The first time I saw a beauty/ wellness influencer promote collagen on his/her page, I was like “what the actual heck that sounds disgusting.” You have to admit that the thought of ingesting collage does not sound super appealing. Or maybe is does, because since then, its turned into a million dollar industry. Influencers and bloggers left and right are promoting it for its miraculous health and beauty effects.
So what is collagen?
In its true form, collagen is what makes up our tissues, joints, cartilage, and skin. It is essentially the squishy stuff that keeps us flexible and looking young. It’s made up of protein and is the major component in connective tissue. So it’s essentially everywhere in our body.
It’s now being sold in an expensive, powder form. So what is that collagen? Its ground-up animal flesh, bone, skin, and tissue. Fun right? The whole concept with ingesting collagen is that it will boost our own collagen and make our skin, nails, and hair stronger and healthier. So does it work? No, not in the way that they are promoting it.
See our bodies are smart, but they also follow a system. In digestion, carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins are broken down into their smaller counterparts. Proteins are broken down into amino acids which are then absorbed by the body and taken to the muscles to be used. This is also how collagen is digested. Your body isn’t suddenly like “OH shoot, we’ve got collagen here, let’s go deliver this to the collagen in our body to make it better.” No, it just digests it as protein. Your body has too many important things to worry about. It doesn’t distinguish every single little food item that comes in for what it is. It views it solely as carbohydrates, lipids, or a protein.
Yes, proteins and amino acids go towards making collagen. However, your body decides that based on its needs at the time. If your body needs to produce more collagen, then those amino acids will go towards that. However, they can also go towards muscle growth or joint support or even energy if needed. There’s very little research done on how to properly extract the right collagen peptides for different conditions. As we age, we lose collagen, so these supplements make be utilized by our body to strengthen our own collagen growth.
Essentially, all collagen is an overpriced protein supplement. If you really want to improve your collagen production and boost the health of your hair, skin, and nails, consume whole plant-based foods rich in vitamin c, protein, and minerals. Vitamin C helps make collagen. Protein is an essential component in collagen. Your body needs to be healthy and functioning inside in order to reflect health on the outside. Cut out processed foods and refined sugars. Focus your diet on whole-food plant-based foods.
Another thing to consider is that collagen is not a complete protein. A complete protein is one that contains all nine essential amino acids. Collagen lacks the amino acid tryptophan.
Another thing is that the research on collagen is very limited. So there’s very little scientific evidence that it actually has any extra added benefit over a protein-rich diet or a protein powder. These statements saying women’s skin drastically improved after consuming collagen regularly may be true. However, there are no research studies out there comparing it to people who just consume a regular protein supplement regularly or who eat a wide variety of protein-rich foods. Collagen could definitely be promising, and with more research, it could be shown to have some amazing results on skin elasticity, hair growth, and nail strength. However, until then, it’s best to make your own informed decision to whether or not collagen is a supplement that you want to be taking.
My suggestion, eat a diet rich in protein from plants and whole-foods. Also, do your research before believing everything you hear online.
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/collagen-supplements-show-early-promise-for-skin-nails-and-joints/2018/03/23/1cd480e2-27d6-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html?noredirect=on
Web MD: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20180308/collagen-supplements-what-the-research-shows
Food and Nutrition: https://foodandnutrition.org/from-the-magazine/why-are-collagen-supplements-popular/