Do collagen supplements work ? This is truly the trillion dollar question, and unfortunately there is no straight answer. All that can be said is that existing evidence is shaky but the potential benefits are impressive. Collagen supplements are here to stay and this is all you need to know.
1 || What is Collagen ?
Collagen is a protein found in the connective tissues of our body. It gives our skin and joints support, elasticity and firmness. A great analogy is that of a feather pillow or foam mattress, in our youth the pillow or mattress is nice and fluffy, over the years we loose collagen and the pillow gets flatter and more matted.
2 || The Fountain of Youth
The collagen supplement market is thriving and is currently the fastest growing anti-aging product category, because after the ripe old age of 30 our collagen productions decline. This decline is both part of the aging process and the external conditions that our bodies are exposed to such as sun exposure, stress, pollution and nutrition. An interesting suggestion is that in the past our diets included more homemade broths or stock that actually fed our body collagen (you know that jelly like substance that rises to the top once you boil whole chicken, yep that’s collagen). Nowadays, we eat more boneless chicken…
3 || Collagen Doesn’t Get Absorbed in Any Form
If your immediate instinct is to take that jelly-like layer of collagen from your stock and smear it on your face think again. Collagen can only be absorbed in very small particles, most of the collagen is too ‘big’ to be effective, the term ‘bioavailability’ which you see often means just that… How effectively it will be absorbed.
4 || What Type to Look For
There are many forms of collagen, the collagen in your skin isn’t the same as the one in your joints, so what you are attempting to remedy needs to be defined. Collagen is broken down into three types, I, II and III. Type I is the collagen you should be looking for when skin is concerned. It is considered to be the key building matrix protein which gives our skin its structure and firmness. For joint health, consider Type II which is the filler between your joints.
5 || How Big Is It ?
As we mentioned earlier, collagen cannot be absorbed if it is too big. Once again, a great analogy is a large piece of furniture trying to get through a small door. The only thing to do is to dismantle it, take it through the door then rebuild it again (thoughts of an Ikea ordeal now running through my mind). This is how many collagen supplements are created today and they may or may not be effective… Your best bet is to search for a hydrolyzed collagen which has already been processed therefore smaller in size. Technically, hydrolyzed collagen is a processed form of collagen that is obtained when collagen fibers are broken down into small collagen chains also known as “collagen peptides” through a process known as “hydrolysis” .
6 || What is the Concentration ?
Let’s say you want to use collagen to improve your skin tone. So far we have determined that we are looking for a Type I hydrolyzed collagen with high bioavailability, but what should the concentration be ? For there to be any effectiveness the concentration needs to be 10,000mg per serving.
7 || What is the Source of Your Collagen ?
Collagen can be extracted from a cow (bovine), a pig (porcine) or fish (marine). Marine collagen is the purest and safest form of collagen. Our body’s cells more easily absorb marine-derived collagen, it is however more expensive to harvest. The uncomfortable truth is that bovine and porcine collagen extracts are derived from animal byproducts at slaughterhouses… We suggest you stick to cold water fish marine collagen that has up to 1.5 times more bioavailability than other sources.
8 || What Else is in It ?
Collagen doesn’t taste good at all, so in order to mask the bitterness sugar is added. This is not something to be discounted, consider it a source of sugar… Would you be willing to open your kitchen cupboard and take a swig at your pancake syrup ? Not likely…
9 || What Form Is It In ?
Collagen supplements come in tablet, powder and liquid forms. The most effective form is liquid. When nutrients are in liquid form, they provide the highest possible absorption rate of nutrients into the body because they are already essentially pre-digested. Tablets or powders cannot match the level of absorption that liquid collagen supplements offer.
10 || The Bottom Line
The research on collagen is still evolving, the joints industry has a head start however with more statistics and research to back claims of collagen supplement effectiveness. Collagen supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are now commonly prescribed in the fight for great joint health due to old age and sports. This gives us hope that the search for the fountain of collagen youth may be close behind. Till then, the two most dependable chemicals to ward off the signs of aging are still retinoic acid and hyaluronic acid.