Collagen is the main structural protein in the human body and a building block for skin, joints, bones and other connective tissues. We produce less and break down more collagen as we age and we also destroy some of it due to various lifestyle and environmental factors such as smoking, drinking, poor diet, stressing and UV exposure. Enter the Collagen Supplement.
Some studies have found that we can boost our collagen levels by eating collagen-rich foods such as bone broth or by a regular intake of either gelatin or collagen peptides based supplements. As a result, the health food market has been flooded with various collagen powders.
Don’t be fooled though, not all collagen supplements are the same and some might just give you stomach cramps and skin breakouts. So how do you choose the right one for you? Here’s our guide.
What is the best collagen supplement?
Here are a few things to consider when determining the best Collagen Supplement to take.
Specific bioactive collagen peptides
It is important to ensure your Collagen Supplement contains a determined amount or blend of specific bioactive collagen peptides. The collagen molecule is too large to get efficiently absorbed in our tissues and the best collagen supplement with the highest digestibility and bioavailability will contain specific bioactive peptides (hydrolysates).
Bioactive collagen peptides are essentially collagen chains hydrolysed to smaller particles (peptides) with a use of enzymes. This process makes the collagen more digestible. Different peptide combinations (amino-acid blends) target different tissues and they also activate the expression of the collagen–synthesising genes in three major tissue types- skin, joints and bones.
Not all available collagen peptide products on the market provide trial–based data for their individual peptide blends and they may not deliver adequate amounts required to increase gene expression of the collagen synthesising genes in the relevant tissue. Genuine, science-backed products are usually transparent about this information and publish it on their website or on the product packaging.
Gelatin is a partially hydrolysed collagen with lower bioavailability than collagen peptides. Studies indicate between 60% to 85% bioavailability of gelatin and over 95% for collagen peptides. Unlike collagen peptides, gelatin is produced under a heat and it has different properties. While collagen peptides powder is fully dissolvable in any hot or cold liquid, gelatin gels require hot water. While collagen doesn’t functionally add anything to your cooking, gelatin can be used as a thickener or to make desserts such as jello.
Vitamin C is the key cofactor for the two enzymes required for collagen synthesis: prolyl hydroxylase (to stabilize the collagen molecule) and lysyl hydroxylase (to give structural strength cross-linking).
A good collagen supplement will contain a significant amount or vitamin C from either natural sources (i.e. Camu Camu) or in the form of ascorbic acid.
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work? Other Cofactors To Consider when taking a Collagen Supplement
While bioactive collagen peptides with Vitamin C make an effective supplement without requiring any other additions, it can be beneficial to include other co-factors of collagen synthesis, especially for ageing individuals or for those with poor diet or malabsorption issues.
ZINC, for example, is a cofactor in the production of collagen and plays a fundamental role in collagen synthesis. This mineral is crucial to cell repair and helps protect collagen in the body from damage. Zinc deficiency can reduce collagen production within the body.
If you are taking collagen for skin health, SILICA is a great add-on as it plays an important role in dermal structure by stimulating collagen synthesis and by activating hydroxylating enzymes, thus improving skin thickness, strength and elasticity.
How much collagen should the best supplement contain?
You will need at least 2.5g (2500mg) of bovine or 5g (5000mg) of marine collagen per day to achieve significant skin improvements and double that for bone density as well as for ligament and tendon strength and healing. When you are choosing your collagen powder, don’t look at the number of serves, as some products only offer 2g of collagen per serve or less. Look at the total amount of collagen per box then divide it by 2.5g-10g (depending on your required outcome) to see how many doses there actually are in the product.
What will the best collagen supplement NOT contain?
Sugar is the number one enemy of collagen! Sugar in the bloodstream attaches to collagen and elastin molecules via the glycation process, forming harmful new molecules called ‘advanced glycation end products’ (AGE’s). The more sugar you eat, the more AGE’s you develop, and the more collagen and elastin fibres get damaged. The glycation process also transforms the most stable and long-lasting collagen fibres to more fragile fibres. This is one of the main reasons sugar makes us age on both the inside and outside. Too many AGE’s causes the skin to wrinkle, negatively impacts the biomechanical properties of tendons and leads to gut issues (due to damage caused to the intestinal lining resulting in inflammation).
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