Collagen can have a lot of health benefits. Unfortunately, anytime a product becomes popular we see an immediate surge of poor quality knock-offs and dubious brands selling dog food grade ingredients. Here's a brief overview of collagen - what it is, what it does, and how to be sure you are getting high quality products.
What is it?
Collagen is the primary component of your connective tissue, and is the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is what makes up a very large part of your skin, ligaments, tendons, bones, and cartilage. It connects vital tissues, like the layers of your gut.
Collagen is a protein, and needs specific amino acids (single protein building blocks) and peptides (two or more building blocks) to continue to grow and repair itself. The easiest way to get collagen specific building blocks is to consume collagen.
There are 16 types of collagen, but the majority of collagen in your body are types I, II, and III.
Type I: Skin, hair, bone, ligaments, teeth, and connective tissue.
Type II: Cartilage, Eyes
Type III: Muscle, blood vessel, and skin.
If you want to get nerdy with the deeper science, click here
Where does it come from?
Most collagen comes from animal by products, with the best coming from grass fed beef. Most vegan collagen supplements are not actually collagen, but contain a few collagen specific amino acids (glycine, lysine, and proline), but are lacking the complete protein structure of true collagen peptides.
The best collagen products are hydrolyzed. This means that it has be broken down into much smaller, much more absorbable, particle sizes. Raw collagen is much cheaper than hydrolyzed collagen, but you won't be able to digest it well enough to get much benefit from it. Only hydrolyzed collagen has been clinically studied to be helpful.
Top three science backed reasons to supplement with collagen:
These three indications have an acceptable amount of clinical studies supporting the claim that collagen can help improve the health of these tissues.
Improved Bone Density
Improve Bone Strength
Decreases Pain in Athletes with Joint Pain
Decreases Pain in Arthritis
Other reasons to take Collagen, but we need more research to be sure:
Gut Health: may help with gut inflammation and leaky gut
Heart Health: may improve elasticity of arteries and improve good cholesterol
Muscle Mass: may improve muscle mass in the elderly
Hair and Nail Health: may improve quality of hair and nails
Weight Loss: may aid in appetite control
Buying a good product checklist:
Hydrolyzed Collagen for a quality source (organically raised grass fed beef)
Right type of collagen for what you want (Type 1 for skin/hair/nails, type II for joints, type III muscles and tendons)
Complemented with other supportive nutrients
Skin,nails, and hair: orthosilicate, biotin, hyaluronic acid, retinols, vitamin C.
Bones: vitamin D, Vitamin K, boron, calcium, and strontium.
As with all supplements, purchase from a reputable source that you know and trust.
Can I just get it from food?
There are two way you can increase your collagen with food. You can consume collagen rich bone broth, or you can consume foods high in the nutrients that help you make your own collagen. These nutrients are vitamin C, magnesium, copper, and zinc. It is also important that these nutrients be combined with good quality animal protein or a plant based complete protein like Quinoa.
What else can I do to improve my collagen levels?
Arguably, maintaining optimal hormone levels is significantly more important that supplementing with collagen. Your reproductive hormones (estrogen mostly) help keep your collagen health and control how your body utilizes and repairs it. At SageMED, we offer cutting edge bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Speak to a SageMED provider today if you are 50+ and not on hormone replacement therapy. Current research has shown that hormone therapy can be very safe and effective when done appropriately.