What is the deal with collagen?
Collagen comes in many shapes and forms in our body and is the most abundant protein in our body. It is found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, our digestive system, tendons and gives our skin strength and elasticity. Basically if you name a body part, collagen is most likely in it! Simply put it is the “glue” that helps hold the body together. As collagen becomes more popular, it is becoming more researched. So far, collagen supplementation has shown to improve skin elasticity, muscle strength (when combined with strength training) and has been effective in osteoarthritis management. It has also shown significant improvement in physical activity related to joint pain and overall joint health.
How do we get it?
If animal products are a part of your regular diet, then you are getting the amino acids needed to build collagen naturally. As mentioned above, other key ingredients are needed for the production of collagen like the all common vitamin C, and less commonly known mineral manganese, and amino acid proline. If you are eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, then your body should be stocked with these much needed helper nutrients. There are collagen supplements readily available at health food stores but if taking a capsule or a powder isn’t something you really enjoy, drinking bone broth or eating a soup that is made from bone broth is an excellent idea. Professional sports teams like the Los Angeles Lakers consume bone broth on a daily basis to help improve injury recovery time but also boost general muscle and joint recovery.
What if I’m a vegetarian?
If you are vegetarian, boosting collagen levels is certainly possible by simply ingesting the collagen building nutrients. By consuming a diet that is rich in vegetables, legumes, grains, and seeds your body will utilize those nutrients and available amino acids to improve collagen production. If you’re not sure which foods you need to eat and/or you have dietary restrictions, speaking to a naturopathic doctor would be very helpful.
What is the difference between cow or fish derived collagen?
The main differences are the types of collagen in each and how readily available each form is to our body. Cow-derived (bovine) collagen is a mixture of Type I and III collagen and is fish is predominantly Type I. Typically bovine collagen is used for joint and gut health and due to the shear size of the beef industry, this collagen is generally cheaper. If you’re looking for a bovine collagen, try to look for a collagen that is sourced from grass-fed and free range. Fish-derived (marine) collagen is usually made out of fish scales and is typically used for skin care, however it does benefit the other type I collagen containing locations in your body. Studies also show that marine collagen molecules are smaller and absorb into our bloodstream more efficiently than other forms but direct comparisons between bovine sourced and marine sourced collagen hasn’t been conducted yet. If you are someone with a fish allergy, selecting a bovine sourced collagen is going to be your best bet. Overall, bovine or marine, finding a “hydrolyzed” collagen is important because this means it is in its most available form for the body to utilize.
How do we keep collagen around?
There has been certain factors that have been closely linked with the depletion of collagen. Diets high in processed sugar, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol intake has been shown to deplete collagen levels, not to mention increasing the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease. Additionally, extreme sun exposure can deplete collagen levels specific to the skin as the ultraviolet rays penetrate deeper than just the outer layer of the skin. By making these small changes in your diet and lifestyle, you will ward of chronic disease and cancers but also you will feel younger and more vibrant!