Here’s What You Need To Know About Collagen Supplements
At this point, collagen could have its own aisle in the supermarket. There are powders and peptides, gummy bears and tonics. And with its popularity rising among beauty enthusiasts and functional medicine doctors alike, so too have risen a number of questions. For starters, what actually is it?
Okay so, collagen is a structural protein that acts as a building block for your skin, bones, teeth, joints and tissue. Think of it as the glue that, quite literally, holds your body together. There are at least 28 types of collagen in the body, but types I, II, and III form the bulk of them. After the age of about 25, your production of collagen starts to slow down, which is why you start to notice fine lines and wrinkles. You can add more collagen to your diet by regularly consuming foods like bone broth and organ meats, but if these aren’t in your usual rotation, and you’re older than the age of 25, chances are you could benefit from a collagen supplement.
You may have seen terms like “collagen peptides” and “collagen powder” on your Instagram feed – these are essentially different names for the same thing: hydrolysed collagen protein. This means that the collagen has undergone a process called “hydrolysis” which breaks down the amino acids (namely glycine, proline and hydroxyproline) into smaller molecules to make it easier for your body to digest and distribute throughout the body. Research has shown that marine collagen is around 1.5 times more bioavailable than bovine-sourced collagen because of its smaller molecule size. If sustainability is a concern of yours, marine collagen also has very little impact on the environment, as explained to me by Two Islands resident nutritionist, naturopath and medical herbalist Emily Jensen: “Two Islands marine collagen is sourced from sustainable fisheries and made from fish skin and scales that would otherwise be thrown away as waste. Bovine collagen, on the other hand, is sourced from cow hides (skins) after harvesting them for meat and comes at a higher cost of greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re selecting a bovine collagen it’s important to know if the cows were grass fed or pasture-raised, and if they were treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.”
Okay, but does it actually work? One critique you might have seen is that stomach acid breaks down the collagen before it has the chance to do anything, however various studies have proven this to be false. Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that, in clinical trials spanning eight weeks, oral collagen supplementation significantly increased both skin hydration and collagen density in the skin, and significantly decreased the fragmentation of the dermal collagen network in only four weeks. And in a preclinical trial, Matsumoto et al. (2006) investigated the effects of daily intake of 7g of marine collagen on the skin of 25 females who tended to have dry and rough skin in winter. The trial found that after six weeks the moisture content, pliability and elasticity of each participant’s skin had significantly improved. And closer analysis showed “greater smoothness, fewer wrinkles, and less roughness.” But marine collagen’s benefits extend beyond good skin; Konig et al. (2018) found that collagen can improve bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, while Chaugule et al. (2017) found positive results in the use of marine collagen for osteoporosis. There’s even been interesting research on how collagen supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can improve body composition and increase muscle strength in men.
But – and this is a big but – only if you are buying your collagen from a trusted supplier, my favourite being Two Islands marine collagen which is sustainably-sourced from France as a by-product of the fishing industry that would otherwise go to waste. Their collagen is incredibly high dose (containing between 9 and 9.95g of collagen per 10g serving) which means you can expect to see improvements in everything from gut health to nails in as little as four weeks. Plus, if you get my favourite flavour (vanilla baby!) you can achieve all of the above while also upgrading your porridge and smoothie game.
Talk about a multitasker.