Collagen is everywhere these days! The health food and grocery stores have their shelves fully stocked with all kinds of brands and types of collagens claiming to do a bunch of things like make you look younger and keep your joints strong. So, is collagen truly the answer?
Let's talk about collagen's role in our bodies. Firstly, collagen is a type of protein and there are over 16 different types of collagens within our tissues. The most common types of collagens found in our bodies are type I, II, and III. Each type plays a different role.
Type I collagen: This is the MOST common form of collagen, making up 90% of the collagen in our bodies. It is utilized to form supple skin, hair, strong bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and other connective tissues. As we age, our bodies slow down the production of type I collagen (and the other collagens) and this is part of the reason why wrinkles form, skin sags, and bones decrease in density.
Type II collagen: Type II helps make up cartilage which we mostly find in our joints. Cartilage lines the ends of our bones to protect them from bone to bone friction during joint movement. This type of cartilage is best for supporting those with arthritis or joint pain.
Type III collagen: This form is often found in tissues where type I collagen is present, especially the skin, bones, and even other organs like the heart. You will often find supplements combining type I and type III collagens because of this.
With that said - look closely at which type of collagen you are purchasing. Make sure the label tells you exactly which types of collagens are in the product so that you are getting exactly what you want and need. For those looking for a youthful look with supple skin and stronger, fuller hair type I&II are the best to support those areas. For those who are looking to increase bone density or may be dealing with osteopenia or osteoporosis, types I&III may also be of benefit. In fact, collagen may even have the power to reverse osteoporosis. It has been studied that just 5 grams of collagen a day for at least 12 months can show significant increases in your bone density! And for those those with joint issues like joint pain or arthritis, type II is the collagen for you.
Bone broth is a fabulous alternative to collagen powders especially if you are an avid do-it-yourselfer. Broths made from beef bones or fish bones tend to have more type I & type III collagens as well as the mineral content and micro nutrients needed for healthy skin and bones. Broths made from chicken bones tend to be a great source of type II collagen for joint support - extra tip: using chicken feet gives you even MORE beneficial joint collagen. You can buy bones from your local grocery store or butcher - I get mine from the New Seasons in my neighborhood. Always make sure you are using organic bones! There are tons of recipes online with added herbs and veggies for a tasty and medicinal soup. I make my bone broth in the slow cooker for 48 hrs. A full pot makes enough for a cup every day for 2 weeks.
And what about gelatin? Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen - ie. if you cooked down tendons, ligaments, hide and bones, you would then have gelatin (this is the substance that floats at the top of your homemade bone broth after its been refrigerated). If you cook down the gelatin some more and break down the proteins into even smaller bits called peptides, you end up with "hydrolyzed collagen" which is the powdered collagen supplements you find in the stores. Gelatin powders are also available on the market but the downside is that they only dissolve in warm water. The hydrolyzed collagen powders readily dissolve in both warm or cold water and make it easier to drink. The benefits of breaking down the gelatin into peptides also allows for easier digestion, absorption, and thus utilization within the body.
The moral of the collagen story is that there is likely some reason for you to benefit from consuming collagen, and, even if you get the "wrong" type of collagen, you will likely still benefit in some way. There are little to no known side effects from collagen. Will you be joining in on the collagen craze?
1. König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women — A Randomized Controlled Study. 2018. doi:10.3390/nu10010097