Collagen supplements are taking center stage on supermarket shelves. However, few of us really understand what collagen is, how it benefits us, and what we need to do to get enough. Luckily, we’ve got the inside scoop so get your pens and pencils ready: you’re about to simultaneously boost your collagen levels and collagen IQ!
What is collagen and why should I care about it?
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body and is super important in providing structural support, including within bones, joints and muscles (Lodish et al. 2000). Essentially, think of collagen as the ‘glue’ that holds our bodies together. Thus, to keep our bodies strong and at their best, collagen is vital.
However, our body’s ability to produce collagen naturally declines with age and we begin to break down collagen faster than we can replace it (Varani et al. 2006). Ensuring we top up on collagen as we get older may therefore help optimize our body composition. For example, one study found aging adults who took 15g of collagen daily, in addition to lifting weights, gained significantly more muscle and lost more fat than those who just lifted weights (Zdzieblik et al. 2015).
Animal studies have also suggested that collagen supplements may support bone health by increasing bone mineral density (Wu et al. 2004, Nomura et al. 2005). However, only a handful of these have been conducted in humans (Elam et al. 2015) and more research is need.
Meanwhile, collagen is receiving a lot of attention recently due to the fact it is also responsible for supporting hair, nails, and skin structure and elasticity. In the last few years, there have been some impressive studies showing that edible collagen supplements can impact the appearance of skin (Borumand & Sibilla 2015).
It’s important to remember though that our bodies are complex and, just like eating fat doesn’t directly translate to increased body fat, eating collagen doesn’t directly translate to more collagen in our skin; unfortunately, we can’t tell a supplement to go reduce wrinkles for us!
However, edible collagen supplements do provide the amino acid building blocks of collagen, which are digested, absorbed, and used for numerous body processes, including boosting skin, joint and bone health (Noguchi & Djerassi 2009).
How can I support collagen production?
Collagen is naturally found in connective tissue (Lodish et al. 2000). Therefore, to naturally boost your intake, a great place to begin is to eat a combination of chicken, fish and eggs (Borumand & Sibilla 2014, Liu et al. 2015). Bone broth is another way to naturally boost your collagen intake (Liu et al. 2015).
However, collagen supplements have the advantage over food sources in terms of convenience and flexibility. Find them in powder, pill, and liquid form. These can be taken on the go, at mealtimes with water or, if in a powder, blended into a smoothie as a snack or mini meal link to collagen smoothie recipe (Check Out my post workout protein collagen smoothie!) . As quality varies greatly between products, always shop around for the best. Alternatively, head to Lauren’s professional grade vitamin store here where she’s done all the hard work and picked out her favourite items for you.
Collagen production can be enhanced or inhibited by several factors. For example, smoking can be detrimental (Knuutinen et al. 2002), whereas vitamin C is essential supporting collagen creation in our bodies (Borumand & Sibilla 2015, Pullar et al. 2017). Therefore, make sure you also consume lots of vitamin C rich foods: for example, citrus fruits, berries and leafy green vegetables (Sizer & Whitney 2017).
Collagen supplementation has the potential to offer a whole host of bodily benefits. As with any changes in diet, this is best done under the supervision and guidance of a qualified dietician like Lauren. Click here for more details on working with Lauren.
Borumand, M. and Sibilla, S., 2015. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), p.47.
Elam, M.L., Johnson, S.A., Hooshmand, S., Feresin, R.G., Payton, M.E., Gu, J. and Arjmandi, B.H., 2015. A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of medicinal food, 18(3), pp.324-331.
Knuutinen, A., Kokkonen, N., Risteli, J., Vähäkangas, K., Kallioinen, M., Salo, T., Sorsa, T. and Oikarinen, A., 2002. Smoking affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin. British Journal of Dermatology, 146(4), pp.588-594.
Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, S.L., Matsudaira, P., Baltimore, D. and Darnell, J., 2000. Molecular cell biology 4th edition. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Bookshelf.
Liu, D., Nikoo, M., Boran, G., Zhou, P. and Regenstein, J.M., 2015. Collagen and gelatin. Annual review of food science and technology, 6, pp.527-557.
Noguchi, A. and Djerassi, D., 2009. Amino Acids and Peptides: Building Blocks for Skin Proteins. In Nutritional Cosmetics (pp. 287-317). William Andrew Publishing.
Nomura, Y., Oohashi, K., Watanabe, M. and Kasugai, S., 2005. Increase in bone mineral density through oral administration of shark gelatin to ovariectomized rats. Nutrition, 21(11-12), pp.1120-1126.
Pullar, J.M., Carr, A.C. and Vissers, M., 2017. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients, 9(8), p.866.
Sizer, F.S. and Whitney, E. 2017. Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 15th Edition. Cengage Learning Inc.
Varani, J., Dame, M.K., Rittie, L., Fligiel, S.E., Kang, S., Fisher, G.J. and Voorhees, J.J., 2006. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. The American journal of pathology, 168(6), pp.1861-1868.
Wu, J., Fujioka, M., Sugimoto, K., Mu, G. and Ishimi, Y., 2004. Assessment of effectiveness of oral administration of collagen peptide on bone metabolism in growing and mature rats. Journal of bone and mineral metabolism, 22(6), pp.547-553
Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Baumstark, M.W., Gollhofer, A. and König, D., 2015. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(8), pp.1237-1245.