Collagen supplementation has become really popular over recent years and I have many clients who want to understand what all the hype is about. It’s Wellness Wednesday, so let’s use today to unpack it.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. The word collagen comes from the Greek work ‘kolla’, which means glue. Collagens’ main function is to act as a building block for your teeth, bones, muscles, skin and connective tissues.
There are approximately twenty eight different types of collagen, of which the large majority (80-90%) are made up of three main different types. In short:
Type 1 and 3 provide structure for your skin, muscles and ligaments
Type 2 is found in cartilage and your eyes.
I am sure many of you may well be familiar with the benefits of collagen for your skin. The reason for this is that nearly 80% of your skin is made up collagen (mostly all in the middle dermis layer). Saggy skin is a clear indication of collagen deficiency and thus ageing!
What happens to collagen when we age?
Collagen production slows down as you age and it is thought that you break down more collagen than you build after the age of twenty five. It is estimated that as an average, you start to lose around 1% of collagen each year. Add in some sun exposure, smoking, stress, alcohol, bad diet and UV light exposure and this number increases even further.
Many people use collagen supplements or collagen skin creams and for good reason.
Collagen supplementation can:
- Improve skin elasticity
- Reduce wrinkles
- Boost skin hydration
- Boost connective tissue in your skin
- Improve the overall appearance of your skin
Collagen benefits more than just your skin!
Collagen supplementation can do a great deal more than just improve your skin. It can also:
- Reduce joint pain and boost the density of your cartilage. Studies have shown improvement in joint pain in athletes who were treated with supplemental collagen. This is one of the many reasons I supplement with collagen to support my knees that have been damaged after years of playing squash, running and doing sport.
- Prevent age related arthritis.
- Help to avoid thinning and weakening of the bones as you age (osteoporosis). This is especially important for postmenopausal women who become more vulnerable with reduced levels of their bone-protecting hormone oestrogen.
A study in 2018 looked at changes in bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and femoral neck in 131 postmenopausal women. They found that supplementing with specific collagen peptides for 12 months significantly increased BMD in these areas.
- Strengthen the lining of the gut, which can help reverse leaky gut syndrome and thereby increase the absorption of nutrients.
The amino acid, glycine, makes up about a third of collagen. One of glycine’s many functions is to help produce more stomach acid. Whilst this can cause problems for some people who genuinely produce too much stomach acid, it can be incredibly beneficial for the large majority of people who don’t. Stomach acid production declines with age, so again another good incentive to focus on collagen as you age.
- Promote sleep. Another one of glycine’s many benefits, is that it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This basically means that it helps to calm your nervous system down. Glycine can promote sleep and enhance the quality of sleep.
How to increase Collagen
As mentioned earlier there are different types of collagen. Here are some of the best ways to increase the three main types through diet and supplementation.
Type 1 collagen (skin, muscles, ligaments, joints)
- Egg whites
- Bone broth
- Protein-rich foods, such as fish and beef
- Marine collagen
- Bovine collagen
Type 2 collagen (cartilage, joints and eyes)
- Bone broth
- Protein rich foods, such as chicken
- Chicken collagen
- Multi-collagen protein powder
Type 3 collagen (muscles, organs, blood vessels and reticular fibres in connective tissue)
- Egg whites
- Bone broth
- Protein rich foods like fish and beef
- Collagen protein powder
It is clear to see that collagen doesn’t just benefit your skin, but can also support joint pain, bone health, recovery from exercise, gut health and sleep. Whilst you can obtain good levels of collagen through diet, I like to supplement by using a good quality collagen powder.
I prefer to use a fully hydrolysed collagen protein powder, which means that it has partially been broken down into amino acids (proteins) that make it easier for my body to produce more collagen. The fact that it is fully hydrolysed also means that I can mix it with either hot or cold water. A lot of collagen powders can only be mixed in hot/warm water. This is very much a personal choice, but I prefer it cold! A good collagen powder shouldn’t really taste of anything, so be wary of cheap nasty tasting powders.
It is important to note that you need vitamin C to make and repair collagen. Ensuring that you have sufficient vitamin C, enables your body to make collagen when needed. You can achieve this by eating a Vitamin C – rich diet and taking a vitamin C supplement.
Good sources of vitamin C include:
- Acerola Cherries
- Rose Hips
- Chilli Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
My Wellness Wednesday tip is to increase the food sources of collagen in your diet. I would love to know your thoughts on collagen and whether you have had any personal success with collagen supplementation.
Happy Wellness Wednesday