There are many supplements out there promoting the use of collagen, either with bone broth or collagen powder. I’ve been asked by several people to explain what collagen is exactly. Should they take it? Is it a waste of money? Why should they take it? Well I wasn’t totally sure, so I said I would learn what I could.
There are some smaller studies that have been done on collagen. Researchers are only beginning to understand its use. Many will say if there aren’t any large studies on it, then it doesn’t work. I disagree. Just because a large study hasn’t been done, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, it just means it hasn’t been proven to work.
I am currently taking collagen to see if it will help increase my bone density and reduce osteoarthritis pain.
What is Collagen
This part we know.
Collagen supports, strengthens, cushions, provides structure and holds us together. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. 30% of the protein in the body is collagen.
It is described as a “strong, springy, fibrous substance”. Collagen is considered connective tissue, the great supporter and the “glue” that holds your body together.
Dr. Axe describes protein (meat, eggs, fish) as the bricks and collagen as the mortar that holds the bricks together and keeps it solid.
- Collagen is in your bones, teeth, skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage
- It strengthens your muscles
- Protects your muscle tissue
- Helps cell growth
- Supports your digestive system (lining of the gut)
- Supports the disks in your vertebrae
- Supports your blood vessels
- Supports the outer layer of your organs
- Building block of healthy skin, giving you flexibility and strength
Hmm, seems important.
If you recall from the earlier post on protein, when you eat protein it gets broken down into amino acids. Then it is rebuilt into the particular protein that is needed. Collagen also gets broken down into amino acids, then it is used to rebuild collagen filled tissues. Peptides, a word you might see on many collagen supplements, are short chains of amino acids.
It is important to note that collagen powder is not a complete protein. It does not contain the amino acid tryptophan.
What Happens as We Age
People produce collagen up until age 30-40, if you’re healthy, then production begins to decline. Some even say decline starts as early as 25 years old. It can depend on your health and lifestyle habits.
Habits That Reduce Collagen
- sun exposure
- poor gut health
- too much sugar
- excessive alcohol
- environmental pollution
- sleep deprivation
- processed meat
Collagen Food Sources
- eat quality sources of protein. Grass-fed, pasture-raised and wild-caught as much as possible.
- bone broth, chicken and fish skin
- collagen is found in animal protein (cows, chickens, fish, pigs)
- eat the skin, organ meats, boil bones, cartilage into soup
- gelatin or bone broth
There are no plant based substitutes that offer everything collagen does.
Plants Can Boost Collagen Production
According to the authors of the Bone Broth Secret, plants don’t contain collagen, but they can boost your body’s natural production. Plants contain Vitamin C, B-vitamins, silicon, sulfur, copper and amino acids.
Fruits- raspberries, strawberries, oranges, cherries
Vegetables- spinach, red peppers, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, beets, carrots (red veggies that contain lycopene)
Nuts and seeds- sunflowers, almond and walnut
Essential fatty acid- olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil
Types of Collagen
According do Dr. Axe there are 16 different types of collagen. However, most collagen in our body is either type I, II, or III or a combination.
Type I is found in your bones, tendons, ligaments and skin.
Sources- find it in bovine collagen from bones, skin, cartilage and tendons. Fish collagen from bones and skin is easy to absorb.
Gram for gram, type I is said to be stronger than steel.
It reduces osteoarthritis pain.
Type II is found in your cartilage.
Sources- found in chicken, duck, turkey collagen from bones skin and gristle.
This builds cartilage preventing arthritis and joint pain. Cushions spine by supporting inner core of disks.
Studies show better results than glucosamine and chondroitin at 12 wks.
Referred to as undenatured collagen. Generally standardized 40 mg (containing 10 mg of bioactive type II)
Type III is found in your skin, muscle, bone marrow and extracellular matrix (tissue surrounding organs).
Sources -found in bovine collagen.
There is also Egg collagen from the membranes inside the shell. (type 1,3,4,5)
Signs of Depleting Collagen
- wrinkles, sagging skin, (collagen provides structure to the skin)
- more frequent cuts and scraps (from thinner skin)
- slower wound healing (acts like glue to knit skin together)
- hair loss
- sagging muscles
- thin hair/nails
- dry hair/nails
- brittle bones
- joint issues
- may also be an issue in GERD and IBS
- other digestive problems
- food sensitivities
- inflammation (lines the digestive tract)
- lower immunity (lines the gut, 70% of immune system is in the gut)
- heart issues (less supple arteries)
- low bone density (there’s actually more collagen than calcium in your bones)
- arthritis and joint pain (loss of cartilage)
Benefits of Supplementing
- Supplements are an easy way to get collagen.
- Post menopausal women at 1 yr. increase bone formation.
- Little research has gone into collagen affects on the hair.
- Supports the digestive tract which is a vital immune barrier.
- Improves skin hydration and density.
- Increased skin elasticity.
- Helps increase muscle strength in elderly.
- Has a positive effect on osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Reduced pain and improves physical activity in those with hip and knee pain.
- Some believe it may help with acne.
- Reduces artery stiffness
- helps prevent atherosclerosis (build up of fats in arteries)
- Helps lower LDL
Risks of Supplementing
Generally, taking collagen is considered risk free. However, to some that are sensitive to it, it may cause some digestive upset such as heartburn.
If you are allergic to seafood, be careful of not choosing a powder that contains fish collagen.
To those who believe collagen is useless, perhaps there is the risk of wasting your money.
What to Look For in a Supplement
- Hydrolyzed collagen- peptides broken down into smaller particles for better absorption and dissolves quickly in food.
- Quality sources of collagen
- Contains a variety of collagen (depending on use)
- Should list the types of collagen (I, II or III)
- Should list amount of collagen in each serving.
Hydrolyzed collagen at 10 g per day should be enough for most uses. However, some uses my need a higher dosage. Others uses may need less.
As I said earlier, I take collagen to see if it will improve BMD and OA pain. I have been taking it for a while and have not noticed any change in my hair and nails. However, there is some improvement in pain using the type II. The Bone Density results will have to wait until my next scan. So I think it might involve some experimentation and people may react differently. Try it for a few months. If you see no results then don’t use it anymore.
Now you know what I know.
Effect of the Novel Low Molecular Weight Hydrolyzed Chicken Sternal Cartilage Extract, BioCell Collagen, on Improving Osteoarthritis-Related Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial