Is Supplementing Collagen Just a Trend?

Is supplementing collagen just a trend? You may be reading this post because you’ve heard that you should add collagen powder into your morning coffee, protein shake, or adrenal cocktail. Or maybe you use a collagen skincare regimen because you heard it will prevent or minimize the appearance of wrinkles. The wellness part of me wanted to know why influencers have made it so popular, if it was truly beneficial, and if so, what to look for when supplementing collagen.

As a reminder, this wellness blog post is a combination of the information learned from earning my health education and counseling degrees, facts found in reading peer reviewed articles and medical journals, and my personal experience. This post is not medical advice. Now let’s dive in…

What is collagen?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up 30% of your body’s total protein. Protein is in every cell of our bodies, and it does a lot of the work too. It’s required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. 

Collagen is the primary building block of your body’s skin, muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments and other connective tissues. It’s also found in your organs, blood vessels and intestinal lining. 

Protein is made from amino acid chains. The main amino acids that make collagen are proline, glycine and hydroxyproline in a triple helix structure. However, it’s not always as simple as getting those amino acids in your diet to make the needed collagen. Your body also needs vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese to make the triple helix (Cleveland Clinic).

What happens to collagen as we age?

As long as our skin has the building blocks (specific amino acids and nutrients) to make the collagen it needs, this is a natural and normal process. 

However, several studies have found that our body’s ability to produce collagen goes down, and our ability to make quality collagen goes down as we age. Additionally, collagen is broken down at a faster rate as we age, creating even more of a need for it to be replenished.

Hello aging skin, joint pain, and other health concerns. 

If you notice wrinkles, sagging skin, thinning hair, GI issues, joint pain, or slow injury recovery this could be a sign of collagen deficiency.

Habits that DON’T help collagen production:

There are certain habits that slow the production of collagen down even more (with or without aging) and damage what the body has already made at a faster rate:

  • Smoking
  • UV exposure
  • High sugar diets
  • High refined grain diet

Habits that DO help collagen production:

Our Diet

According to the Cleveland Clinic, we not only need the building blocks of collagen, but we need specific vitamins and minerals to support this natural production process.

Foods with the following amino acids (building blocks of protein):

  • Proline is found in mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus, peanuts, wheat, fish, egg whites and meat.
  • Glycine is found in red meats, turkey, chicken and pork skin, peanuts and granola.

Vitamins and Minerals :

  • Vitamin C is found in oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.
  • Copper is found in liver, lobster, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, tofu and dark chocolate.
  • Zinc is found in oysters, red meat, poultry, pork, beans, chickpeas, nuts, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, whole grains and milk products.

When we consume the nutrients needed to build collagen, the body decides where to place it. See “Types of Collagen” below to know what to look for when supplementing collagen.

Our Habits

Again avoid smoking, UV rays, and sugary, processed foods. These habits decrease collagen production and break down existing collagen down even quicker.

There are several studies mentioning that certain autoimmune diseases can increase the natural reduction of collagen. Because many autoimmune diseases are rooted in stress (several types), I would assume that stress management would be effective as well. 

Cosmetics

Dermafillers (collagen injections) can help with the appearance of collagen loss.

Anti-aging skincare products and tools can assist the production of collagen too. My favorite at-home skincare tool is this derma roller. The idea behind derma-rolling is that it stimulates specific skin cells to produce more collagen in that targeted area. 

In order for these products, tools, and procedures to be most effective, a person’s diet will still need to include enough of the building blocks for collagen production. 

Collagen Supplements

When it comes to supplementing collagen, you want a quality product that is easily digested and contains the specific types of collagen that match your wellness needs.

High quality collagen supplements that I look for are bovine or marine collagen that is wild caught or grass fed.

Bovine collagen comes from yak, antelope, bison, water buffalo, and cows — but bovine collagen comes primarily from cows. To make it, cow bones or other cattle byproducts are boiled in water. After the collagen is extracted, it’s dried and powdered to form a supplement.

Marine collagen comes from marine species. Specifically, the skin and bones of fish and sharks, sea urchin waste and by-catch organisms such as jellyfish and starfish, have high collagen content. 

Great news too! Several studies have proven that oral collagen peptides together with other dermonutrients (see Our Diet above) significantly improve skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density after three months of intake.

Types of Collagen

There are over 28 types of collagen, but some are the more prevalent in our bodies and the animals we supplement from. Based on your health and wellness goals, choose one that has the type(s) you need most.

Understanding the most common types of collagen is helpful when selecting a supplement that is right for you. These types of collagen should be written on the packaging.

According to Rachel Link, RD, at Ancient Nutrition,

Type I

Without a doubt, type I collagen is the most abundant protein found in humans (and in all vertebrates), making up 90% of your body’s collagen. 

If you’re looking for a collagen for supporting your skin health, type 1 is a top choice since it’s literally a building block of the skin. Type 1 collagen supports healthy skin and boosts skin elasticity.

Type 1 collagen can be found in supplements featuring bovine or fish collagen. 

Fish or marine collagen generally have an increased absorption rate and bioavailability due to the smaller particle size of fish collagen peptides. Egg collagen, which is located in the whites and shells of eggs, contains mostly type I collagen, but also can feature other types of collagen, including collagen type X.

Type II

Type 2 collagen is the major collagen found in cartilage. Cartilage is connective tissue that protects the ends of long bones at the joints. It’s also a structural component of the ear, the nose, the bronchial tubes, the rib cage and more.

Since type ll collagen helps to form the cartilage that protects our joints, it’s no wonder that this variety of collagen is often known for supporting healthy joints.

Supplements featuring chicken collagen, such as chicken bone broth protein powder, can be great supplements featuring type II collagen. Chicken collagen also inherently features chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate, which are both popular for supporting healthy joints.

Chicken collagen also contains hyaluronic acid, a gel-like substance that hydrates the skin and hair, fills the eyes, surrounds tissues around our nerves and is contained in the synovial fluid between our joints. It lubricates and cushions joints, while serving as a shock absorber in the joints.

Type III

Type III is a fibrillar collagen and is a major component of our skin and organs. In the body, type collagen is often found in the same locations as type l.

Like type l, it is often in supplements designed to support healthy skin. Bovine collagen, which is derived from the muscles, bones and skin of cows, is another collagen supplement option that features mainly types l and lll collagen. 

Type III collagen frequently works in tandem with type I collagen and is in bone, cartilage, bone marrow and connective tissue. 

Type V 

Type V collagen is one of the minor collagen components, forming interstitial collagen fibers — along with type I collagen — and plays a significant role in regulating the development of collagen fibers of connective tissue. Type V collagen co-exists with type II collagen in joint cartilage, while supporting healthy collagen fibers of type II collagen.

Type V collagen also functions to create the cells of a pregnant women’s placenta, which is the organ that attaches to the lining of the womb. Type V collagen also helps to form cell surfaces and hair.

In Summary

While I’m always hesitant to buy into a trend I see right away, especially a wellness one, after understanding that collagen goes down naturally as we age and that several studies found that supplementing significantly increased the appearance of skin, I am in favor of supplementing collagen for many health benefits.

But it isn’t as easy as consistently supplementing with collagen peptides. Your diet and lifestyle also determine your body’s ability to produce quality collagen as you age and the results you are seeking when supplementing.

Not only do I believe supplementing collagen, with the necessary nutrients and lifestyle choices, has cosmetic skin benefits, but there are several reasons this combination can support the aging body (joints, bones, tissue, and critical membranes) too. 

Hopefully, selecting a collagen supplement is less overwhelming now that you know what types to look for in the package. For example, if you are looking for a skincare benefit, type 1 and 3 should be used in the supplement. In addition, if you are looking for joint support, type 2 should be used. 

In the end, it is a personal choice to supplement collagen. While there are several foods that contain the building blocks of collagen and the nutrients to support production, our food today is unfortunately not as nutrient dense as it once was. In addition, we are more stressed today than ever before. Stress not only causes our body to use these nutrients at a faster speed, it also speeds up the breakdown of collagen and slows the production of it.

I have chosen to use collagen peptides in my morning coffee or afternoon protein shake. I personally use Great Lakes Peptides from Thrive Market. It has type 1 and 3 collagen. Get 40% off your first order by using this link. I chose this one as because it is easily digested, contains type 1 and 3 collagen, and is tasteless.

GM Disclaimer 

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. By accessing or using this website, you agree to abide by the Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Copyright Policy.

Sources

Bolke, Liane et al. “A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study.” Nutrients vol. 11,10 2494. 17 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11102494

Cleveland Clinic. “Collagen.” (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen#:~:text=Collagen’s%20main%20role%20is%20to,in%20replacing%20dead%20skin%20cells) Accessed 3/21/23.

Link, Rachel. Ancient Nutrition. “Best Types of Collagen and Their Bodywide Benefits.” 12, April 2022. https://ancientnutrition.com/blogs/all/collagen-types Accessed 3/25/23.

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