Why the Rage about Collagen and Collagen Supplements?
First, What Is Collagen?
Many of us have seen or read articles about collagen since they began to appear on the Internet and in other media platforms. For those unfamiliar, collagen is basically our body’s number one protein. In fact, we couldn’t survive without it. It’s in our skin, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract and related organs, cartilage, bones, and the corneas of our eyes. But not all collagen is the same.
Types of Collagen
Collagen protein is categorized by a numerical type. This number depends on its prominence in the tissues of our body. Some researchers divide it into 16 types. Others list as many as 28. The latter usually includes the proteins in foods, which are used to manufacture supplemental products. The categories most often researched and written about are Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3.
Type 1 refers to the collagen in our skin, tendons, ligaments, organs, bones, and teeth. It makes up about 90% of each tissue. Type 2 is found in our cartilage and corneas, and makes up about 50 to 60%. Type 3 collagen is the second most abundant. It’s found in our muscular tissues, the walls of our gastrointestinal tract, our blood vessels, and generally in the same tissues as Type 1. It’s also found in the same percentage.
Prominent Amino Acids Found in Collagen
Nineteen amino acids have been discovered in Type 1 and 3 collagens. The prominent ones are lysine, proline, hydroxyproline, glycine, and arginine. In Type 2 collagen, 18 amino acids were found. Most were glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, and chondroitin.
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Why We Need Collagen Supplements
We need collagen supplements when our own production begins to wane, leaving us with unsightly veneers and increasing our potential for chronic diseases. As we grow older, our taut, smooth, elastic skin begins to wrinkle and sag. We also become more susceptible to diseases like osteoarthritis, arteriosclerosis, lupus, breakdowns in the lining in our gastrointestinal tract, poor immune system, poor vision, brittle hair, teeth, and nails. Even our hormones and moods become vulnerable. And healing takes longer.
To stave off or repair these issues, health and nutritional professionals usually recommend taking supplemental collagen. Easy fix. However, it’s better to make every effort to get what we need from our diets, from the food we consume, before considering supplements.
Sources of Collagen
Collagen sources depend on whether your diet is meat-based or plant-based (vegans and vegetarians). I find that people who consume a meat-based diet don’t have to work as hard to fulfill their collagen needs as do those of us who consume a plant-based diet.
Meat-eaters can consume beef, poultry, marine animals, eggs, and dairy to increase their collagen levels. Vegetarians can add marine life and/ or eggs and dairy, if so inclined. But vegans, who are strictly plant-eaters, must consume a variety of different vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds to ensure they receive a complete supply of collagen boosters. Plants provide us amino acids, but their wealth is in providing nutrients such as flavonoids, polyphenols, saponins, and other antioxidant agents like vitamins and minerals, which enable or increase our collagen production, protect our existing collagen, and promote more adequate use of it by our bodies. The quantity of these nutrients varies from plant to plant.
Here’s a more detailed account of the collagen provided by animal and plants and how they amp up our levels.
Collagen for Consumers of a Meat-Based Diet
1. Beef or Bovine collagen. Derived from the skin, muscles, cartilage, and bones of almost exclusively cattle or cows.
2. Poultry collagen. Derived primarily from chicken.
3. Egg collagen. Found in the shell and white portions of the egg.
4. Marine collagen. Derived mainly from fish.
Types of Collagen Protein Meats Provide
- Bovines provide collagen Type 1 and Type 3, which can aid production in the tissues of the human body where both types of protein appear.
- Chickens supply collagen Type 2, which can benefit the tissues where this type protein appears.
- Eggs supply collagen Type 1, and will assist those tissues.
- Marine life, especially fish, is another great supplier of Type 1 collagen protein.
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Collagen for Consumers of a Plant-Based Diet
- Soy products
- Tea Extracts
Types of Nutrient Boosters Plants Provide
- Vegetables (leafy greens: kale, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, mustard, and arugula), green beans, avocados, bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes contain vitamins A, B and C; minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc; and antioxidant compounds flavonoids, carotenoids, and saponins, which boost production of and protect Type 1 and Type 3 collagen proteins.
- Legumes (black beans, kidney beans) promote the production of and protect Type 1 and Type 3 collagen proteins with assistance from vitamins A, B, and C; minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc; and antioxidant nutrients such as anthocyanins.
- Fruits (citrus, cherries, pomegranate, and dark berries) provide nutrients such as vitamins A, C, B, D, and E; minerals calcium, magnesium, copper, and manganese; and antioxidant nutrients beta-cryptoxanthin, melatonin, ellagic acid, and other anthocyanin flavonoids, which promote and protect Type 1, Type 3, and Type 2 collagen proteins.
- Nuts (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios) boost production and support Type 1 and Type 3 collagen proteins with help from vitamins A, B and E; minerals calcium, copper, manganese, and iron; and antioxidant nutrients like polyphenol ellagic acid.
- Seeds (chia, pumpkin, flax, sunflower) have a number of B vitamins; minerals calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc; and antioxidant agents such as the polyphenol lignans, flavonoids, tannins, and anthocyanins, which encourage production and support Type 1 and Type 3 collagen proteins.
- Soy products (tofu, tempeh, milk, miso) provide boosters vitamins A and B-1; minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc; phytosterols, and antioxidant isoflavones such as genistein.
- Tea extracts (green, white, Rooibos) provide amino acid theanine; vitamins B, C, and E; mineral calcium, fluoride, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus; and the antioxidant agents flavonoids, polyphenols such as catechins, and saponins.
- Spices (ginger, turmeric) provide vitamins B, C (fresh ginger), and E; minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc; antioxidant agents polyphenols gingerols, zingiberene (also known as turmeric), and curcumin (turmeric).
Purchasing Collagen Supplements
If you choose to purchase collagen supplements, know that the number of products on the market could be overwhelming. There are pre-made foods such as bone broths, powders, liquids, capsules, and pills. But manufacturers of collagen supplements use the same meat and plant sources we can consume in their products. But not all of their products measure up when it comes to quality and/ or benefits.
Any supplement that lists added flavors, dyes, and preservatives are not worth purchasing. Additionally, the Aminco website (see Sources) suggests purchasing brands with terms such as “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides” on their labels. Their amino acid strands are shorter, and makes for easier digestion and use by the body.
Other things to look for when purchasing collagen supplements:
1. For Meat-Based consumers, purchase supplements with ingredients derived from grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free, and wild-caught animals. Wild-caught refers to marine animals.
2. For Plant-Based consumers, purchase collagen supplements with ingredients that are free of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and other methods of genetic modification. As a vegetarian, I can recommend an organic collagen booster product, tablets, with a number of critical nutrients from the following vegetables and fruits: beets, cucumber, kale, spinach, garlic, cherry, lemon, pomegranate, green and Rooibos teas. It’s called Garden of Life, Mykind Organic Collagen Builder. . https://www.amazon.com/Garden-Life-Organic-Collagen-Builder/dp/B01LQEMAJM/
A Few More Words About Collagen
This article is about consuming collagen naturally from foods or ingesting supplements as pre-made foods, pills, capsules, powders or liquids. But there are also topical collagen products such as creams and injections. Whichever form you use, really depends on your needs and deficiencies as determined by you and/ or your health professional.
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- “Collagen Amino Acids: Where They Come from and How They Work,” https://aminco.com/collagen-amino-acids/
- Healthline. “Here’s what You Need to Know About Vegan Collagen,” Mar. 23, 2019, https://www.echowatch.comvegan-collagen-2632363790.html
- Fletcher, Jennifer. “What to Know About Collagen Supplements,” May 31, 2019, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325344.php?utm_source=newsletter&utm...
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Beverley Byer