What is collagen? Collagen Peptides?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It provides the framework for the structure of our body and is a required building block for healthy nails, skin, bones, tendons and ligaments.
Often collagen products on the market, like skin serums and supplements, are marketed as “collagen peptides.” All proteins (including collagen) are made up of amino acids like glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. A “peptide” is simply a chain of amino acids. There are more than a dozen types of collagen, which are composed of different peptides and exhibit a range of structures and functions. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of collagen belongs to what’s classified as type 1, 2, and 3, which are very strong and flexible proteins. Type 1 is important for bone, teeth, and skin formation and is predominant in the tissue and tendons. But, where there is type 1, you’ll often find type 2 collagen, which is mostly known for its role as structural support in cartilage. Type 3 is found in skin, muscle, and blood vessels.
So, why is collagen on the forefront of our minds? In recent years, you’ve likely seen many collagen supplements – claiming to improve your skin integrity, slow aging and support your bones and tissues. Recent research illustrates that as we age and put our body under stress, collagen production declines. Maintaining healthy collagen levels is necessary for optimal body functioning, and it’s sometimes necessary to help regenerate our limited supply. While much interest in collagen has been strictly from a skin care perspective, its benefits truly go beyond skin deep. Here are five reasons you should supplement your diet with collagen.
Why do we need it?
1.) Healthy Joints – Collagen helps maintain the cartilage, the rubbery cushions surrounding most of our joints. Collagen can help reduce joint pain and allay degenerative changes like osteoarthritis that typically increase with age. One study found that collagen supplementation for those with rheumatoid arthritis significantly reduced swelling and joint pain. A few participants in the small sample size even experienced remission over the three months that the study occurred.
In one study, 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest compared to a group that did not take it (1).
In another study, adults took two grams of collagen daily for 70 days. Those who took collagen had a significant reduction in joint pain and were better able to engage in physical activity than those who did not take it. (2)
Collagen supplementation also increases our bodies own production of collagen and reduces inflammation in general. For pain and inflammation, start with 8-12 g collagen per day.
2.) Improves Skin Integrity – this is where all the beauty benefits of collagen supplementation come into play. Collagen naturally helps strengthen skin, improves elasticity and helps improve moisture retention.
women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for eight weeks experienced less skin dryness and a significant increase in skin elasticity compared to those who did not take the supplement (7)
A similar study conducted over 12 weeks showed significant improvements in skin hydration and depth of wrinkles. However, it’s important that exogenous collagen (meaning taken externally, not naturally produced by the body) is taken internally, not delivered topically. In fact, most skin care products claiming to revitalize the skin by boosting collagen are likely too good to be true. Why? Because most collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin. Any immediate benefit from a topical collagen product is likely due to the remarkable moisturizing effects that don’t actually increase or stimulate collagen production. On the upside, collagen has been found to accelerate hair growth and wound healing.
3. Improves gut health –
Collagen has been lauded as somewhat of a miracle worker in nutrition circles when it comes to gut healing. However, most of the gut microbiome and collagen research remains in its infancy. There is some evidence that amino acids in collagen, specifically glycine, may reduce GI inflammation in conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and improve digestion. Additionally, glutamine, one of collagen’s other amino acids, is key for preventing gut inflammation, healing the gut lining and inhibiting oxidative stress of the intestines. It’s one of our favorites for healing from exposure to food sensitivities and bouncing back from leaky gut syndrome.
4. May Slow Bone Loss
Our bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown characteristic of osteoporosis.
In one study, women took either a calcium supplement combined with 5 grams of collagen or a calcium supplement and no collagen daily for 12 months.
By the end of the study, the women taking the calcium and collagen supplement had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown than those taking only the calcium.
Another study found similar results in 66 women who took 5 grams of collagen daily for 12 months.
The women who took the collagen had an increase of up to 7% in their bone mineral density (BMD), compared to women who did not consume collagen (17). While promising, more studies are required to confirm causation of this connection.
5. Promote heart health
Taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.
Since collagen provides structure to your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body). Without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile.
This may lead to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis then has the potential to lead to heart attack and stroke.
In one study, 31 healthy adults took 16 grams of collagen daily for six months. By the end, they had experienced a significant reduction in measures of artery stiffness compared to before they started taking the supplement.
Additionally, they increased their levels of “good” HDL cholesterol by an average of 6%. HDL is an important factor in the risk of heart conditions, including atherosclerosis.
Nevertheless, more studies are needed on the role of collagen supplements in heart health.
Where do we get it?
It’s always a great idea to get our nutrients from our diet when possible. Foods high in proline, vitamin C, vitamin A, and anthocyanidins support collagen formation. Of course, collagen is also found in the connective tissues of animals. Thus, foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are sources of collagen (8, 24, 25).
And if you’re serious about revving up your collagen intake, we recommend you can supplementing your already good diet. At Absolute Wellness Center, we have been long time advocates of bone broth, and love Ancient Nutrition and Bulletproof for their blends. We’re also excited to now offer a variety of bone broth and collagen blends by Vital Proteins. We’ve got Collagen Coffee Creamers (coconut, vanilla and mocha flavors), both chicken and beef bone broths, plain unflavored collagen peptides, an awesome Collage Sports Greens blends with adaptogens and greens, and Dr. Doyle’s favorite, Matcha Collagen with matcha green tea.
Stop in for yours!