Collagen Supplements—Choose Wisely
Collagen is among the most abundant proteins in mammals, including humans, and is the protein responsible for skin elasticity. As we age, our collagen production slows down. By the age of 40, our collagen is down by 10 to 20%.
Many of us understand that collagen is necessary for our skin, but collagen does so much more than keep us looking young and beautiful. Studies show that it can benefit our body in numerous ways: our skin, joints, heart, and muscles all need collagen.
Your Collagen Source Matters
But because of the increasing popularity of collagen, more consumers are having trouble finding a safe and ethical source. It’s important to explore the pros and cons of collagen supplements, and how to choose and use collagen wisely, if you choose to.
Collagen Sources:Supplying the Huge Demand
Collagen is all the rage. Globally, the demand for collagen is expected to increase in the next few years, with its market value increasing by 9.4% by 2023. This supplement is extracted from the skin and connective tissues of mammals and marine life. The most popular source of collagen is from bovine—cow—skin and tissues; pigs, chickens, and fish are the other main sources of this substance. Collagen is definitely not vegan!
Because of the high demand for collagen, it’s become nearly impossible for safe and ethical sources of collagen, and, as a result, more collagen from questionable sources are hitting U.S. and European markets. The bulk of this collagen is coming from China, where controversy reigns as to where it’s coming from.
As shocking as it sounds, some reports are even showing that the collagen being sold is from the skin of deceased political prisoners. Low-quality supplements are also being derived from the byproducts of factory-farmed animals.
These sketchy sources not only raises ethical issues, but amplifies the concern around dangerous and unhealthy substances hiding in these supplements—such as heavy metals and pesticides fed to animals—to our diets.
It’s critical to know the source of the supplements you put in your body.
Thankfully, there are good sources of collagen out there. With new regulations drawn up in 2018 in the UK, many other countries are following suit and demanding humane treatment of the animals used to extract the collagen used in many new supplements. Companies such as Vital Proteins are doing their best to show consumers where their collagen is coming from.
4 ways collagen can improve your health
Collagen works wonders in many parts of our bodies, and we are just learning about its specific benefits. In the last 10 years, several studies have found support for four different ways taking a collagen supplement can improve health.
- Improved skin—Collagen is an essential protein for our skin. Without it, wrinkles begin to appear and skin health declines. In several studies, women who took a collagen supplement consistently for eight weeks noticed a difference in the way their skin bounced back after being touched and had less need for a daily moisturizer.
- Better bone and joint health—Another natural process of aging is the breakdown of the spongy cartilage in our joints. While the research is new on this, one study found that a collagen supplement helped restore bone density in people with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Not only that, the study also reported a significant decrease in joint pain. There is also some evidence that taking a collagen supplement helps prevent bone loss.
- Increased muscle mass—Though it was a small study, Cambridge University tested the impact of collagen supplements on elderly men who were working to build up their muscle mass. Combined with resistance training, the collagen supplement helped stimulate the production of proteins that are responsible for muscle growth. Those who took the supplement showed an increase in muscle mass and strength that was significantly more than those with the placebo.
- Increased heart health—Collagen has shown some potential for decreasing “bad” cholesterol levels, helping keep your arteries supple and strong. This in turn helps promote a healthy heart.
Collagen supplement benefits
As more research emerges on collagen, doctors and scientists are predicting other benefits that come from taking a collagen supplement. Although there’s no consensus on whether these benefits exist yet, many believe collagen can help in the following areas:
- A healthy gut
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving our mood stability
- Healthy hair and nail growth
- Reducing the appearance of cellulite
Foods with collagen
Supplements aren’t the only way to include more collagen in your diet. There are several foods that contain high levels of collagen, too. In China, women have even been consuming collagen-rich foods to boost “glowing, porcelain skin.” Including one of these in your meals once a week can make a difference to your skin, hair, and nails—and your overall health:
- Bone broth
- Egg whites
- Whole animal products (keep the skin on your chicken, cook meat and poultry bone-in)
- Citrus fruits
- Sulfur foods (broccoli, garlic, onions, cabbage, brussels sprouts)
Four things to demand in your collagen supplement
Collagen supplements are a new phenomenon in the world of health. Most of the research has occurred in the last decade, and while collagen shows a lot of promise, there are still a lot of unknowns about supplement quality. To make sure the supplements you’re taking are helpful, not harmful, it’s essential to know where they are coming from. Here are four things to look for when choosing a collagen supplement:
- Contains 5 types of collagen—There are five known types of collagen, known as collagen I, II, III, V and X. So when you’re looking at brands and packing, make sure it includes all five.
- Non-GMO—The product manufacturer should be able to state that animals are not genetically modified, and that they haven’t been raised on GMO feed. Collagen derived from animals stuffed with GMO corn and soy has health risks that can negate its other benefits.
- Hydrolyzed for absorption—Despite its natural occurrence in our bodies, it is difficult for us to absorb collagen. Hydrolyzed collagen has already been partially broken down and is absorbed faster and more easily.
Collagen is a great resource for our health and wellbeing, but supplements aren’t the only way to achieve a healthy diet. As we mentioned, there are many foods that will also provide your body with that extra boost. If you decide a collagen supplement is right for you, make sure you investigate where it’s coming from to you know your supplement is helping, not hurting, you and the earth