Benefits of Collagen
What if I told you that there is a food that can help decrease wrinkles, improve joint stiffness, soothe your intestinal lining and help strengthen your nails and teeth? Enter collagen.
Listing the benefits of consuming collagen makes it seem like a miracle drug, but studies are confirming that this nutritional powerhouse can benefit almost every part of our body.
What is collagen?
Collagen makes up one-third of the protein found in the human body. It provides strength and structure to our bones, muscles, tendons and skin. It is made up of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and is mainly secreted by connective tissue cells. Unfortunately, its production decreases steadily around 40 years of age.
There are many types of collagen fibers, but the most common are Type I, II and III. Broadly speaking, our tissues are often a combination of these collagen types. Type I fibers help form skin, tendons, bones and teeth. Type II fibers form cartilage. Type III fibers form skin, muscle, blood vessels and some organs.
Bones and Joints:
The Type I collagen fibers that help to form bone, skin, tendon and teeth are stronger than steel when compared gram for gram. As collagen is damaged or as production declines, our tendons and ligaments move with less ease. This can lead to stiffness and swollen or irritated joints.
Collagen supplementation may be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and joint disorders. Studies have shown that it can be absorbed into bone and helps reduce the pain associated with these ailments.
Those ultra strong Type I fibers mentioned earlier also give structure to our skin and aid in replacing dead skin cells. Adding more collagen into your diet helps skin look fresh, smooth and can even decrease wrinkles. According to a 2014 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, there was a 20% reduction in the appearance of wrinkles on the face! This was achieved with only 2.5 grams (about half a teaspoon) of daily dietary collagen supplementation after 8 weeks!
Where To Get Collagen:
Dietary collagen comes from bones, skin, ligaments and tendons, so there is no true vegetarian or vegan form of collagen supplementation. One of the recent trends in the food and health world, bone broth, sees many of its benefits from the high amounts of collagen present in the liquid. This concoction is made by boiling beef, chicken, pork or fish bones in a slightly acidic liquid for several hours (the length of time is determined by the type of bone). This extracts the minerals, nutrients and collagen from the bone.
Gelatin is also a derivative of collagen. Found in powder or sheets, gelatin can be used to make homemade, refined sugar-free jello, panna cotta and gummy candies (even homemade gummy vitamins!).
Supplementation with a collagen powder is another extremely convenient way to add it to your daily routine. A hydrolyzed collagen powder will dissolve in any liquid, hot or cold, and is virtually tasteless. While the majority are made using cattle, there are a few new companies utilizing fish collagen. Fish collagen is a newer product on the market, but is said to have greater bio-availability and absorbability than its beef or pork counterparts. Regardless of the type of powder used, it can be added to water, tea, soup, cereal or anything else that has enough liquid to dissolve it.
Whether eating bone broth, gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen, always consume with Vitamin C, or foods containing Vitamin C, to maximize its absorption by your body.
- Proksch, et al. “Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptide Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 27.3. doi: 10.1159/000355523
Elaine N. Marieb, “Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology,” 11th ed. Pearson Education.
James McIntosh, “What Is Collagen? What Does Collagen Do?” www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881.php
Michael Murray & Joseph Pizzorno, “The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” 3rd ed. Atria Paperback.
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