Back in the day, it was common for people to get their nutrition from well-balanced, freshly cooked meals.
However, with our fast-paced lives today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the nutritional needs of our bodies. To help us give our bodies the nutrition that it requires, science has come up with the idea of dietary health supplements.
Health supplements are manufactured products that can be ingested orally to provide your body with certain nutrition it requires to perform optimally. They can be essential nutrition like multivitamins, performance boosters like pre-workouts, and cosmetic supplements like collagen.
It is important to note that, while supplements are primarily meant for one purpose, they can affect other body functions as well.
One such supplement that has numerous health benefits is collagen. Primarily used as a cosmetic supplement, collagen also has other benefits like muscle and joint pain relief.
Collagen has become one of the most popular health supplements to emerge from the supplement industry. It was released in the market as a cosmetic supplement that helps boost skin health and reduce signs of aging.
It has also been incorporated into various cosmetic products because of its proven advantages. Collagen also helps promote gut, bone, and heart health while also being an excellent muscle and joint pain reliever.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that makes up connective tissues in mammals. It is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up 25-35% of total protein. It is predominantly found in bones, tendons, ligaments, and the middle layer of the skin.
Collagen is an essential protein that is naturally produced by our body. However, it has been found that the rate of production slows down in our thirties and forties. This is the reason why we begin to develop wrinkles and loose skin as we age.
Collagen supplementation is not a new phenomenon, as it has been consumed in other forms for a long time. Consumables like bone broth and gelatine contain collagen and have been used to treat muscle soreness for a long time.
Modern collagen supplements are generally bovine-based hydrolyzed collagen peptides that are ingested as a powder, gummy, or pill.
Types of Collagen
About 28 types of collagen have been identified so far. They differ on the basis of molecular structure, the type of cell components added, and where it is used in your body. There are primarily five types of collagen:
Type I: This type of collagen is densely packed and is used to structure our skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. This type accounts for 90% of the collagen found in our body.
Type II: This type is present in elastic cartilage and provides support to joints.
Type III: This type of collagen is present in muscles, arteries, and organs.
Type IV: This type is present in the layers of the skin, especially the middle layer.
Type V: This type of collagen is present in some layers of skin, the cornea of your eyes, hair, and tissue of the placenta.
How is Collagen Extracted?
Collagen is present in connective tissues and hence, in the skin of animals. This makes products like chicken skin, pork skin, fish, and beef, excellent natural sources of collagen.
Ingesting collagen via natural sources is broken down into amino acids during digestion, making them less efficient in replenishing the body’s collagen stores.
Collagen supplements are manufactured by processing natural sources of collagen to produce hydrolyzed collagen peptides. They are primarily sourced from the hooves, horns, bones, and hide of bovine animals. Another widely used sources are the scales and bones of fish.
Collagen in supplements has already been broken down and is present in a hydrolyzed peptide form, making it readily available for absorption by the body.
Bovine collagen is primarily extracted from cattle. It is primarily obtained from cow hide. The skin of cattle being thick is an excellent source of collagen. After the cow hide is cleaned, pre-treated, and cut up into smaller pieces, it is used for collagen extraction. It is done using chemical hydrolysis using acid, alkali, or salt solubilization.
Marine collagen is extracted from fish. It is primarily from the scales and bones of the fish. Skin, cartilage, and fins are used as well. It is extracted using two methods, Acid soluble collagen (ASC), or Pepsin soluble collagen (PSC). In ASC the fish to be used are cleaned and pre-treated before adding acetic acid.
Then filtration is done before finally freezing-drying to obtain collagen. In PSC, pepsin is added along with acetic acid to the fish. The rest of the process is the same.
Benefits of Collagen
Collagen supplements can have various benefits for our health, such as:
i. Improving skin health –
Collagen is abundant in the skin, and its depletion (with age) causes the skin to lose its elasticity and hydration. Collagen supplements can correct this to give firmer, well-hydrated skin. It slows down the aging process by reducing wrinkles, dryness, and looseness of the skin.
ii. Relieving joint and muscle pain –
Food containing collagen, like bone broth, has been a traditional remedy to treat joint and muscle pain. Collagen supplements make joints more flexible, which reduces joint pain caused by stiffness. It also aids in re-building muscles with connective tissues, which helps in treating muscle sickness.
iii. Preventing bone loss –
Have you ever wondered why older people look so much smaller compared to their younger selves? It is the lack of collagen at an older age. Our bones are predominantly made of collagen, and as production decreases with age we tend to lose bone mass. This can be corrected using proper supplements.
iv. Improving muscle strength and mass –
Protein is essential for repairing and building muscles, especially if you work out. Collagen, in particular, is highly effective when it comes to repairing connective tissues and building skeletal muscle.
It also reduces muscle soreness. These factors contribute to people taking collagen supplements to recover quicker and build muscle faster, ultimately leading to increased strength. However, this effect is observed only in conjunction with working out.
Additional benefits –
Collagen can improve hair and nail health. This is achieved by decreasing brittleness.
It can improve brain health by repairing connective tissues in brain muscles.
Collagen supplements can improve gut health by repairing muscle tissues in the intestines.
It can repair blood vessels, resulting in improved heart health.
How to use Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements can be ingested orally, via powder, capsule, gummies, or in liquid form. The gummies and pills are made with recommended dosages provided by healthcare professionals to the manufacturers. For best results, follow the prescribed dosage, or consult your doctor.
Collagen supplements are most commonly consumed as a powder by mixing with water, or other beverages. The minimum dosage required to see results is 2.5 grams. You can consume anywhere between 10-20 grams per day to see visible results soon.
Time taken for collagen supplements to take effect
Shortly after taking collagen supplements regularly, the first benefit you’ll notice is that your muscles don't feel as sore. This can begin as early as a week into your supplementation.
Collagen supplements start working wonders on your skin within 3 months of taking them. By this time, the body’s natural stock is replenished, and the effects start to show. If this is the result you were aiming for, you can reduce the dosage of collagen slightly.
There is considerable improvement in muscle mass, and body strength that you can visibly observe in just, 3 months of taking the supplements.
Within 6-12 months of taking collagen supplements, your bone mass and joint health will also be greatly improved.
Things to keep in mind
It is important to keep in mind that health supplements are meant to supplement a healthy diet, not replace it. Eating healthy food, such as fruits rich in vitamin C, can help your body produce collagen naturally.
It is also important to manage your expectations while taking any supplements. These are not magic pills that give instant results. Collagen supplements have to be taken consistently over time to experience their full range of benefits.
Health supplements, such as collagen, are not overseen or approved by regulatory bodies, like the FDA. Therefore, it is vital to pay attention to the product and dosage you’re choosing.
That being said, other independent bodies might certify the authenticity of ingredients. However, it is important to choose a product from a reliable manufacturer who can independently certify ingredients.
Collagen supplements have gained popularity due to their ability to improve skin health, apart from an array of other benefits it provides the body with. The continued usage of good-quality collagen supplements can give you substantial benefits as early as 3 months into consuming it.
If you are someone looking to slow down signs of physical aging, then collagen supplements are the right way forward.
Q: Are there any vegetarian sources of collagen?
A: Collagen is an animal product made from the skin and bones of animals. However, certain manufacturers produce collagen from plants by using yeast, and other microbes. The efficacy of such collagen is, however, untested.
Q: What are some natural ways to boost collagen?
A: We can help our body produce more collagen by consuming a lot of fruits, especially those rich in vitamin C.
Q: What are some things to consider while buying a collagen supplement?
A: It is important to buy from a well-reputed manufacturer to avoid adulteration. Several independent bodies provide a seal to verify the authenticity of ingredients. Looking for products from well-reputed manufacturers which contain such seals would be a good way to narrow down on the right collagen supplement for you.
Q: What are the main sources of collagen supplements?
A: Collagen supplements are predominantly made up of two types, bovine collagen, and marine collagen. Bovine collagen is extracted from the hooves, horns, bones, and hide, of bovine. Marine collagen is extracted from the scales and bones of fish.
Q: What is the difference between consuming food containing collagen and taking collagen supplements?
A: Collagen in food, such as bone broth, is broken down into individual amino acids during digestion. Collagen supplements contain collagen that is already broken down in a hydrolyzed peptide form. This makes the collagen present in supplements more readily available for absorption by the body.