In the last few years there has been an explosion of collagen supplements on the market. Many consumers wonder, do we really need them?
Collagen is the main structural protein in the skin, connective tissue and muscle, giving it strength and shape. It’s the protein responsible for the skin’s elasticity and plays a major role in joint and bone health. Collagen is a so-called polypeptide. It contains a mixture of amino acids such as proline and glycine. Amino acids are organic compounds that participate in a number of processes in the body.
Collagen breaks down naturally in our skin as we age. So the question is, can a supplement REALLY replace this loss and is it even possible to get the levels of collagen we need from food?
The collagen supplement market isn’t very well regulated and with products ranging from $5 - $150 and claims that often aren’t substantiated in science. Some collagen products however, have good case studies and are of a superior quality so keep your eyes out for these and research well before you purchase.
Many doctors and scientists completely disregard the effectivity of collagen products sold in health food stores and pharmacies whilst others are advocates.
While collagen supplements and some foods can certainly offer indirect help, the collagen you're eating or drinking may not end up in your skin. As collagen is broken down into amino acids in your digestive tract it is highly unlikely that any complete collagen will end up in your bloodstream. The amino acids from ingested collagen can hep with skin health - and there is some good research showing that collagen supplementation can help improve joint and bone health as well as helping to improve overall skin condition. As amino acids serve as the building blocks for your skin cells collagen provides benefits to the skin and to help with skin elasticity.
When it comes to foods, look out for produce containing good old Vitamin C as it helps stimulate collagen production. So think berries, citrus, capsicum and kiwi fruit.
What's best if you are going to try it? Powder or liquid form? Is one going to give better results than the other and if so why?
The body does not need to break down a liquid extract, allowing more of the medicinal properties to be absorbed into the system. However, powder is dissolved in liquid before it’s digested so there is no major difference in terms of absorption. There are also different collagen peptides that are more well researched than others - a product that contains a combo of say three or more may deliver better benefits. I like powdered forms that you can add into a morning smoothie.
Are there certain levels of collagen we should be looking for in a supplement?
Look for different collagen peptides as these determine efficacy. You might like to see a health care practitioner who can advise you about which brands are best - or ask staff in store to guide you. Ask about the research behind the collagen peptides. Bioavailability determines the efficacy of any nutrient. If you are considering using collagen supplements look out for products containing the hydrolysed form. In hydrolysed collagen supplements the amino acid chains have been broken down into smaller units making it bioavailable and easier for the body to digest.
Are liquid collagen drinks really just watered down versions of a powder form? Are you paying more in the long run for a liquid? The main advantage of liquid collagen is the convenience factor. It comes bottled and ready to consume. When it comes to the costs powder might have a slight advantage.
What kind of difference in our skin will we notice when taking a collagen supplement? Will it be dramatic? Will skin look smoother? Fresher? If at all?
Epigenetics (and genetics) play a big role in all of this. Your lifestyle and your genes will determine how your skin ages. Your diet, water intake, and sleep (or the lack of it) affect your collagen production. Supplementation won’t balance out an unhealthy lifestyle - many people do however, report better looking skin in as little as two weeks when taking collagen products. Collagen may help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and may also help to decrease wrinkle depth. It can help with skin firmness too.
How long will it take to see results?
Again, it depends on your lifestyle and diet - a healthier lifestyle and diet delivers the faster and the better the results. Less stress and mindfulness may help as will adequate hydration and adequate sleep. Having foods that are nutrient dense, colourful and fresh will also help as will those that are high in fibre. Vegan and vegetarian options are recommended.
Different studies come to different conclusions. As with most supplements 3-4 weeks are recommended.
Do you need to take collagen supplements forever or do you take a course then have a rest period and then take them again as and when needed? If you stop taking the supplements will your skin regress?
Keeping your body agile and healthy isn’t a one or two month solution, it’s a lifestyle choice and commitment needs to be ongoing. Collagen supplementation may help keep your skin healthy, plump and bouncy but it isn’t a total solution. Skin health is linked to a balanced body, a healthy liver and also to good digestion. Keeping your microbiome healthy and happy is integral to skin health - excess sugar causes glycation which is ageing on the skin - smoking, alcohol and some prescription medication may also negatively impact on skin appearance. Hydration is also essential - collagen supplements are just part of the puzzle - they are not a cure all although they may provide a short cut and other health benefits as well.
Rick Hay 'The Superfoodist'
Dip Nutrition Dip Botanical Medicine Dip Teaching