at a rate of 1.5% per year indicative of ageing skin.  This compromises the structural integrity of the skin and other organs leading to stiff joints, dry and wrinkly skin. This is also shown in the picture below with the decrease in collagen fibres with “ageing skin”. There are about 16 different types of collagen! 80-90% belong to types I, II, and III. Collagen Type I is mainly found in tendons, skin, bones, cartilage, connective tissue and teeth. Collagen Type II is mainly found in cartilage and Collagen III is mainly found in muscles and arteries. Clearly, collagen can be used for way more than just healthy looking skin!

 

Where do we get collagen?

We can get collagen from our diets. However, diets have shifted towards more muscle meats vs. other animal parts where collagen is naturally found. It is generally found in gelatinous meats, the cartilage on bones, fish and poultry skin. Bone broth is another great way to get some collagen from bones. There are also various foods that can increase natural collagen production in our body:

  • Blueberries – Contain phytonutrients that help collagen fibres link together
  • Dark leafy greens (Spinach, Kale) – Rich in vitamin A and C which produce more collagen
  • Garlic – Increases collagen production
  • Oranges, strawberries – Contain high amounts of vitamin C which is super important for the production of all types of collagen

What can decrease collagen production in the body?

  • Sun exposure – UV in sunlight causes the collagen to break down more rapidly, damaging the fibres
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Smoking – Damages both collagen and elastin in the skin

What else is collagen great for… well, I’m glad you asked!

There have been over 150 studies looking at the beneficial effects of collagen on the body. Here are some of the benefits you will observe after taking collagen:

  1. Improves skin elasticity, dryness and wrinkles. A study found that people taking Collagen had fewer facial lines and wrinkles after 60 days of use (Borumand, 2014). It is known to retain moisture in the skin through increased hyaluronic acid production
  2. Supports joint health and reduces joint pain - Collagen is what maintains joint flexibility and strength. It also helps to regenerate cartilage in joints. A study found that dietary collagen hydrolysate improved joint pain at rest and while walking in 24 weeks in athletes (Clark, 2008). This is some promising stuff!
  3. Reduces gut inflammation – Collagen peptides help to maintain the integrity and function of the intestines which helps in conditions like IBS and leaky gut syndrome
  4. Osteoarthritis – Type II Collagen improved knee joint symptoms in knee osteoarthritis (Lugo, 2016)
  5. Hair Volume – 180 days of collagen supplementation in women with thinning hair resulted in improvements in hair volume and hair thinning (Glynis, 2012).

As you can see, collagen is not just great for skin health!!

What is the best way to take Collagen?

Collagen has various sources like fish or cattle. Marine collagen peptides are from wild fish scales that provide you with Type I collagen, which is most effective for skin health. Beef collagen peptides are from bones of cattle and provide you with Type III Collagen.

In order for collagen to be useful, it must cross the intestinal barrier and reach the bloodstream.  Thus, using it topically through creams is not the most effective way as the molecules are too big to be absorbed through the skin. So make sure if you are taking collagen, it is in a form that our body can access and use. Hydrolyzed collagen is collagen peptides where the bonds holding them together have been broken. This allows for optimal absorption and allows us to utilize it more efficiently. Hydrolyzed collagen powder blends well with almost everything and can be mixed into your oatmeal, yoghurt, tea or coffee!

 

TIP – Collagen first thing in the morning:

  • 1 cup coffee 
  • 1 tbsp collagen peptides
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk or coconut cream
  • Blend for 30 secs and enjoy!

 

References:

  1. A, G. (2012). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. The Journal of Clinical & Aesthetic Dermatology, 8-34.
  2. Lugo, J, Saiyed, Z, Lane E. (2016). Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition journal. 15:14.
  3. Borumand, M & Sibilla S. (2014). Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen reduces visible signs of ageing. Clin. Inter Aging. 9: 1747-1758.
  4. Clark K. et al. (2008). 24 Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 5