You may have read about the benefits of collagen supplements, but are you wondering if there’s any truth to these claims? Can collagen supplements really improve joint health, and give you thicker hair and smoother skin?
Let’s look at what the science says…
What is collagen and how do collagen supplements work?
Collagen is a protein that makes up 30% of the body’s dry weight making it an important dietary nutrient. It gives strength to connective tissue such as blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage, bones, and skin. 1https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/
Supplements may come under different names including collagen hydrolysate, hydrolysed collagen, or collagen peptides. However, they all describe the same thing!
To produce collagen supplements, collagen (mainly from cows or fish) is ‘hydrolysed’, meaning that it’s broken down into smaller pieces called peptides. These peptides can easily be absorbed through the lining of the gut. Once detected in the bloodstream, they stimulate the body’s own production of collagen, which then helps to repair arteries, eyes, skin, and joints. 2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28244315/3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429168/
What are the proven benefits of supplementing with collagen?
Collagen is critically important for maintaining the health of the intestinal lining. It’s protective against conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and diverticulitis. 4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14600124/
Collagen surrounds arteries and veins, providing strength and flexibility to these vessels, and enabling dynamic blood flow around the body. Therefore, supplementing with collagen reduces stiffness in the arteries and improves cholesterol levels. 5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429168/
Collagen supplementation may increase bone formation and reduce the breakdown of bone tissue. 6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793325/ 7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780798/
Collagen supplements can increase muscle mass and reduce muscle wastage. 10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594048/
Blood sugar balance:
Collagen may help to stabilise blood sugar levels. 11https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/6/1302/4689577?login=true One study showed that collagen supplements “improved glucose and lipid [fat] metabolism in diabetic patients”.12https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21164551/
Collagen supplements may reduce hair loss and improve hair condition: This is because the amino acids that make up collagen are also the building blocks for keratin, the main protein in hair. Taking collagen also improves the structure and function of hair follicles which, in turn, improves hair condition and growth. 15https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28921826/16https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201279/
Which type of collagen is best?
The bones, cartilage, skin, and scales of fish and animals contain collagen. As we don’t tend to eat these parts, the best way to consume collagen is by taking a daily collagen supplement or by making bone broth.
While there are benefits associated with all animal collagen sources, fish collagen peptides are known to have the best absorption and bioavailability due to their smaller particle sizes compared to other animal collagens, making them antioxidant powerhouses. Bioavailability is highly important since it largely determines the efficacy of any nutrient you ingest.
Fish collagen (mainly type 1 collagen) is absorbed up to 1.5 times more efficiently into the body and has superior bioavailability over bovine or porcine collagens. Since it’s absorbed more efficiently and enters the bloodstream more quickly, it’s considered the best collagen source for medicinal purposes. 17https://draxe.com/nutrition/fish-collagen/
Are there vegetarian/vegan alternatives?
For vegetarians, the best alternative is galangal and even though it doesn’t contain collagen, it helps to lower inflammation and heal the gut. 18https://drwillcole.com/gut-health/the-healing-abilities-of-bone-broth
When and how should you supplement?
The body stops making its own collagen at around 25 years of age so we recommend our Pure Fish Collagen to people aged 30+.
Add 10 grams (approx. 1.5 tablespoons) to your Gut Health Smoothie or drink of choice. Blend or stir well and leave to stand until dissolved.
Hydrolysed collagen isn’t further affected by heat so you can add it to coffee, tea, or in cooking and baking. It won’t affect the flavour or smell either because all the fish oils are removed during processing.
Collagen is a very safe supplement to use however, it may contain traces of shellfish so we don’t recommend it for people with fish and/or shellfish allergies.
Questions? Feel free to get in touch with one of our Nutritional Therapists on live chat, weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm.