Collagen supplements are all the rage if the $4.27 billion (2018) global collagen market1 is any indication. But what is collagen, and what are its benefits? This article will answer these and other questions and tell you everything you need to know about collagen.
What is collagen, and what does collagen do?
Collagen is the main structural protein found in the skin and other connective tissues. This protein is vital to our good health. It makes up 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. Along with a couple of other key structural proteins, collagen is responsible for skin strength and elasticity. When collagen degrades, it leads to the wrinkles that accompany aging.
What are the benefits of collagen?
Helps reduce wrinkles/promotes skin elasticity
Improves the appearance of nails or may help decrease broken nails
May positively impact joint health
What is collagen made of?
As with any protein, collagen is made of amino acids. In the case of collagen, there is a particularly high concentration of hydroxyproline. This high concentration does not tend to occur in substantial quantities in other proteins2 . It should be noted that collagen is found exclusively in humans and other animals – it is not found in plant proteins. Therefore, the answer to the question: “Is collagen vegan?” is no.
Types of Collagen
There are different types of collagen found within the body. This includes collagen type 1, collagen type 2 and even type 3 collagen. There are some other types as well, but they are not relevant in the context of this article. Type 1 is primarily the collagen found in skin, tendons, veins/arteries and bone. Type 2 is primarily found in cartilage, although some is found in the skin. Type 3 is a fibrous form of collagen found alongside type 1.
Collagen Food Sources
I’m often asked, “What foods are high in collagen?” The answer is that foods high in collagen are animal proteins such as beef, chicken, pork and fish (as long as you include the skin). In addition, broth made from beef bones is also a good source of collagen—although regular consumption of such beef broth may also yield a higher than average amount of lead since lead tends to deposit in the bones. The fact is, you’re better of getting your collagen from quality dietary supplements to assure proper amounts and to avoid undesirable amounts of lead.
There are a few high-quality sources of collagen used in dietary supplements. Before getting into that, let me first answer a question I frequently hear, “what are collagen peptides?” Collagen peptides are small chains of collagen protein that have been broken down (hydrolyzed) from larger collagen protein chains. This smaller collagen peptide chain is better absorbed. For example, a collagen peptide called Verisol® was shown to be particularly well-absorbed and detectable in several organs and tissues, including the skin.3 Not surprisingly, there are collagen benefits for the skin when supplementing with high-quality sources of collagen. These sources include the following:
Verisol® – This collagen peptide (bovine source) has been shown to reduce wrinkles by 20%, improve skin elasticity, and increase procollagen production with 2.5 g/day.4 5
Naticol® – Also a collagen peptide (fish-source) has been shown to reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, maintain skin firmness and improve skin tone and radiance with 2.5 g/day.6
Biocell® – This type 2 collagen (chicken source) has been shown to reduce skin dryness, lines/wrinkles, and increase collagen with 1000 mg/day, and support healthy joints with 2000 mg/day.7
My favorite sources of these clinically validated forms of collagen are the following Reserveage products: Collagen Replenish (Verisol®), Marine Collagen Powder (Naticol®), and Collagen Booster (Biocell®).