It’s time to talk about collagen! Probably one of the most popular supplements, collagen is readily available in health food stores and even in some supermarkets these days. In today’s post I’m going to discuss what collagen actually is, why you might want to supplement it, and what to look out for when deciding between brands.
Collagen is a protein found naturally in the human body, so in a sense it’s nothing special. The bug bear I have with collagen is the fact that it’s been scooped up by the wellness industry, media and supplement companies as a miracle cure for skin, hair and nails. I think the reason that works so well is because we all care so much about the external, and less so about the internal. But is glowing skin and healthy hair really that simple?
Firstly though, what is collagen?
Collagen is a general term to describe the most abundant proteins in the human body, pretty much everything is made of collagen that requires any sort of structural element. There are at least 16 types of collagen, with types 1 to 4 being the most prevalent. Type 1 provides 90% of your body’s collagen, which gives structure to your skin, hair, bones, connective tissue, joints etc.
Most supplements on the market will either be bovine (animal derived) or marine (from fish) and they are hydrolysed into tiny particles that dissolve quickly in hot liquids or in food or smoothies. It also means it’s easier to digest and assimilate quickly. Collagen basically disappears into nothing whatever you choose to add it to, which is why it’s a great option to add to coconut yoghurt with your morning breakfast to get some protein in to help balance blood sugar.
So we’ve established that collagen is not a ‘fad’ food, it’s just a real protein that’s abundant in our bodies already.
So, do we really need to supplement it?
In terms of supplements designed specifically for skin, hair and nails (as you’ll see on shop shelves and in adverts or endorsed by social media influencers), I don’t see it as a quick fix because there are so many nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants involved, but still a fix nonetheless. If you feed your body very bioavailable protein, most easily achieved on an omnivorous diet, your body will always have a good supply of collagen. However, from about the age of 20 our natural supply of collagen starts to decline, and in old age we may find our joints stiffer than they used to be and our skin loses its elasticity.
Those against collagen supplementation only see it as a ‘fad’ claiming to give you amazing skin. But the thing is it’s a very easily assimilated and digestible protein, rich in glutamic acid which gets transformed into L-glutamine which supports gut health too. The link between the gut and the skin is well documented, and known as the gut-skin axis. So as well as being directly beneficial to skin, collagen supports skin health via the gut-skin link too.
Ultimately, experiment for yourself and see how you feel. You might not notice glowing skin straight away, if at all, but it’s no bad thing to get all the 8 essential amino acids in an easy-to-assimilate collagen powder that can be added to pretty much anything.
In terms of brands - anything that is 100% grass fed and finished is great, that’s if it’s animal derived, or you can get good marine collagen too if you don’t consume meat - just make sure it’s sustainably caught.
Bovine collagen tends to be cheaper than marine collagen, and whilst they contain different forms of collagen but each have all 8 essential amino acids.
Hunter & Gatherer, a UK based company, make really good, high quality versions of both in compostable packaging.
Unfortunately, if you follow a vegan diet - neither bovine or marine collagen is appropriate for you but you can still supplement with a vegan L-glutamine!
Yours in health,