What is collagen?
Did you know collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body? Collagen is essential to make connective tissue like tendons and cartilage throughout the body. It also plays a significant role in skin, muscles, and bones. Interestingly enough, our bodies produce 1% less collagen each year after the age of 20. More surprisingly, about 30% of the skin’s collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause, and it continues declining by about 2% with each additional year. Why does this matter?
I am amazed at how many roles collagen performs in the body. Because collagen production is on a constant decline after the age of 20, taking a collagen supplement can be essential to supporting the overall health of the body. So, in this blog post, We’re going to cover the significant roles collagen plays in the body, the differences between collagen types, and how to pick a high-quality collagen supplement.
Collagen and Bone Health
Collagen makes up more than 90% of the bone matrix.
Collagen in bones:
> Acts as the structure that supports and holds all of the minerals together.
> Provides flexibility to bones which helps prevent them from breaking.
We often hear about taking calcium supplements for bone health, but collagen should also be considered. In a year-long study of post-menopausal women, supplementing collagen significantly improved bone mineral density, particularly in the spine and hips. As we age, we have an increased risk of bone reabsorption (the breakdown of bone minerals and collagen into the bloodstream). This can make our bones increasingly sensitive and prone to fracture. Eating a well-balanced diet, along with proper supplementation, can help ensure our body has the nutrients it needs, which can help reduce bone reabsorption and maintain bone density.
Collagen and Joint Health
Collagen is a major component of cartilage— the flexible connective tissue that cushions and covers the ends of bones within joints. Cartilage helps reduce friction and absorbs shock, allowing for smooth joint movement.
Joints in our body are found in our neck, at our elbows, hips, knees, wrists, ankles, fingers, and toes. Each of these joints helps our bodies to move. After supplementing 10 grams of bovine collagen daily for 13 weeks, those taking collagen experienced a 60% improvement in knee comfort, range of motion, and quality of life compared to those not taking collagen. Regularly supplementing collagen can help alleviate joint pain and promote flexibility, helping you to move easier for longer!
Collagen and Hair, Skin, and Nail Health
Collagen is most known for its role in strengthening hair, skin, and nails. It does this by creating new skin cells to replace the dead skin cells. This helps to keep the skin looking young and rejuvenated. Speaking of rejuvenated skin, collagen works in tandem with hyaluronic acid and elastin (another body protein) to create skin elasticity. This helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles to keep the skin looking supple. As we age and when we experience skin damage from the sun, smoking, and alcohol, our collagen production is decreased.
Collagen also plays a role in strengthening our hair and nails. Collagen prevents the nails from becoming brittle by creating a protective barrier and providing strength from within. Collagen also helps keep the skin of the nail bed and the surrounding skin both healthy and flexible.
When it comes to your hair, collagen is one of multiple proteins that play a role in its health. Collagen helps to support a healthy scalp which is essential for proper hair growth. A healthy scalp prevents dryness and flakiness, prevents hair from falling out, and supports strong and flexible hair.
Other Surprising Benefits of Collagen
Improving gut health. Not only does collagen provide amazing benefits to joints, bones, hair, skin, and nails, but collagen also plays a role in gut health, digestion, muscle growth, and recovery. Collagen plays a large role in the growth and support of tissues including our esophagus, stomach, and intestines. One study found that taking 20g of a collagen peptide supplement led to reduced bloating and improved digestive symptoms.
Preserving muscle tissue. Collagen makes up 1-10% of muscle tissue and helps to provide strength and flexibility to muscles. One 12-week study found that those who supplemented with collagen during the exercise program gained significantly more muscle mass and strength compared to those on just the exercise program.
Helping build muscle. Research has suggested that supplementing collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine, as well as stimulate muscle growth after exercise. Bovine collagen in particular contains type 1 and type 3 collagen which promote glycine production– an amino acid that helps build lean muscle.
How to Choose the Right Collagen Supplement
There are three types of collagen:
- Type I Collagen is the most prevalent type and is known for providing structure to the skin, bones, tendons, and various connective tissues. It helps give these tissues strength and helps maintain their integrity.
- Type II Collagen is primarily found in cartilage, which is the flexible connective tissue that cushions the joints. It is essential for joint health and mobility.
- Type III Collagen provides structural support to organs and hollow structures in the body. It’s found in the walls of blood vessels, the intestines, and the uterus. Type III collagen is involved in the healing process and tissue repair, helping to form a framework for new tissue growth.
Each type has specific functions and locations within the body. Although it’s important to get a variety of sources of collagen, bovine collagen is the most similar to human collagen and is easily absorbed by the body, making it my favorite form to supplement with.
When picking a collagen supplement you want to ensure that it:
- Has no added fillers or preservatives.
- Is a high-quality collagen, from animals that are grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild-caught.
- Comes from a company that is transparent about quality and production standards.
- Contains no artificial or natural flavors.
To make your life easier, we did the work for you! Our Bovine Collagen Peptide checks all of these boxes and has only whole food ingredients.
- Bovine Collagen. Our collagen peptides are 100% grass-fed, type I and III collagen.
- Grape Seed Extract. Rich in polyphenols which protect cells from oxidative stress and free radical damage, grape seed extract helps to protect naturally occurring collagen and helps your body absorb collagen more easily.
- Pine Bark Extract. Similar to grape seed extract, pink bark extract is rich in polyphenols to help provide unique protective and healing properties, including antioxidant protection, improved vascular health, overall skin health, and anti-inflammatory properties. I added both these extracts to help increase the absorbability of the collagen. Most collagens you'll see on the market can be hard for our bodies to absorb.
- Because so many collagens aren't the best tasting, we added real fruit powders and extracts with a hint of sweetness from stevia and monk fruit, making it a delicious drink you can sip on throughout the day.
Collagen in our Diets
Once we understand the significant role of collagen in the body, it’s easy to see the importance of supplementing collagen and incorporating collagen-rich foods into the diet. Collagen is naturally occurring in some food sources.
- Bone broth is one of the most well-known sources of natural collagen. It’s made by simmering animal bones (such as chicken, beef, or fish) for an extended period, allowing the collagen to break down into the broth.
- Chicken skin contains collagen and can be enjoyed when cooked with chicken.
- Fish, especially their skin and scales, are great sources of collagen.
- Gelatin is derived from collagen and can be used in homemade jello or gummies.
- Bone-in meats such as chicken thighs or drumsticks, can provide collagen, especially when slow-cooked.
Some foods do not directly have collagen, but help to support collagen production.
- Egg whites contain proline, an amino acid necessary for collagen production.
- Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which is essential for collagen synthesis in the body.
- Berries are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect collagen from damage caused by free radicals.
- Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats and minerals that are beneficial for skin health and collagen synthesis.
- Garlic contains sulfur, which is essential for the synthesis of collagen.
Eating a diet rich in a variety of foods and supplementing with a quality collagen are both easy and effective ways to support your health and support your body as it ages. I encourage you to start adding collagen to your daily routine and start noticing the differences.
Our Collagen Peptide Drink mix comes in Mango Lemonade and Lemon Lime, which are both refreshing and great to sip on throughout the day. We also have plain bovine collagen if you would rather add it as a mix-in with your other drinks. You can find them all here. I love sipping on the Mango Lemonade and Lemon Lime flavors. I like them best mixed with a frother and poured over ice to help me stay hydrated throughout the day. It makes my water taste delicious and provides amazing benefits to the body, win, win!
Let me know in the comments what you think about the new drinks, or what benefit surprised you the most.