Collagen. You may recognize it as an ingredient in topical anti-aging beauty products and vitamins. It’s one of the buzziest supplements of the new year, and there is a good reason for that, but what is it exactly? Why incorporate this power supplement into your daily life, let alone consume it in your diet?
What is it?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, accounting for about one-third of the body’s protein composition. It is responsible for structure, stability, and strength especially within many tissues throughout the body supporting tissues such as bones, muscles, skin, ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues where it occurs in the extracellular matrix as elongated fibrils.
It’s kind of like the glue of the body – it holds all of these things together. In fact, for many years, it was used to make glue!
If you’ve heard of collagen, it may have been in the context of skincare, preventing wrinkles, and as a protein supplement. What you may not know is that consuming collagen orally has more benefits than slathering it on your skin.
Some benefits of consuming this protein partner include:
- Improved skin health
- Decreased joint pain and degeneration
- Reduced bone loss
- Increased muscle mass
- Heart health
- Type I – This type accounts for most of the collagen in our bodies. It provides structure to skin, connective tissue, and bones.
- Type II – This type is found in elastic cartilage, which provides strength and elasticity to cartilage in places like the ears.
- Type III – This type supports the structure of our muscles, organs, and arteries.
- Type V – This type is required to create the cells of a placenta. It also helps to form cells surfaces and hair.
- Type X – This type is mainly found in cartilage and is known for being a marker of new bone growth in the cartilage of joints.
Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are getting the most hype these days as they are found in more fitness products, supplements, and food products. Collagen peptides have the same set of amino acids and nutrients as the whole form, but go through hydrolysis to break them down into a more readily bioavailable and easily absorbable state.
While ingesting collagen in a powder or even a protein bar is easy to do, you can get it the old fashioned way, too–in your food!
Here are some sources:
- Bovine (beef)
- Bone broth
- Collagen protein powder
- Collagen peptide protein powder
- Collagen pill supplements
- Eggshell membrane
Things to Consider
Before adding collagen to your diet, you need to consider if it’s the right choice for you and your dietary needs and how to add it to your diet for the greatest impact.
- Some foods promote the formation and use of collagen in the body. Consider adding these complementary nutrients into your diet as well: foods rich in vitamin C, manganese, and foods like blueberries, blackberries, and cherries.
- Consuming it with a source of amino acids and vitamin C helps to promote absorption in the body.
- Consider opting for hydrolyzed collagen peptides for best bioavailability and digestion.
- Read the nutrition labels on collagen supplements and foods if you have dietary sensitivities or allergies. For example, if you have a fish or shellfish allergy, make sure fish isn’t an ingredient and opt for another source instead.
- Collagen food products are typically not a significant source of calories but rather a supplement to what you already consume daily.
Collagen is an excellent supplement to a daily diet for those looking for potential improvements in skin health, decreasing joint pain and degeneration, maintaining bone mass, increasing muscle mass, and improving heart health. If you’re not sure if this supplement is the right fit for your needs, or you have serious concerns about any of the above health issues, talk to your primary care physician and/or dietitian before taking it.