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  • Writer's pictureImogen Tingay

Are collagen supplements worth the hype?

Updated: Feb 14

Collagen Supplements are taking the wellness industry by storm, promising a youthful glow, resilience, and radiance. As an eczema sufferer who also has weak ligaments and hyper-extendable joins, I have certainly been drawn into the marketing and have found myself wondering if I’m missing out on something. For some they’re a staple part of their routine but it may be hard to know where to start when there are different types (vegan, marine and bovine) and, really, if they’re worth the money at all. Let’s start at the beginning..


 

What is Collagen

 Collagen is a protein that plays a role in maintaining the structure and integrity or tissues within the body. It compromises a significant portion of the skin, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. Collagen is essential for providing strength, elasticity and support to the body.

·       Type I collagen- most abundant and widely distributed collagen in the human body.  Found in skin ,tendons, ligaments and connective tissue

·       Type II – Found in cartilage, providing support and elasticity

·       Type III – Found in Skin, blood vessels and internal organs. Often coexists with type I, contributing to flexibility of skin.

·       Type IV – Forms a mesh structure and contributes towards tissue membranes

·       Type V – Found in hair, skins surface and placenta

·       Type X – Found in growth plates within bones

·       Type XI -Present in cartilage alongside Type II


 

Formation of collagen in the body (the science-y bit)

The synthesis of collagen is a complex and finely orchestrated process that involves different components working together to produce the triple/helix structure of collagen fibres.

1.      Amino Acids – Collagen is compromised of amino acids, particularly glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.

2.      Gene Expression – Our genes encode the instructions for collagen synthesis. Specific cells such as fibroblasts, chondrocytes and osteoblasts follow these instructions to produce collagen proteins.

3.      Protein Synthesis – Cells produce long chains of amino acids which then go through modifications to form ‘procollagen’.

4.      Procollagen formation – Procollagen molecules consist of three polypeptide-chains wound together in a triple helix structure. These procollagen chains then go through further modification including the addition of more amino acids.

5.      Extracellular matrix production – Once formed, procollagen is secreted into the extracellular space where enzymes remove excess amino acids. The result is the formation of mature collagen fibrils that can then contribute to the extracellular matrix of various tissues.

6.      Cross-Linking – These collagen fibrils then undergo a stage called cross-linking. This involved the formation of bonds between adjacent collagen molecules, providing strength and stability to the collagen network. Vitamin C plays a key role in the cross-linking process.

 


A picture showing the formation of collagen


What does the evidence say?

The evidence regarding whether eating collagen directly contributes to increased body collagen levels is not entirely clear-cut. While collagen-rich foods provide amino acids necessary for collagen synthesis, the body’s digestive process breaks down dietary collagen into individual amino acids. These are then absorbed and used according to the body’s needs.

Some studies suggest that consuming collagen may lead to increased collagen levels in the skin, providing potential benefits for skin health. However, more research is needed to establish a direct link between dietary collagen and elevated collagen levels in other tissues such as joints and muscles.

While collagen- rich foods can contribute essential amino acids for collagen production, the direct impact on body collagen levels requires further investigation.


Vegan, Marine or Bovine?

If you still want to take a collagen supplement, which one might be best for you? Let’s take a look at the different types that are generally available on the market.

1.      Vegan – Derived from plant-based ingredients, usually utilizing proteins from soy, pea o rice. Ideal for those adhering to a plant-based lifestyle but may lack certain amino acids crucial for collagen synthesis. Unsuitable for those with legume allergy.

2.      Marine – Extracted from fish or other marine animals, typically using the skin or scales. Offers a collagen structure close to human collagen. Unsuitable for those with fish allergy.

3.      Bovine – Obtained from cowhide or bones, primarily type I and type III collagen. Mimics the collagen present in human connective tissue, providing a comprehensive amino acid profile. Considered the highest standard of collagen for that reason.


 

Ultimately the superior collagen supplement depends of your personal preference, as does the decision to start taking one. I’ll be producing a guide to foods which are considered great for contributing to collagen production soon so please follow me on my Instagram account and keep an eye out for that! It will also be available within the resources page on this website.


If you’re keen for more information on foods that I deem excellent for overall skin health, please head over to the resources tab and search for my Skin Health ebook. It’s full of recipes that are full of vital nutrients for skin health. Find it HERE


Looking for individual help? You can send me a message or book in with me, just go to the services page.


Have an excellent rest of your week!

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