From melting away cellulite to decreasing joint pain and erasing wrinkles, collagen has been touted as an anti-aging and health building panacea. It’s been touted as the “fountain of youth” and many new collagen pills and powders have made their way on the market. But does it really work?
Let’s first examine what collagen is:
According to the Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, collagen is “any of a family of extracellular, closely related proteins occurring as a major component of connective tissue, giving it strength and flexibility.”
By definition is sounds pretty important; strength and flexibility are both traits we want our bodies to have.
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body, making up one-third of our total protein. Collagen boasts a unique amino acid profile including proline, glycine, glutamine, hydroxyproline, and alanine.
These are the amino acids your body uses to make new collagen to support joint health, skin health, and a robust gut lining. These amino acids are hard to come by unless you’re eating lots of organ meat and connective tissue (and I will bet most of you are not!)
It comes from the Greek word “kolla,” meaning glue. It is a major component of connective tissue and maintains the integrity and elasticity of your skin, muscle, bones, tendons, and digestive tissue. Therefore, collagen is often referred to as “the glue that holds the body together.”
While there are 16 different types of collagen, 80 to 90 percent of them belong to categories known as types 1, 2, and 3, 4 and 5 (You’ll also see them written as types I, II, and III, IV, V).
Type 1: The most abundant type in the body; present in scar tissue, tendons, skin, arterial walls, cornea, surrounding muscle fibers, fibrocartilage, intervertebral disks, digestive system, bones, and teeth.
Type 2: Found in joint cartilage, intervertebral disks, important for pain-free joints
Type 3: Found in the intestinal walls, heart tissue, uterus, muscles, and blood vessels. This type helps to give skin it’s elasticity.
Type 4: Crucial for optimal skin health and growth of healthy hair.
Type 5: Important for bone formation and overall bone health.
Top Collagen Benefits
While there are dozens of collagen benefits, these rank among the most researched and most valuable.
Collagen improves hair health. Collagen is a major substance in the composition of the hair. It is well-known for increasing hair growth and shine—hence, the plethora of shampoos available on the market trumpeting an added collagen ingredient.
However, to promote growth and achieve glossy hair, oral supplementation with collagen is required; applying collagen topically is of little benefit.
Stronger Nails and Teeth
Collagen strengthens teeth and nails. Receding gums often result in tooth sensitivity and can lead to decay and inflammation.
Research demonstrates that type 1 collagen is able to enhance gum healing, which results in thicker margins around the tooth and healing of the roots. So, it protects your teeth by keeping them firmly in your gums.
And aside from protecting your pearly whites, type 1 collagen is an excellent supplement for strengthening weak and brittle nails.
Improved Digestive Health and Reversal Of Leaky Gut
Collagen supports digestive health in IBS and leaky gut syndrome. Glutamine, one of the amino acids in collagen, helps to reduce gut inflammation, aid digestion, and regulate the secretion of stomach acid.
Studies have found that glutamine improves the intestinal lining in leaky gut syndrome. And interestingly, patients with inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) are noted to have decreased serum levels of collagen.
To get the collagen benefits of improving the integrity of the digestive tract, you’ll need to supplement with type 1 and type 3 collagen.
Collagen Heals Bones and Joints
Bones, tendons, and ligaments are made up of type 1 and type 5 collagen.
However, studies show that type 3 collagen is of great advantage to healing injured tissue. So, taking type 1, 3 and 5 collagen together helps strengthen weakened bones, tendons, and ligaments.
One particular form of collagen called collagen hydrolysate also has been shown to decrease inflammation and pain in patients with osteoarthritis.
Collagen hydrolysate, or “hydrolyzed collagen,” is collagen that has been broken down into a low molecular weight and is easier for the body to absorb than other sources. It can be found in powdered form. This is my favorite.
Collagen is a metabolism booster. Perhaps one of the most exciting health benefits of collagen is that it is a natural metabolism booster.
As we age, our bodies lose muscle mass, which is often replaced by fat.
Collagen can help reverse this in two ways. First, an amino acid found in collagen called glycine helps form muscle by converting glucose into energy. Having more lean muscle tissue boosts your metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat.
Second, a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that collagen helped aging individuals maintain lean body muscle and preserve nitrogen balance.
Improved Skin Elasticity and Reduced Cellulite
Collagen improves skin elasticity and reduces cellulite. Have you ever heard of dermatologists and plastic surgeons performing collagen injections to improve the contours of the skin and fill out depressions to remove lines and wrinkles? This works because deep in the dermis (the middle layer of the skin), collagen helps form a fibrous network of cells called fibroblasts, upon which new cells can grow.
It can also help heal wounds or burns and improve the look of scars—a reason why many wound dressings contain collagen.
But, that’s not all! By strengthening the dermis of the skin, collagen also can help reduce cellulite. The dimpling look of cellulite occurs when fatty tissues are pushed up through fibers into the upper layer of the skin.
By working on the inside of the body, collagen can help hide the cellulite.
Studies indeed confirm that collagen supplementation is effective to improve skin elasticity, firmness, and thickness, including that of pesky cellulite.
Improved Liver Function
Collagen improves liver function. The aforementioned glycine found in collagen helps reduce liver damage. Several studies have revealed that glycine expedites the process of recovering from alcohol-induced liver injury.
How to Get Your Daily Dose Of Collagen
Unfortunately, the body’s ability to produce collagen declines as we age. In fact, after age 20, people produce about 12% LESS collagen in their skin each decade.
For some, it’s an even greater decline. This means that by the time you’re “middle-aged” you could be producing less than HALF of the collagen you did in your youth.
Even worse, various “lifestyle factors” you may have been exposed to – like poor diet, smoking, pollution, stress, and excess sun exposure – can deplete your collagen levels even faster.
Another problem in our modern times is that we no longer eat the richest sources of collagen.
Just like in humans, collagen is located in the skin, bones, cartilage, and other connective tissue of animals, such as fish, chickens, and cattle.
And to get the five types you need – through food – would require you eating a lot of these various “parts” from a range of different sources. That’s because no single source provides you all the different collagen types.
Our ancestors were pretty good at this because they ate “nose to tail” and let nothing go to waste.
For example, they routinely ate a lot of skin and organ meat, and they extracted collagen and other nutrients from a range of different animals’ bones and cartilage by cooking them for long periods.
Most people today, however, eat very little skin, bones, and cartilage – let alone from a range of different animals. We mostly throw those parts away.
Other foods relatively high in collagen include wild salmon, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and berries, but the most popular way to consume collagen is via bone broth.
Beef bone broth contains the highest amounts of type 1 collagen; the chicken broth is higher in type 2.
A better way to consume collagen is via a powdered supplement. Search for “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides” that contain at least type 1 and 3, however, for best results, choose a brand that contains all 5 types.
Note: Those with egg or fish allergies should take caution as some multi collagen powders contain egg and fish, so be sure to read the label.
The typical dose is one scoop per day, which would provide 5 to 15 grams daily. You can take up to 30 grams per day to achieve therapeutic effects; however, be sure to check the label for other ingredients or supplements.
Purchase a pure collagen product that does not contain additives.
I really like Biotrust Ageless Collagen – you can get it at a discount using this link: CLICK HERE
Get More Out of Your Collagen
For hundreds of years, sailors had to worry about scurvy. After months at sea without any fresh vegetables, their teeth and hair would begin to fall out, their joints would deteriorate, and their skin would start to break down.
The problem wasn’t lack of collagen; it was lack of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is essential to collagen synthesis. Be sure you eat plenty of raw or lightly cooked vegetables so your body has vitamin C to work with.
You can also take an extended-release vitamin C supplement. To get the most out of your collagen, always pair it with a source of vitamin C.