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What’s the deal with collagen?

There is no way you’ve missed the collagen hype.

It’s been EVERYWHERE and it is impossible to ignore. You’ve bought into the hype, and I get it! With the collagen powders, gummies, and other packaged foods spiked with it coupled with the promises of better skin, faster recovery, improved gut health…what’s not to like?

But how much do you truly know about collagen? How much of these claims are rooted in truth and how much is marketing? We’re going to take a close look at this protein in today’s blog.

Collagen is the MOST abundant protein in your body. It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts (think tendons, skin, muscles, etc.) and it has a lot of health benefits.

Skin Health

Collagen is a major component of your skin. It plays a huge  role in strengthening skin, plus may benefit elasticity and hydration. several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.

Joint Pain

Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints. As the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you get older, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.

Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall. In one study, 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest compared to a group that did not take it.

Bone Loss

Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong

As collagen in your body deteriorates as you age, bone mass does too. This may lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone density and linked with a higher risk of bone fractures. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.

Muscle Mass

Between 1–10% of muscle tissue is composed of collagen, so it’s a pretty important protein that’s necessary to keep your muscles strong and functioning properly.

Studies suggest that collagen supplements help boost muscle mass in people with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that happens with age. Researchers have suggested that taking collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine, and may also stimulate muscle growth after exercise.

Other Health Benefits

Collagen supplements may have other health benefits, but these have not been studied extensively.

  • Hair and nails: Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer.
  • Gut health: Although there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, some health practitioners promote the use of collagen supplements to treat intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.
  • Brain health: No studies have examined the role of collagen supplements in brain health. However, some people claim they improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.

As you can see, studies around collagen supplementation are extensive but to date, we still are not definite whether most people would benefit from supplementation. Perhaps only a very particular group of people may currently benefit and they include athletes and those suffering from joint disorders. 

Foods That Contain Collagen

Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animals. Thus, foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are sources of collagen. Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, also provide collagen. Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen after it has been cooked. While it’s possible to consume collagen directly, doing so isn’t necessary to support production of collagen in the body. The body doesn’t absorb collagen molecules in whole form, it breaks them down into their component amino acids, which is then used to synthesize its own collagen and other proteins.

Getting the proper array of amino acids is easier for meat eaters; vegetarians and vegans can also consume all the necessary amino acids for collagen production as long as they eat a well-balanced diet.

The Verdict?

Your body needs collagen, we know this. But it’s not 100% clear if ingesting collage will address that need. Worst case scenario, you’re just ingesting a healthy source of protein. Just remember, your body can create its own collagen! You need vitamin C, minerals, and certain amino acids to synthesize it, so keep your diet diverse and full of whole-foods!

 

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