There are so many different nutrition trends, and one that I see everywhere is the use of collagen powder. People everywhere are touting the health benefits of collagen, but is it really necessary to supplement?
Many of my clients ask me this very question, so let’s chat!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is “the principal protein of the skin, tendons, cartilage, bone, and connective tissue”1. Basically, it’s what makes our skin and joints strong, healthy, and functional. It’s a natural substance found in the body without supplementation. It is not an essential nutrient.
Collagen is made up of 19 amino acids, but is missing tryptophan- an essential amino acid we can only get from our diet. So regardless of the health benefits of collage, this makes it an incomplete protein, which means it cannot act as a meal or protein replacement.2
Collagen powder comes from many different sources, providing 3 different types of collagen.
Health Benefits of Collagen
Best for skin elasticity, muscle building, bone structure, eye health. Studies show an improvement in eye wrinkles with this supplementation.3 Other studies show improved muscle tone when combining Type I collagen supplementation with resistance training.4
Best for healthy joints. Studies show improvement in RA symptoms when supplementing with Type II collagen.5
Thought to be potentially good for gut health, although the research is still out on this. Type I and Type III are frequently found together, so they are both associated with skin elasticity and hydration and muscle building benefits.
Can You Get Collagen From Natural Food Sources?
Yes! All proteins contain collagen and will provide the health benefits of collagen. You can increase this by consuming bone broth, or by using powder supplements, but you don’t have to. If you have joint pain, look for sources of type II collagen, but if you’re just looking for some anti-aging skin benefits, muscle enhancement, etc, look for type I and III.
Chicken: Type II 6
Eggs: Type I and III 6
Fish: Type I and III 6
Bovine (beef): Type I and III 6
Things to Consider
When discussing supplements of any kind, I always make sure to point out that they are not regulated. Food and drugs are fairly well regulated, but supplements just are not.
The problem with this is that you never really know what you’re going to get. You can look brands of supplements up on things like labdoor.com and ewg.gov to get some unbiased testing information. I urge you to do this when adding any supplement to your routine- vitamins, protein powders, herbs, collagen, etc.
You want to find out 1- if what they say is in the product is actually in the product, 2- if the amount of the supplement they say is in the product is accurate, 3- whether or not there are other ingredients they did not tell you about, and 4- if there are any harmful metals/toxins/etc in the supplement as a byproduct.
Collagen powders are expensive. Protein foods are much more budget-friendly. Honestly my unbiased research makes me feel that there is some benefit to supplementing with collagen. But if your budget is tight at all, it may not be worth it. Make sure that you’re getting protein sources at every meal and every snack from the freshest, most whole forms possible in order to naturally increase without supplements.
You can also incorporate bone broth into your diet on a regular basis. Boil your rice in it, make more soups, steam your veggies with it, or even sip on it (see below recipe).
Bone Broth “Magic” Recipe
1c bone broth
1 tbsp honey
2 slices of lemon
2 shakes each of ground turmeric and ground cinnamon
Place all ingredients into a sauce pan and heat over medium-high, stirring to combine. Press down on the lemon slices in order to release more of the juice. Sip and enjoy!
This recipe is great when you’re sick or healing from anything! I’ve been sick more often since becoming a mom, but when I drink this 1-2x per day during the cold (especially in the early stages), I swear the duration of my cold is cut in half!
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- Jr WCS. Definition of Collagen. MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2786. Accessed July 16, 2019.
- Dietary Collagen – Should Consumers Believe the Hype? – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0319p26.shtml. Published March 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019
- Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2014;27(3):113-119. doi:10.1159/000355523.
- Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002810.
- Crowley DC, Lau FC, Sharma P, et al. Safety and efficacy of undenatured type II collagen in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a clinical trial. International Journal of Medical Sciences. 2009:312-321. doi:10.7150/ijms.6.312.
- Price A. Types of Collagen: 5 Most Common, Benefits and How to Get. Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/best-types-of-collagen/. Published February 3, 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019.