Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue within our bodies. Collagen actually makes up 30% of all the protein found in the body, making up ligaments, tendons, cartilage, cornea, bones, skin, and blood vessels. Due to it being present in all of those it is thought that collagen could be beneficial for joint pain, wound healing, blood pressure, glucose tolerance, skin elasticity, and osteoarthritis.
Right now collagen peptides are hitting a stride of being the next big supplement. When you hear the potential benefits, it makes sense as to why it would be. Up until now the only way we were told we could be helping our skin was topical treatments of collagen. The idea of being able to eat something that can build up our skin elasticity and help in so many different ways is exciting. I am all about the movement of beauty starting from within. What we put into our bodies directly effects every aspect of our health. If we are actively putting foods in our bodies that could help repair and heal, then we are on the right track for taking care of ourselves well.
Collagen supplements can be found from bovine and fish. The collagen is located within the skin or bones of the cow, and the scales of the fish. When getting the meat or fish for consumption, the scales or skin used to be unusable. They have found a way to extract that useful collagen so we could be utilizing it rather than throwing it away. The types of collagen that are found within the cow and fish are primarily Type I and III, which also happen to be the types that are primarily found within the human body. Most of the research that has been reviewed is looking specifically at these two types of collagen.
The research is currently limited on how the exact mechanism of the collagen is working, but with that said, there are a lot of good things coming out everyday. Here is a little breakdown of where the science is:
Childhood and adolescence is when we are depositing the most into our bones. By age 19-20 we have reached 90% of our bone density and we are able to continue depositing until we are 30. Women don't lose much until they hit menopause and then have a big potential drop. Researchers have looked at collagen peptides being able to help maintain or improve bone mass. One recent study looked at postmenopausal women and collagen supplementation. They found that in postmenopausal women there was an increase in bone mass when taking specific collagen peptides. They also found associations between collagen, increases in bone formation, and reduced bone degradation (1). Though the study was done in postmenopausal women, there are some good take aways for all of us. More research needs to be done to see if the same outcomes are found within men and premenopausal women. Regardless of the need for more research, the idea that collagen could help with bone mass is an exciting idea. If the results from this study can be extrapolated, then collagen is definitely something we all need to be taking!
As we age collagen naturally begins to breakdown within the skin, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Now that I am 31, this is becoming more of a reality, and I want to do everything I can to naturally keep my skin looking fresh. A study looked at women 35-55 and found that 2.5-5.0g of collagen supplementation daily for 8 weeks increased skin elasticity, and there was a positive influence on skin moisture (2). These results were again found in "elderly" women. So, again, more studies need to be done. The idea though that it was found to have some effect on the skin - regardless of age or gender - is enough for me to start taking it and doing my own research. :)
When you do a pubmed search on collagen peptides and osteoarthritis you get very conflicting results. A double blind study looked at pork and bovine collagen peptides on osteoarthritis and found it could be used as therapeutic treatment to help joints (3). Another said collagen peptides have no affect on joint health. Other studies just looked at the safety of a collagen supplement on the general health. This specific topic, as well as collagen supplementation, is where I think a lot of people get caught up and say it isn't really worth taking because there are conflicting results. I think ensuring you are getting a trusted source is the most important aspect, but more research needs to be done. I think that this claim has some work to be substantiated in the research world, but as you see from above there are still many reasons to take a collagen supplement. As time goes on I think we will see exactly how collagen is able to help prevent and/or heal joint pain.
Collagen peptides contain amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Most collagen supplements contain 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. This means that it is a great source of protein. Making sure to have a balanced diet the rest of the day will ensure that you are getting that the last essential amino acid, tryptophan. If you are looking to boost the protein in your smoothie but not add a ton of calories or sugar then this is a fantastic option.
The amino acid Glycine has been associated with helping aid in better sleep. Glycine is one of the amino acids that if found in collagen peptides. Your body make glycine from other amino acids but if those aren't present or in a high enough amount then it become conditionally essential. If you become deficient it could disrupt your sleep. Taking collagen peptides will ensure that you are getting glycine and the precursors to make glycine so increasing a great nights sleep!
Collagen is part of what makes up the lining of our small intestine. If you have any sort of inflammation, like IBS or sensitivity to a food, there could be damage to the lining of you intestines. If this continues and isn't repaired it could lead to "leaky gut". Collagen peptides are thought to help heal the damage and essentially seal your gut back up. This is really important because most of our immunity comes from our intestinal health. So, if your gut is in disarray then so will your overall health.
Choosing a Collagen:
As I have previously stated, choosing the right supplement is the most vital. You have to remember supplements aren't regulated, which means you are forced to trust what they are saying is actually in the product. I've had big issues with supplement companies for this reason. When choosing collagen, most of them will already be in the form of hydrolyzed collagen for easy absorption. Look for companies that use high quality sources of beef, fish, or pork. The form it's in makes it a neutral flavor powder that dissolves into any liquid. I have done some research, and I am giving you my recommendations on where to purchase your collagen peptides.
Measure Wellness is a small business out of San Antonio, TX. It is a husband and wife team that cares so much about the quality of their product. I had the pleasure of getting to meet Amanda while we were attending Texas Tech together. They take the time to comb through the research to ensure they are using - and doing - the best they can based on the literature that is currently out there. They also add cofactors to their Beefed-Up Collagen (TM). This means collagen needs some help to be utilized, and make new collagen. These cofactors that are used within our bodies are Vitamin C, Iron, Manganese, and Copper. They are vital within collagen production and function. I think it is pretty awesome they are part of this collagen supplement! This company also adheres to high quality control. I highly recommend it and it is currently what I put in my coffee every morning!
Vital Proteins is a much larger company that has many collagen products. I have not tried their products personally but the ingredients and quality seem high. They have many products available, which can be good, but there is something to say about going with a company that just focuses on one product - and makes it awesome. If you decide to go with this company, I would recommend starting with the bone broth collagen or bovine collagen peptides.
There is still a lot to know about collagen but I am truly excited to see what else it could potentially be helping! I hope you learned a little something and feel more confident in knowing why you would want to collagen and where you should get it.
1. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Konig D., Oesser S., Scharla S., Zdzieblik D., Gollhofer A.Nutrients (2018).16;10(1).
2. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol (2014). 27(1);47-55.
3. A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled, Randomised, Clinical Study on the Effectiveness of Collagen Peptide on Osteoarthritis. J. Sci. Food Agric. (2015). 95;702-707.