Collagen, what is it and is it worth it?

I’m sure you’ve heard of collagen and are either currently taking some or you know of someone taking some. But what is it and is it worth it?

Collagen can be described as the glue to our body. It is the most abundant protein, and one of the primary building blocks of our muscles, skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. It is also found in our teeth, blood vessels, and corneas. Collagen supplements are extremely popular as they are said to improve skin health, support joints, aid muscle mass, and support gut health. Now, in simplified terms, we form collagen by combining two amino acids, glycine, and proline, with the aid of vitamin C. However, as we age, our collagen production decreases as well as the quality that we produce. Thus, many people turn to supplements.

All collagen supplements on the market are sourced from non-human animals. Generally, from cows (bovine), pigs (porcine), or fish (marine), providing the consumer with their connective tissue, bones, skin, and so on, in powdered form for easy consumption. Therefore, there is no such thing as vegan collagen.

However, what most consumers don’t know is that when you consume collagen, it doesn’t just magically end up being used as collagen. Your body breaks it down first (because it’s a type of protein) into its amino acids (proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline) to then be used wherever it needs. This may be for collagen synthesis, or it may not. It all depends on what your body needs those amino acids for.

So, to put it simply:

Consuming collagen = increased protein intake + possibly increased cofactors required for collagen synthesis intake

So, why not just increase protein and those cofactors directly? Whether that’s through a supplement or your diet?

To support your body’s own collagen production ensure adequate intake of these nutrients:

  • Vitamin C - citrus fruits, berries, capsicum, kale, broccoli

  • Proline - wheatgerm, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, soy, nuts, seeds

  • Glycine - soy products, nuts, seeds, beans

  • Copper - sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut milk, cashews, lentils

  • Protein in general - ensure RDI is being met

  • Or look for vegan collagen supplements that are formulated with these nutrients.

And reduce these as these can damage collagen and decrease collagen synthesis:

  • Diet high in refined and processed foods

  • Smoking

  • Excess sun exposure

  • Excess and chronic stress

And consider:

  • Getting regular blood work done

  • Questioning the need to take collagen (e.g. has hair loss started, do you have gut problems, etc.?)

  • Seeking the help of a qualified health practitioner to work with you to get down to the root of what's going on instead of trying to treat yourself (usually results in more money being spent and more time being ill)

By choosing to increase our intake of whole plant foods to support collagen production naturally through our diet, we subsequently improve the rest of our health too.

Of course, if you are feeling the need to try collagen supplements, I recommend speaking to a qualified health professional first to determine if it aligns with what you are wanting it for. And if you’d like more 1:1 guidance in supporting your hair, skin, nails, and connective tissue, please send me a message or book in for a consult here.

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