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Collagen Supplementation - Health or Hype?

Do collagen supplements follow through on their promises for youthful glowing skin???

As we age, the sad fact is that most of the collagen in our body declines, with approximately 1% being lost per year after the age of 18.

“Decreased collagen production = weak, wrinkly & aged skin”

A growing band of research is showing promise for collagen supplementation in improving skin health, with the consumption of hydrolysed collagen found to be an effective way to improve markers of skin aging. Collagen supplementation has also been found to benefit joint health, nail and hair strength. Whilst collagen has been touted as beneficial to gut health, further research in this area is required to confirm this.

Collagen has various important roles within the body, with its main role being a major structural protein in numerous tissues in the body, including skin, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, & blood vessels.

In recent years, collagen supplementation has gained popularity, still, many of you may wonder what exactly collagen is, what it can do for you, and whether you should be taking it. Never fear, this article will break down what the ins and outs of collagen and how it may benefit your health.

Collagen - what is it?

Collagen is the most plentiful, naturally occurring protein in the human body, making up approximately 70% of the protein in our skin. It has 28 defined types, however types I, II, & III are the most commonly abundant in the body.

  • Type I: Provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, connective tissue, and teeth

  • Type II: Cushions joints

  • Type III: Supports muscle, organ, and arterial structure.

Is collagen supplementation right for me?

The effects of decreasing collagen production associated with aging often become visible in our skin, with the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and less supple skin. However, key lifestyle factors can also contribute to decreased collagen production, including diets high in sugar, smoking, excessive sun exposure, and under-or-over exercising.

There are many different benefits one can get from collagen supplementation - from improving markers of skin aging, strengthening nails and hair, improving joint health, or increasing your protein intake - deciding if these factors fit your requirements will go along way to deciding whether supplementation is right for you.

Oral collagen supplementation is now widely available, and if you are on social media you have probably been bombarded by the different types out there!

What should I look for in a collagen supplements?

Remember, that collagen is a natural food, and comes from numerous sources including, cattle (bovine), chicken, pigs, & marine sources. Bovine collagen is rich in type I and type III collagen, providing skin and joint health benefits. Marine collagen is similar in terms of biocompatability & amino acid content to that of bovine collagen, but has been reported to have better absorption by the body. It is rich in type I collagen, mainly benefiting our skin, and to some extent joint health as well. Understanding the different types of collagen should make it easier to select which product is better for you in terms of dietary needs (if you are vegetarian than marine sources may be right for you), or if you are looking to improve your skin health, or want to improve joint health.

Hydrolysed collagen dominates the market, which is basically involves the process of breaking down collagen into very small particles, making it easier for digestion and dissolving in water. It is one key factor to look for in a collagen supplement, as hydrolysed proteins are absorbed faster and more efficiently by the body. Another benefit is that it has no flavour and can be included in hot or cold beverages and foods. There is some functional specificity in how the body uses collagen from our diets, providing a potential mechanism for the positive benefits of collagen supplementation. With available research showing significant improvements to skin elasticity and hydration, as well as dermal collagen density!

There a few key factors to take into account when selecting a high-quality collagen supplement. Do your research to see if any clinical trials have been conducted with your product of choice, it will help you separate the facts from the fiction, ensuring you are spending your money on a product that works! If you are looking to purchase bovine collagen, make sure it comes from grass-fed cows, and for marine collagen make sure it comes from sustainable sources. As mentioned earlier, make sure you purchase a hydrolysed collagen, as it is more easily absorbed by the body. In addition to this also look for a product that contains Vitamin C, as it has been found that Vitamin C is needed for the synthesis and maintenance of collagen formation.

What if I don’t want to supplement - can I get collagen from foods?

Of course! In fact, as a nutritionist, I would always suggest that a wholefood diet is your first-line defence for optimal health, with supplementation used to support a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. If you don’t want to go down the supplementation route, there are plenty of wholefoods that support collagen production, including:

  • Chicken

  • Fish & Shellfish

  • Egg whites

  • Leafy green vegetables - spinach, kale, swiss chard

  • Beans

  • Nuts - cashews

  • Citrus fruits - lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit

  • Berries - raspberries, blueberries, blackberries

  • Garlic

  • Tropical fruit - kiwi-fruit, mango, pineapple, guava

  • Red & Yellow Vegetables - tomatoes, capsicum

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