Purpose of Collagen: Why You Need It and When to Supplement

Collagen has captivated the beauty scene as the new fountain of youth. Pay attention, and you’ll notice it in your favorite beauty products, supplements, and even some food items, claiming to be the nutrient that turns back time. Other collagen claims include the reduction of wrinkles and lessening of joint pain.

In 2018, collagen products are expected to absorb over $100 million of U.S. consumer dollars, but is this skin softening supplement too good to be true? We’re happy to share the purpose of collagen and whether or not it’s worth adding it as a supplement in your diet.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the main structural protein in our bodies. For context, our bodies are nearly 20% protein, with 30% of that protein made up of collagen. Collagen is found in the bones, skin, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and the digestive organs. In the skin, collagen provides elasticity and replaces dead skin cells. In the tendons, collagen acts like glue by holding everything together.

Collagen typically comes from pigskin or cowhide, however, outbreaks of mad cow disease have rightfully resulted in bans in some areas. Safer and healthier options may be from poultry, fish, jellyfish, bullfrog, and sea cucumber. Vegan collagen supplements are available which are a mix of amino acids and vitamins, but they don’t contain real animal-based collagen.

What collagen does for the body

The purpose of collagen is to give your body support, shape, and bulk. There are three main types of collagen:

  • Type 1 consists of the majority of your skin, hair, nails, organs, bones, and ligaments, making this the best type for skin health.
  • Type 2 is associated with cartilage and tendons, making it optimal for joint health.
  • Type 3 helps keep bone, cartilage, tendon, and connective tissues healthy.
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Is collagen good for you?

Some evidence has evidenced the benefits of collagen. However, research is still in its infancy and requires further conclusive study and details on dosage and type before we give our approval to consume collagen. Here are some of the benefits collagen has been beginning to show:

  • Gut health: Contains amino acids that may help improve digestive health, including decreasing inflammation and promoting healing.
  • Joint and bone health: Collagen may decrease pain of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Skin elasticity: Collagen is essential for skin elasticity and may help smooth the skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
  • Prevents muscle wasting: Contains amino acids involved in the synthesis of creatine, which is found in muscle cells.
  • Weight regulation: Since collagen is a protein, it can help us feel full and promote satiety.

How to boost collagen without supplements

Collagen is both synthesized by your body and absorbed from dietary sources. Aside from aging, the top reason people lack enough collagen is a poor diet. Natural food sources of collagen include bone broth and gelatin (aim for unsweetened versions). You can also boost your collagen formation by increasing your consumption of foods containing vitamin C, amino acids (proline and lysine), zinc, and copper.

  • Vitamin C: orange, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi
  • Proline (amino acid): eggs, meat, soy, bone broth, fish
  • Lysine (amino acid): beef, fish, cheese, nuts, legumes
  • Zinc: oysters, meat, beans and peas, nuts, seeds
  • Copper: whole grains, beans, nuts, shellfish, leafy greens
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Collagen collateral

As we get older collagen production naturally begins to slow. In addition to aging, modern lifestyle factors like stress, poor diet, and imbalabces in gut health can all decrease the body’s ability to produce collagen. Here’s the down low:

  • Age: As we get older, collagen production declines. There’s no way to prevent this, but we’ll share some best practices for what to avoid and add.
  • Excess sugar: High-sugar consumption can lead to collagen depletion as a high-sugar diet can lead to AGEs, which damage proteins and make collagen fragile.
  • Sun: UV rays from the sun can damage collagen in our skin. When it rebuilds, it forms wrinkles — so, do what momma said and apply that sunscreen.
  • Vitamin C deficiency: Vitamin C is key to radiant, healthy skin as it acts as an antioxidant and helps produce collagen. Deficiency results in your skin and blood vessels becoming thinner and weaker.
  • Smoking: Many chemicals in tobacco smoke damage collagen and elastin. To make matters worse, if you smoke, you require an extra 35 mg of vitamin C per day.
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Collagen controversy

Pay attention
The use of animal parts in collagen may contain toxic heavy metals.

At this time, data surrounding collagen is limited and inconclusive. The jury is still out whether supplements actually have a significant impact on the skin, bones, or other parts of the body, as the body doesn’t absorb collagen whole. Instead, it’s broken down and absorbed as different amino acids, which are then absorbed based on what your body needs.

When it comes to topical applications like collagen creams and powders, many cosmetic companies claim that their products help improve skin elasticity and decrease wrinkles, however, collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin.

Tip
When choosing a supplement aim for minimal fillers and artificial ingredients.

Instead of consuming collagen powder or spending your entire paycheck on collagen creams, we recommend eating a balanced diet with a variety of protein sources. If you still choose to take a supplement, aim for the hydrolyzed versions of collagen powder, which means that enzymes were added to help break down the protein. Look for brands that include vitamin C, which helps increase absorption.

As with any popular supplement or health trend, do extensive research and consult your doctor beforehand. Focus on balance and nutrient-filled foods with the 8fit app to help your body make the most out of its collagen production.