Updated: Jun 9, 2019
I have to admit, I’ve caught on to the collagen craze (a scoop of collagen peptides into my coffee every day) and I’m not alone. Consumers have been buying into the claims that it promotes glowing, vibrant skin, eases joint pain and helps strengthen the protective lining of your digestive track. According to the 2018 Nutrition Business Journal Supplement Business Report, (https://www.nutritionbusinessjournal.com/reports/2018-nbj-supplement-business-report/) collagen is on the move, growing at 30% with $98 million in sales. But what exactly is it, how safe is it, and is it worth the investment?
Collagen is one of the bodies most important building blocks. It’s the key structural protein that binds tissues together, including skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. The good news is that our bodies produce collagen on a regular basis, but the bad news is that as we get older it slows down. Certain lifestyle habits can also slow the production of collagen, like smoking, overexposure to the sun and a poor diet. There are many different types of collagen in our body.
Collagen supplements are made from animal proteins that are derived from the hides and bones of cows, chickens and other animals. It can also be found in foods, such as bone broth (sorry vegetarians and vegans! But there is also MSM: a vegan alternative to collagen powder), or gelatin-based desserts.
Gelatin is basically the cooked form of collagen. It is obtained by partial hydrolysis of collagen (https://www.rousselot.com/products-solutions/rousselot-gelatin/raw-materials-from-nature/). Gelatin only dissolves in hot water and will jellify when it’s cooled.
When gelatin is hydrolyzed even further, the individual strands of protein are broken down into small peptides of amino acids. Collagen peptides can be dissolved in cold and hot water, blended in smoothies, used in baking and are highly digestible. Collagen peptides are protein, but it is not a complete protein, meaning it’s not used to repair the body the way complete proteins do.
With all of that said, there still remains questions about safety. Consumer groups have expressed their concern that the ground up hooves, hides and nerve tissues, especially from cows, could carry diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.
“We are talking about ground-up fish, chicken, pig, and cow parts, and these parts tend to act as sponges for contaminants and heavy metals,” says Mark Moyad, MD, author of “The Supplement Handbook: A Trusted Expert’s Guide to What Works and What’s Worthless for More than 100 Conditions” to www.webmd.com.
According to the web site, “In 2016, the FDA prohibited the use of some cow parts in dietary supplements to ‘address the potential risk’ of the presence of BSE…The FDA exempted gelatin — a key collagen source — from the ban, ‘as long as it is manufactured using specified industry practices.’” As a result, many collagen companies have begun to clearly advertise their heavy metal testing practices and ask their suppliers to certify that their product is BSE free.
A few tips from webmd.com to keep in mind when choosing a product:
- Look for companies that get their bones and tissues from cage-free, free-range, and antibiotic-free sources. (for fish, look for products that advertise wild-caught fish)
- Steer clear of fancy mixtures that combine collagen with probiotics, fiber, or other additives, which could interact with the collagen and change how well it works.
DOES IT WORK?
Ultimately, more research needs to be done to answer this question. In the meantime to help reduce collagen depletion remember to quit smoking, reduce your sun exposure, improve your diet (more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and avocados, foods high in Vitamin C like red vegetables and citrus fruits and foods high in Vitamin A like dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes) and get more exercise.
If you are still looking for more info, this video from Dr. Patti Kim, a California licensed Naturopathic Doctor, is super helpful:
Below are some links to a few brands to check out for yourself. I’ve tried a few of them in the past 2-3 months (Unflavored Vital Proteins & Garden of Life) and have noticed a difference in my skin…not sure if it’s the product or just me finally getting more sleep! But I will stick with it for a few more months to decide. Comment on your favorites.
Vital Proteins: ($43 20 oz)
Garden of Life: ($34.39 19.75 oz)
Sports Research: ($30 16 oz)
Perfect Keto: ($36.99 12 oz)
Dr. Axe: (44.95 16.2 oz…$38.21 with a subscription)
Great Lakes: (24.99 16 oz)
Zhou: ($27.89 18 oz)
Orgain: ($32.99 16 oz)
Primal Kitchen: (34.95 16 oz)
Thrive Market: ($24.99 20 oz pouch)