Looking for an explanation on the benefits of collagen supplements?
Yeah, so are we.
Certainly the 3.5 billion dollar collagen industry has led consumers to believe they need to eat and drink copious amounts of collagen.
However, we believe you’d be better off looking for ways to help your body increase collagen synthesis on it’s own than consuming pre-packaged collagen, whether as a liquid, a powder, or a gelatin.
Did you know that your stomach acid breaks down collagen before it can enter your body to create the effects of naturally produced collagen? Any food source that contains the proteins lysine and proline will provide the precursors to make collagen in your body.
Let’s bust some of the myths about collagen.
What is collagen, anyway?
The most abundant protein in the body, Collagen is made of a group of proteins that hold together your tissues and bones. Almost like glue, your collagen forms a kind of scaffolding and structure to support connective tissues found in skin, cartilage, blood vessels, and bones. Collagen makes your tissues move and grow.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. There are at least 28 types of collagen in the body, classified by roman numerals.
Four main types of collagen in the body are type I, II, III, and IV.
- Type I is the strongest type in the body.
- Type II is most commonly found in cartilage.
- Type III is a fibrillar collagen in skin and organs.
- Type IV supports a specific cell membrane.
Types I, II, and III represent some 80 to 90 percent of the collagen in the body.
This structural aspect of natural collagen is what helps support plump, dewy, radiant, and youthful-looking skin. It’s what keeps skin from sagging.
However, over time, your body naturally produces less collagen. Our bodies begin to lose collagen starting in our 20s. Lifestyle can also negatively affect skin -- sun exposure, smoking, and pollutants can all do damage.
This is why so many people are considering ways to replenish their own collagen, seeking anti-aging effects.
What are collagen supplements, and what are they supposed to do for you?
Collagen supplements are typically either a gelatin or peptides (hydrolyzed collagen). The form might be a powder, liquid, capsule, injection, or other forms. Supplements are often made from Type II collagen of animals -- from cows (bovine), pigs (porcine), fish (marine), and more. Unfortunately, many sources of these supplements aren’t high quality. Vegan supplements do exist, but often as the precursors to collagen.
Collagen supplements may also be called hydrolyzed collagen, solubilized collagen, CII, shark gelatin, or gelatin.
Some people take various forms of collagen to protect joint tissues, to eliminate pain, joint stiffness, or arthritis. Some evidence suggests collagen can be used as a treatment for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Companies may also claim that collagen supplements can help deliver benefits of cognitive function and brain structure, injury prevention and tissue repair, wound healing and skin aging, teeth health, bone density, connective tissue repair for cellulite. But the evidence isn’t quite there to support all of these claims.
Most often, we see women seeking out collagen supplements for their anti-aging properties. Companies want you to believe they’ll give you better skin, hair, and fingernails.
Our take? Promoting collagen supplements for beauty purposes is misleading. Perhaps one of the biggest hoaxes in the last few years. Seriously.
Concerns with supplementing collagen / Does supplementing collagen work?
The main problem is that there’s conflicting evidence on whether it does anything. There aren't too many unbiased studies on collagen for now.
Some studies show positive results, but there's nothing conclusive yet. Years ago there was a study done on women eating a ton of codfish bones, but the results weren’t quantifiable and the women saw little difference.
Further, if you’re taking it instead of a protein powder, you’ll want to know that collagen is not a complete protein. It falls apart at temperatures above body temp, so don’t add it to your hot coffee and turn it to plain gelatin.
Without a lot of research out there showing clear results in taking collagen, we find the celebrities and influencers promoting collagen misguided at best, and predatory at worst.
There’s also no research on the long-term side effects of consuming animal collagen. In fact, there is more research that proves it leads to diabetes and heart disease, than to soft skin, longer hair, and disappearing wrinkles.
Disappointing, we know.
What can you do for better skin and connective tissue?
When you consume collagen liquids or powders, there are two things leftover, two amino acids called lysine and proline. So you should ensure you are getting enough of these, and forget the collagen supplements. You can support the production of collagen that happens naturally in your body rather than supplementing it. You do need protein, but your body can’t tell the difference between a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, turkey slices, or a bowl of beans and rice.
While there is little credible science to support the effectiveness of collagen supplements, we do know that certain foods can support collagen production. Four nutrients that help produce collagen in your body are vitamin C, proline, glycine, and copper. Consuming high quality protein and foods with those ingredients will give your body the amino acids it needs to make protein. It's better to get most of your protein from whole foods or high-quality protein powders. These help your body produce its own collagen.
Some examples of foods that help your body produce collagen include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, eggs, fish, oysters, beans, cabbage, pumpkin seeds, avocados and garlic.
You can also take Adaptogens, plants and herbs that have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic traditions. Adaptogens can help you combat the effects of stress and protect against effects of aging on your skin and bolster your body’s own immunity. Some key ingredients in Almeda’s Kasvi products that we encourage taking to help support the body’s natural collagen production include:
Rhodiola Rosea -- This helps produce collagen and elastin for young, plump skin.
Maca -- This is known to increase collagen production due to its high levels of vitamin C. It may also help protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Finally, avoid exposure to sunlight, cigarette smoke and pollution, as these can speed up the breakdown of collagen.
The bottom line here? Eating or drinking collagen is unproven and -- in our experience -- actually quite ineffective. Ingesting collagen as a supplement doesn’t necessarily translate into more collagen existing in your skin and body. Frankly, we find that collagen supplements are a waste of time, energy, and money.