Everything You Need to Know about Collagen

Words: Robyn Paterson

Collagen is all the rage right now with collagen powder and tablets making their way around health and wellness circles. It’s been given nicknames like ‘the fountain of youth’ and many claim it’s the natural answer to wrinkle-free, plump and youthful skin. It’s also been lauded for it’s gut-healing properties. Health stores have dedicated whole shelves to it and apparently people are drinking it daily in their coffee and morning smoothies, so there must be some truth to the rumours!

Instead of treating it like a passing trend, we thought we’d research it a bit more and see what all the fuss is so that you have all the information you need should you want to introduce it into your diet. 

First, the Basics… What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most present structural protein found in mammals. It’s found in our skin, bones, tendons, muscles, cartilage and joints, but also is found in our blood vessels, corneas and teeth, so basically, it’s needed all over the body. It is naturally occurring in the body, but as we age, collagen production starts to decline, particularly in women, and this can lead to wrinkles and joint issues. Most people start taking it because it’s said to have anti-aging properties as it helps with elasticity and hydration in the skin, which prevents fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also very beneficial for inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as it helps protect the joints and cartilage in the body.

collagenThere are sixteen different types of collagen, all naturally found in the body, but the most prominent types are type I, II, III and IV.

Type I: This is the most abundant type, making up approximately 90% of the collagen found in mammals. It provides structure to our connective tissues such as our skin, bones and tendons. A decline in type I collagen will often result in sagging skin, brittle nails and thinning hair.

Type II: This is the the main component in cartilage making it extremely important for skeletal health.

Type III: This is most commonly found in the body’s reticular fibres, such as the bone marrow. It’s also found in the connective tissues, alongside Type I collagen.

Natural Collagen Production

Before we talk about supplements, it is important to know how to supplement your own collagen production with diet and lifestyle changes.

collagen supplementsProtein is the most obvious way to get your body producing more collagen, because collagen is a protein! Try to get between 60-80 grams of protein into your diet every day.

Vitamin C is vital for collagen production. Without vitamin C, the body cannot form collagen, so even if you’re taking a collagen supplement, you still have to supplement with Vitamin C so that collagen can form in the body. Make sure you are getting a lot of Vitamin C by eating fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, such as citrus, strawberries, papaya, kale and bell peppers.

Copper is required for the formation of red blood cells, bone and connective tissue and is also essential for collagen production. Copper is an essential mineral and can only be obtained through your diet.

Storing your water in copper water bottles is a great way to get trace amounts of the mineral into your diet.

Zinc helps protect collagen from damage and zinc deficiency can reduce the amount of collagen produced in the body.

Collagen Supplements

As we age, our natural collagen production starts to slow down, particularly in women. By the time we reach the age of 50, our bodies are producing 30% off the collagen they were producing at the age of 20. To counteract this process, we can take collagen supplements in the form of powders or tablets.

It’s important to note that although collagen is a protein, collagen supplements shouldn’t be taken in replace of eating natural protein sources. Collagen isn’t a complete protein and therefore needs to be supplemented by complete sources of protein such as meat, fish, beans and legumes.

Collagen Powders

collagen brothThere are two types of collagen powders on the market at the moment — marine collagen or bovine collagen. Both are hugely beneficial to one’s health, but there are slight differences.

All collagen powders are hydrolyzed, so as to make them soluble in water. This allows them to be taken both orally, in powders, but also topically, in creams and serums.

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen is derived from the hides of cows and contains type I and type II collagen, making it beneficial both for your skin, hair and nails as well as for your internal connective tissues. Make sure you are buying from a sustainable, organic supplier and that there are no strange additives, like bulking agents, on the ingredient list.

Sally-Ann Creed offers a pure non-GMO hydrolysed bovine collagen.

Marine Collagen 

Marine collagen is derived from the skin and scales of fish and contains type I collagen, making it a good choice for those using collagen for their skin, hair and nails. It’s slightly more expensive than bovine collagen, but it is a good choice for pescatarians and those specifically looking for a collagen supplement that helps fight against aging skin.

The Harvest Table has a pure marine collagen powder made from sustainably sourced fish.

Collagen Booster Powders

Vegans and vegetarians need collagen too, but it is an animal by-product. So how can vegans supplement their natural collagen production? Collagen booster powders contain all the nutritional cofactors that  boost the body’s natural collagen production. Amino acid complexes, Vitamins C and B and antioxidant complexes are all included, which make these powders perfectly suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Phyto Pro offers a great vegan collagen booster, available online.

Try this Roasted Bone Marrow recipe for a natural boost of collagen to your diet!

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