What is collagen? Are collagen peptides good for you? What are the benefits of eating collagen and how much, if any, should you have per day? How do you use collagen peptides in food? There are a lot of questions that I get about this popular new protein source, so I thought I'd give you the facts and my thoughts in today's blog post and video.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein found in the skin, hair, nails, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones and other tissues in animals that helps support those structures. In fact, it is the most abundant protein found within the body.
Where does collagen come from? What is collagen made of?
When collagen is hydrolyzed (i.e. "broken down"), it forms simpler protein units called peptides. Now, collagen peptides (sometimes called "collagen hydrolysate") are available in dietary supplements including powders, capsules, and tablets. Collagen available on the market today comes from both land and marine animals, primarily from cattle and fish. It is also sourced from chicken, pigs, and eggshell membranes. Because collagen is sourced from animal(s), collagen peptides are not considered a fit in a vegan eating pattern.
What are the benefits of eating collagen? Do collagen supplements work?
- Collagen may support skin health by improving skin elasticity. In an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study of women between 35 and 55 years of age, those who consumed 2.5 to 5.0 grams of collagen hydrolysate once daily were found to have a statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity, per objective measurements. That being said, no statistically significant difference was seen in skin moisture or in water loss through the skin. (Source)
- Collagen may support skin health by reducing the volume of wrinkles around the eyes. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Skin Pharmacology & Physiology in 2014, 114 women between the ages of 45-65 years were randomized to receive either 2.5 grams of a specific collagen peptide product or a placebo for 2 weeks. After both 4 and 8 weeks of consuming collagen, a statistically significant reduction in eye wrinkle volume was demonstrated in the collagen-consumers vs. those who consumed the placebo. (Source)
- Collagen may support joint health by improving joint pain. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of male and female athletes at Penn State University randomized athletes into two groups: the experimental group to consume a liquid formulation with 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate and the control group to consume a placebo. Measuring change through visual analogue scales, at the end of the 24-week study, those who consumed the collagen (compared with those who had the placebo) demonstrated statistically significant changes in joint pain at rest (as assessed by a physician), as well as joint pain at rest, when walking, when standing, when carrying objects, and when lifting (as assessed by the study participant). And, when a subgroup of those with knee pain in particular were assessed, even more pronounced changed were noticed among those who consumed the collagen. (Source)
- Collagen may support joint health by improving measures of pain and function in those with osteoarthritis. A review published in 2006 in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion shares that "collagen hydrolysate [appears] to be safe and to provide improvement in some measures of pain and function in some men and women with OA or other arthritic conditions." Yet, the authors point out their hopes for future research to clarify specifically how collagen exerts its clinical effects. (Source)
How much collagen per day should you have?
There are no standard recommendations for the amount of collagen a person should consume each day. As a general guideline, women need around 46 grams of protein per day and men need around 56 grams of protein per day, or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This can and ideally should come from a variety of food sources of protein, which may (or may not) include collagen peptides.
My bottom line clinical thoughts on collagen:
While collagen appears to be safe to consume, at the end of the day, more research is needed to elucidate how collagen consumption may provide specific clinical benefits related to skin and joint health.
It's exciting that the studies available showed statistically significant improvement in some factors of skin and joint health, but I don't think collagen alone is the miracle cure to heal arthritis and joint pain, nor is it a guaranteed sure solution for supple skin. There are a number of dietary factors that support both!
However, consuming collagen peptides may be an effective, easy, and alternative way to get additional protein and a variety of amino acids (particularly glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline) into your meals and snacks.
If you want to include collagen, go for it! Many collagen peptide powders are tasteless, odorless, and dissolve easily in water, so they can be included in smoothies and soups. In fact, I used collagen to make my tasty Tropical Green Smoothie. Check out the recipe below!
Tropical Green Smoothie with Collagen
- 1 cup of frozen pineapple
- 1 cup of kale, loosely packed
- 1 banana
- 1 cup of water
- 1 scoop of collagen peptides (containing ~10 grams collagen protein)
- 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
- Add the ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until thoroughly combined and smooth.
Will you say "YES" this Tropical Green Smoothie? Have you tried collagen before, and if so, how did you use it? I'd love to hear what you have to say, so drop a comment below!