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When you hear the word ‘collagen’ you may think of the firm wrinkle-free skin of youth. You know… the kind of skin bounces back without a trace of stress when you pinch it? It may also remind you of strong and flexible fingernails and hair; Hair with strength, length, moisture and shine! Oh, and joints that don't ache after a run or a flight of stairs.
Luckily, aging no longer guarantee exile to a collagen-deficient island. Modern research and technology has uncovered ways to boost collagen in formulations that work.
Keep reading to learn all about collagen and discover more collagen benefits for women.
First let's look at how collagen is being used for medical and cosmetic purposes today. Logically, the first question to ask is:
What Exactly is Collagen?
Collagen is the most naturally abundant protein found in the human body. It accounts for a third of all protein present in your body. It is the building block of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, vessels and teeth.
Think of it as the glue that holds your cells together providing structure. Composed of amino acids, collagen is a protein that is very unique sequences. This gives it a different shape than all the other proteins. Many proteins, especially the dietary proteins, are round or globular in shape. But, collagen is long and thin, like a fiber and can be packed very tightly together to provide structural support.
There are actually different types of collagen…
So far, there have been around 28 different types of collagen identified. But of all these, basically there are only four that most of us have heard of.
- Type I: This type accounts for 90% of your body's collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.
- Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions joints.
- Type III: This type supports the structure of muscles, organs and arteries.
- Type IV: This type helps with filtration and is found in lower layers of your skin.
Most women think that they should consume the type of collagen that matches their concern.
But, there just isn’t enough data around impact of supplemental collagen to support causal relationships between compositional improvements and what is ingested. Further there is hardly any long-term research on the subject.
How Does Your Body Produce Collagen?
All human collagen starts off as procollagen. The body produces procollagen by combining the amino acids glycine and proline using vitamin C.
Consumption of foods high in the following nutrients will speed up collagen production:
- Vitamin C: Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries
- Proline: found naturally in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus and mushrooms
- Glycine: found in pork skin, chicken skin and gelatine, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods
- Copper: found in organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews and lentils
Getting Enough Collagen From Your Diet
A healthy body naturally produces enough collagen to stay functional. The body doesn't technically need outside or artificial collagen.
Collagen production decreases after age 25 at the rate of 1% per year until menopause. There is a decline during the first five years of menopause and then it tappers off once the transition is over.
Few of us will develop a true medical problem where we don't make enough or have enough collagen in our bodies.
Here are some conditions or diseases that can disrupt our natural collagen production:
When you have bad bacteria or viruses in your body, they can secrete an enzyme called collagenase. This enzyme breaks down collagen which is really bad. If you have an autoimmune disease, collagen supplementation might counteract the negative effects.
With scurvy, vitamin C levels are deficient. We know that vitamin C is a very important building block – it leads to collagen production in the body. Without Vitamin C as a building block, collagen in your body is really ineffective. Scurvy has symptoms such as bleeding gums, weak hair, even blood leaking from the skin though there are no scratches or cuts.
Diseases such as heumatoid arthritis or lupus attack your collagen fibers, so you can imagine how they weaken your whole body’s structural integrity.
What Causes Collagen Depletion?
- Sugar and refined carbs: Sugar interferes with collagen's ability to repair itself. Reduce your consumption of sugar and refined carbs
- Excess sun exposure: Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure
- Smoking: Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles
- Excess Alcohol Consumption
- Drug and pharmaceutical use
Collagen Benefits For Women
Here are some good reasons to add collagen to your diet and make collagen fibers in all the important places of your body.
- Stronger hair, skin, and nails
- Promotes tissue repair
- Improves the GI tract, especially the lining
- Reduces joint pains and degeneration
- Supports good digestion
- Helps heal leaky gut
- Boosts muscle mass, metabolism, and energy output
- Improves the health of the liver
- Protects cardiovascular health
Can you see that it’s a no brainer health recommendation?
Where Can You Find Sources of Collagen?
Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys are all composed of collagen. It's important to not that not all ingestible collagen is bioavailable and absorbed. But, collagen is absorbed at a rate of 9–95%
If you want to know what the most common source of collage supplements is, it is cowhide. Chicken sternums are also used which is a rich source Type II Collagen. Fishbones, scales, and skin are also options used. As well as sow skin and fat.
Once the collagen is separated from the animal source, it then gets hydrolyzed. Read about the whole process here. Little bits of collagen are left which are called collagen peptides. These collagen peptides are also called collagen hydrolysate.
Speaking of collagen in the world of supplements, these are all the same:
- Collagen hydrolysate
- Collagen peptides
Regardless of the source, all collagens have almost exactly the same composition.
What Type of Collagen is Best for Women?
You will get some marketers who will want to promote one over the other. For instance, some people who claim to be “experts” will tell you that their fish collagen is better because of its smaller atomic weight, meaning the fish is more absorbable. Or that the chickens are better because they are ‘cleaner’, and so on. When it comes down to it, all that is actually just a means to push their own product as better than others.
Collagen is collagen in the world of supplements, no matter which source it comes from. Remember we said that the collagen that is turned into smaller bits for supplementation is called collagen hydrolysate – known to be absorbed by as much as 90-95%, regardless of the source.
Sometimes which one you buy will be determined by the price, depending on how much collagen you are getting for your money’s worth. In general, it will be the beef collagen that offers a higher yield for the lower costs, chicken second and fish last.
Is Collagen the Same as Gelatin?
When you talk about collagen, you are inevitably going to hear about gelatin as well, like they are one and the same.
If you have researched a bit about collagen, you will know that gelatin is collagen, but it’s more like a processed form. Gelatin is collagen peptides which you have heard of above, that have been further processed by hydroxylation. Because of this, gelatin interacts differently with moisture.
A collagen supplement that has been well made will easily dissolve in water but for gelatin, not so. It might with water, but it won’t gel with water. Get the pic? But otherwise, it is all the same between gelatin and collagen. Both have the same amino acids in them and also the same nutritional benefits.
But gelatin might take a bit longer to digest and can help even a bit more than collagen does with the lining of your stomach. So it also makes sense that if you have a health condition where your gut needs some healing, then gelatin would be the way to go.
Popular Forms of Collagen
Collagen is available in many forms and products. Here are some popular ways to find collagen.
- Bone broth is a mix of animal bones, spices, veggies and salt in water cooked for ten plus hours. This process of cooking bones and vegetables results in the gentle extraction of crucial nutrients- particularly collagen. Collagen in bone broth is bio-available. This means tyou can absorb much of it during digestion through the intestines.
- Collagen peptides are sold as pills, dissolvable powders, flavored/unflavored solutions and are also added to other nutritional supplements like vitamins and protein powders.
- Hair Products Collagen can be found in hair growth stimulants. Topical agents like conditioners, scalp serums, shampoos and styling aids.
- Skincare Collagen can be found in many skincare products categorized as anti-aging. Serums, creams, treatments and suspensions use collagen to give the skin a temporary reduction in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, sagginess and cellulite.
Is There Such a Thing as Vegan Collagen?
It’s unfortunate that those who are vegan and vegetarian will need to forego drinking bone broth because it is an animal byproduct.
But, there is hope yet for the vegans and vegetarians looking to get their daily dose of collagen without taking animal products. Science has actually found a way to make vegan collagen!
Vegan Collagen type III derived from yeast outperforms animal collagen by 200% when applied topically in skincare formulations.
Collagen Production Standards
- The best, pure, rich, collagen supplements must come from non-factory-farmed cattle. Pasture-raised ones are best.
- They must be grass-fed cattle, not fed with genetically modified feeds or with inflammatory ingredients such as dairy, gluten, corn, soy, grains or legumes.
- The grass-fed cattle must also be free of antibiotics in their bodies and also be free of hormones which some manufactures feed them to bulk them up.
- They must be free of mad cow disease.
- Chickens too should be free-range, and the fish should be wild-caught. No bottom trawling for instance.
Get your collagen to start looking and feeling your absolute best!