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Collagen: more than a beauty protein

Smoother skin? Stronger bones? Healthier joints? A leaner body? It’s no secret that collagen has been soaring in popularity, driven by an increase in published research on its benefits. However, not all collagen types are the same. Here’s a review of the various types of collagen and what to expect from each.          

 

The most abundant protein in your body is collagen

Your body is roughly 65% water, 20% protein and 12% lipids. The rest is made up of carbohydrates, DNA, vitamins, electrolytes and more. In other words, excluding water, over half of your body is protein. The most abundant protein is collagen, making up 30-35% of your body’s protein. Collagen is integral to the structure of the body and all of our connective tissue, including skin, cartilage, bones, ligaments and tendons.

 

Three types of collagen

Three main types of collagen are found in the body. The majority is Type I, found in skin, tendons, ligaments, fascia and bone. Type II is predominantly found in cartilage and makes up 50% of the protein in cartilage. Type III is typically found with Type I but in a much smaller amount. These three types account for 80-90% of collagen in the body. The other types (IV, V, X, etc.) are found in even smaller amounts throughout the body.

 

Collagen fights skin wrinkles*

The deeper, dermis layer of the skin is about 75% collagen. It’s what gives the skin firmness and tone. When collagen levels decline, gaps occur causing the upper layer of skin to sink leading to a progressive deepening of facial creases and wrinkling. As much as 30% of skin collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause and a steady decline of about 2.1% a year thereafter begins. Supplementing with collagen peptides can slow or partially reverse this decline in skin collagen by supporting the deep, dermis-collagen layer of the skin.*

These special collagen (Type I & III) peptides are specially optimized for wrinkle reduction, skin elasticity and skin hydration as shown in multiple clinical trials with significant results. The dose is only 2.5 grams a day. Other brands of collagen peptides can also help the skin, but require a larger dose of 5-10 grams.*

 

Collagen can reduce cellulite*

Scientists have released additional research on these special collagen peptides and the appearance of cellulite. In a study of 97 women aged 24-54 with moderate cellulite on their thighs, those with a normal body weight experienced a 9% decrease in cellulite scores after 6 months compared to placebo. Interestingly, overweight women (BMI >25) did not see a statistical improvement, likely as a result of too much fat under the skin.* 

 

Collagen and nails

The same 2.5 gram daily dose of Verisol® collagen peptides has also been shown to support nail health. Researchers found a noticeable decrease in broken nails after 2 months, reaching a 42% reduction after 6 months. The women taking special collagen peptides also noticed their nails were growing faster and had less peeling and roughness.* About 80% of the women in this study were satisfied with Verisol®.

 

Collagen and bone density

Many people associate calcium, vitamin D3 and magnesium with strong bones but often forget about collagen. Bone is comprised of mineral crystals “glued” together by collagen. Without collagen providing a framework for minerals, your bones would have no structure. In one study, 108 women took either 5 grams of collagen peptides (Type I & III) or a placebo for 12 months. Researchers found that the women taking collagen had a significant improvement in bone density as measured in the spine and femur by DXA scans.*

 

Collagen for joint support*

As we age, our joint cartilage wears down. Collagen peptides help nourish the cartilage to support joint comfort and repair. Research shows you need to take at least 5-10 grams a day of Type I & III collagen peptides to support joint health. Type I & III can reduce joint discomfort over time and improve mobility, helping to preserve the quality of life.*

Another form of collagen for joint support is Type II collagen peptides derived from chicken sternal cartilage. The most researched Type II collagen is BioCell Collagen®, which has been the subject of more than 20 clinical studies (including five human clinical trials). It naturally contains hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate along with Type II collagen. 

One study evaluated 80 people with joint discomfort that took either 2 grams of BioCell or a placebo for 70 days. By as early as day 35, the BioCell group had significantly better WOMAC scores and an improvement in the performance of physical activities. More recently, BioCell has been studied for additional benefits on skin health.*

 

Collagen and athletes

While it’s a relatively new concept for some, athletes are beginning to take collagen peptides to support their musculoskeletal system. This system is protected by a network of connective tissue that includes tendons and fascia. Collagen peptides help renew connective tissue proteins in the constant process of muscle protein breakdown and repair.

On March 14th, 2018, the governing body of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), released a consensus statement on dietary supplements and high-performance athletes. The IOC listed collagen in the category of supplements that may assist with training capacity, recovery, muscle soreness and injury management, citing multiple studies published on collagen peptides.

 

Collagen and body composition

Type I and III collagen have also shown positive results in clinical trials on body composition. The fat loss and muscle gain results from these studies are likely due to the additional protein intake from collagen, not something inherent to the peptides. Collagen peptides are basically pure amino acids without any carbs or fat. Collagen is not a complete protein source, so you still need to consume other proteins throughout the day.*

 

Bone broth vs. collagen peptides

Bone broth powders are typically made from leftover chicken bones and scraps after the meat is stripped off. It contains gelatin, which is made of long chains of connected collagen peptides.

Collagen and gelatin generally have the same amino acids, but they behave a little differently. First, gelatin is a little harder to digest. Second, it tends to form a gel—think gelatin-based desserts. Third, it tends to mix well only in warm or hot liquids. Fourth, bone broth products tend to have a strong, savory taste. Collagen peptides are created when gelatin is cut into much smaller sections of amino acids. Because collagen peptides are much smaller, they are absorbed into the bloodstream much faster than gelatin. Collagen peptides also mix well and are almost tasteless. 

 

How to take collagen

Collagen peptides come in many forms, from tablets to powder to capsules. Capsules and tablets are convenient, but when it comes to larger amounts (5+ grams), it makes more sense to take a powder. High-quality collagen peptides in powder form have minimal smell and taste. You can often tell when companies use inferior collagen because it has a stronger odor and lingering taste. Premium peptides mix well into room temperature water with just a spoon. Second-rate versions tend to mix well in warmer hot drinks like coffee.

Below are some of our favorite collagen products. Each is designed with a different health emphasis. 

 

For skin and beauty*

Lindberg Skin Rejuvenator

 

 

For skin and beauty* 

Pink® Collagen Peptides

 

 

For joints (cartilage)* 

Lindberg BioCell Collagen®

 

 

For joints and bone*

Fitness Labs ArthFree®

 

 

For sports nutrition* 

Fitness Labs PeptiFit™ Collagen Peptides 

 

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