In recent years, collagen supplements have become very popular. But what is collagen? What does it do in your body, and do we need collagen supplements?
What is collagen?
Collagen is a cementlike, structural protein primarily found in connective tissue, skin, tendon, bone, and cartilage that holds cells together, providing form and support for your body. It is the most abundant protein molecule in your body and helps with a wide range of essential bodily processes, including tissue repair and signalling between cells.
Because our bodies naturally produce collagen from amino acids, you can support collagen production by eating enough protein from foods like poultry, fish, beans, and eggs. A collagen-supportive diet should include protein-rich foods, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as citrus, strawberries, papaya, kale and bell peppers, zinc, and other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Lifestyle factors can also interfere with production, including excess alcohol intake, smoking, lack of sleep, inactivity, and UV exposure.
Do we need to take collagen supplements?
As you age, your body produces less collagen, and existing collagen begins to break down. That is why we get sagging skin and wrinkles. Many try to counteract this process by taking collagen supplements in the form of flavourless and odourless powders, capsules, pills, gummies, or drinking pure bone broth. Most are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen has been broken down to make it easier to absorb. Collagen powder may be the best choice, as it’s flavourless and can be added to hot and cold foods and beverages for a protein boost.
Supplementing your diet with collagen is known to have various whole-body benefits:
- Improve skin health, elasticity, and appearance
- Stronger hair, skin, and nails
- Improving joint mobility by reducing pain and inflammation
- Better sleep
- Reduced inflammation
- Supports the heart and arteries
- It assists in building muscle
- Slows bone breakdown by improving bone mineral density
- Aids injury recovery and wound healing
- Increases calcium absorption
There are three popular primary sources of hydrolyzed collagen used in supplements:
Bovine collagen is naturally derived from cattle’s skin, bones, muscles and hides and is the closest to the type of collagen our bodies produce.
Marine collagen is extracted from the skin and scales of fish. This collagen type is also a great choice when targeting ageing skin, brittle hair, and nails.
Vegan collagen supplements do not contain collagen but are high-concentration vegan booster powders that might also contain amino acids from vegan sources. This plant-based collagen supplement has the nutritional properties of vitamins B and C, amino acids, and antioxidant complexes to supercharge your body’s natural collagen synthesis and production.
Is there a downside to taking collagen supplements?
Oral collagen supplements are generally safe, easy to use, and worth trying, but there are a few things to keep in mind. While collagen supplements are usually well-tolerated by most people, with few side effects, such as nausea, bloating, heartburn, and feeling of fullness, they are not trouble-free. Since they can be made with ingredients derived from fish, shellfish or eggs, supplements can pose a problem for allergy sufferers.
For people at higher risk of developing kidney stones—namely those with a history of kidney stones, digestive diseases like Crohn’s, or metabolic disorders like diabetes or hypertension – it is best to discuss the benefits and risks of taking a collagen supplement with your healthcare provider.
Remember, collagen supplements should not replace your diet of natural protein sources. Consuming enough protein, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc in a balanced diet is a healthy and less expensive alternative to supplements. Combining this with regular exercise can help minimize collagen and bone loss as you age.
Always consult with your doctor before starting any new supplements or dietary changes to ensure it’s a good fit with your personal health history.