September 20, 2018 10 min read

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    If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard a little bit about collagen. Perhaps you already know about popular collagen creams, or maybe seen it mentioned on other nutrition resources like Dr Axe, etc. So instead of forcing you to click around different links – each with its own terminology and scattered descriptions – we at Amandean decided to create a one-stop resource about the science behind collagen and the uses for our collagen peptides. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate tocontact us - we’d love to hear from you!

    Let’s start with a simple introduction: What is collagen, how is that related to collagen peptides and how did it become a popular product?

    What is collagen?

    “Collagen: comes from the Greek κόλλα (kólla), meaning "glue", and suffix -γέν, -gen, denoting "producing".” []Collagen is the most abundant protein found in our body. It makes up 25-35% of our total protein, and in specific areas like our skin that number rises to 75-80%. Collagen is literally the building block of most of what we are. The reason our body uses collagen as a key part of formation is because of just how adaptable it is. It’s a type of playdoh that can take on roles as either a rigid (e.g bones) or a compliant tissue (e.g tendons). 

    Nutrients then use collagen as a scaffolding for all those necessary functions – for example, antioxidants like vitamin A & C bind themselves to collagen toprotect our skin from harmful UV-rays.In fact, collagen from animals was originally used to make glue, as its sticky, sturdy fiber properties made it ideal for sticking things together.Being that collagen acts as connecting bridge for other nutrients, its availability is critical for our normal regeneration activities, like skin cell turnover, joint relubrication, even anti-inflammatory responses by ourgut.

    Collagen Supplementation

    Collagen Types

    Collagen comes in 5 types:

    • Type I: skin, tendon, vascular ligature, organs, bone (main component of the organic part of bone)
    • Type II: cartilage (main collagenous component of cartilage)
    • Type III: reticulate (main component of reticular fibers), commonly found alongside type I. 
    • Type IV: forms basal lamina, the epithelium-secreted layer of the basement membrane.
    • Type V: cell surfaces, hair and placenta

    Although for our purposes, types I & II are the most relevant – those are the ones our bodies use on a daily basis! Now don't overthink collagen: It's just a type of protein (a special one, however). It contains the 20 essential amino acids, most notably glycine, glutamic acid, arginine, proline, and many more.

    This is important because collagen has a unique makeup and ratio of these amino acids compared with standard protein like meat or dairy whey. This makes it unique in supplementing for specific areas of health like skin, joints, etc. We’ll go into more depth on this later.

    This is not to say you need to take a collagen supplement: Our body produces it naturally, mostly in cells called “fibroblasts”, which take in amino acid chains from other protein sources and convert them to the specific collagen protein chain.

    Unfortunately, this process degrades as we age. After age 30, our collagen production level drops 1%-2% every year. By age 40, we’re down 10%-20% of our total collagen production. Age 50, 20-40%. By age 60… we’re less than half of our former youthful collagen factory’s output. In comes collagen peptides.

    Hydrolyzed Collagen

    What are collagen peptides?

    Collagen peptides come from bovine hides. You can get collagen from any animal source. (Our own personal preference isnatural grass-fed pasture-raised South American bovine collagen, but we digress…)The process for making our collagen involves taking organic bovine hides and loosening their collagen content via an alkaline solution. It’s then specially washed and the raw collagen is extracted, and dried out, finally turning into a consumable hydrolyzed powder.

    You’ve probably read about “hydrolyzed” collagen, “hydrolysate collagen” and “gelatin collagen”. Essentially all collagen is hydrolyzed, but gelatin has a process that involves different alkaline washes and pulverization, resulting in a different solubility. Collagen skin creams use gelatin, for example.

    All you need to know is that hydrolysate collagen is easier to digest due to its lower molecular weight. You even see this when you’re using it: Amandean collagen evaporates very easily into any beverage, whereas gelatin needs to be baked or mixed into boiling water. So why can’t I get collagen from other sources? You can! Collagen is one reason bone broth is so popular in many special diets like paleo and primal. Bone broths retain at least some of the collagen proteins.

    However, you can’t get collagen from foods like cooked chicken skin -- at least, our bodies can’t absorb it. That’s because they’re still attached to all those other parts (remember, the Play-Doh effect), so the specific amino acid chains can’t be processed by our stomachs.

    To absorb collagen, it must be isolated from other things -- that involves some kind of special production process. Moreover, the tricky part about collagen is absorption: Molecular weight is key. Normal collagen hydrolysate has a molecular weight of 50000 daltons. Even better, Amandeancollagen peptides weigh in at 5000 daltons, meaning it can be more easily absorbed than other, less refined types

    Science behind Collagen

    Science behind Collagen

    So what's the real science behind collagen? Our cells in the body produce a special collagen fiber to become the basis of different tissues. Over time these fibers break down -- these are called peptides, loose collagen that floats around in our fluid. Special cells are tasked with collecting these loose peptides.

    After detection, the receptors in these cells absorb these peptides and bring them back into the tissue. You may recognize the name peptides: This is what collagen powder is, these pieces of loose collagen. As we age, our regeneration cycles become slower and slower. Less access to collagen is one reason for this. 

    The idea behind supplementing your diet with collagen is to make sure these worker cells have plentiful access to peptides in which to repair existing collagen fibers. There is evidence that these peptides are absorbed and used in our blood plasma. Gelatin hydrolysate is absorbed into the intestinal tract of mice, meaning it accumulates in their cartilage.

    This is backed by another study suggesting absorption in the organic substance content of bone. A 2016 study shows intestinal absorption in humans, suggested by peptide presence in urine and a higher CTP content in blood plasma. So now that we’ve explained what collagen is and how it’s made, let’s talk about its uses in our body. There are 5 main areas where collagen could improve health:

    • Skin, hair, and nails
    • Joint pain and recovery
    • Inflammation, digestion and leaky gut
    • Sleep
    • Muscle regeneration

    Skin, hair and nails

    Collagen consumption could help overcome the effects of aging and increase skin elasticity and moisture. As we age, we undergo a decrease collagen levelsthis reduces the firmness of the dermis, wrinkles, fine lines and other nasty appearances take hold on our skin.

    A 2014 study on the effects of hydrolysed collagen intake showed a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness after 12 weeks. The study suggests that extra collagen could stimulate fibroblasts, the cells that combine collagen with elastin and hyaluronic acid. [4]

    If collagen were the scaffolding for our skin, elastin is the bindings that give it the rubbery texture, allowing it to flex. Hyaluronic acid on the other hand is essential for the repair mechanism, the steps and floors that allow other compounds to repair the structure of the skin.

    Not only is collagen the structure of our skin, it’s also a key component in its protection.

    Remember, collagen is in the firing line. It’s literally on top of us, taking in all those environmental impurities like UV-light, toxic exposures from pollution -- and of course any bad foods we eat. Our body adapts to these by using certain vitamins as antioxidants. As we steadily lose our natural ability to produce collagen, different protectors of our skin cells (antioxidants) become less effective.

    This is where the combination of collagen with vitamins A & C could prove beneficial.

    Vitamin C for collagen production
    Before collagen is created, Vitamin C helps begin a precursor molecule called procollagen. And this is why a lack of Vitamin C leads to scurvy: Our skin literally can’t produce the collagen "glue" without it, and begins to crackle apart. A 2008 study came to this conclusion: “.. if vitamin C is administered, which in turn increases the biosynthesis of collagen.” [5]

    Vitamin A on the other hand has been shown to help glands with secretion. A lack of vitamin A causes the skin to become dry and scaly. This is because the all-important function of mucus secretion is suppressed. For collagen to pass into our skin, a well-functioning skin oil secretion system is needed – exactly what vitamin A provides.

    Cellulite is one condition that happens when skin is too thin. When collagen either can’t make it to the surface layer of our skin or the amount is insufficient, a deterioration of the skin’s dermis occurs. This causes fat deposits to clump together, causing issues with repair. This is why cellulite appears to get worse overtime -- our bodies can’t overcome the deficit needed for repair.[6]

    Another skin problem is Keratosis Pilaris -- extremely common condition that affects around 40% of the population. It’s caused by excess keratin, and is the reason for “chicken skin”, or red skin bumps.

    In effect, the natural rejuvenation process of our skin is interrupted -- Keratosis Pilaris is blocking collagen formation. Unblocking our pores requires a combination of vitamin A and omega-3s. After opening up our epidermal layers, healthy doses of extra collagen could help reverse keratosis pilaris’s negative effects, restoring the normal rejuvenation process.

    Nails also get a boost from collagen. Studies have shown collagen intake can reduce brittleness and improve the appearance of nails. [7]

    Collagen is an essential part of the rejuvenation process for our joints and ligaments. The tough framework of elastic collagen fibers makes them appropriate as a binder. The outer synovial membrane – essentially the ball and socket part of our joints – is made up of collagen. Its fibers help bind ligaments – such as cartilage like meniscus –to create a sturdy yet flexible hinges for our joints.

    Cartilage is essential in reducing friction in joints and serves as a "shock absorber." Its rubbery properties give it the ability to change shape when compressed – and spring back very quickly.

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    Unfortunately, wear and tear through exercise or other activities causes cartilage to become weak and lopsided. Inflammation begins to occur as other parts of our joints absorb greater pressure. Cartilage then starts to crumble and flake throughout – causing even more inflammation.

    • 100% of tendons are made of Types 1&3 collagen
    • 86% of ligaments are made of Types 1&3 collagen
    • 60% of cartilage is made of Type 2 collagen
    • Lubricating joint fluid is hyaluronic acid and water

    It’s really a vicious cycle. Many of us know this through first-hand experience: We start to feeling pain, and we work through the pain, often by changing our movements. Maybe we pick our feet up less off the ground. Or perhaps we cheat more in yoga by leaning too far to one side.

    The end result of this is an imbalance. This is why it’s important to keep our joints healthy, continually monitoring our routine and diet for ways to avoid this spiral.

    Providing our body with the raw, essential ingredients so it can repair itself makes sense. A German study in 2000 found that collagen hydrolysate did find its way to different joints, suggested by elevated levels of floating collagen in cartilage areas.[8]

    Collagen could even have benefits for healthy athletes not suffering from acute joint pain. In 2006, researchers administered hydrolysed type-II collagen supplements with a placebo control group, and found a positive effect on pain levels for all movements, including standing, walking and running. [9]


    Collagen for Athletes
    Nor are athletes the only ones who could receive a boost from extra collagen. Studies have suggested collagen could help supplement treatment for arthritis conditions affecting the elderly.

    Osteoarthritis is a condition representing extreme degradation in joint sockets. As cartilage wears down, the bone becomes exposed to socket movements, compressing the space joints have to move. This results in discomfort and pain. It’s not pretty, and affects about 10% of males and 18% of females over 60 years of age. Given that age reduces collagen production, an intake of collagen peptides has been shown to reduce pain and restore mobility in sufferers of osteoarthritis. [10][11]

    Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is the chronic inflammation of joints. The synovial membrane becomes greatly swollen, resulting in damage to tendons and bone loss as the joint losses full mobility. Collagen may improve mobility and reduce swelling by binding itself onto therefore lowering the ratio of IL-6 cytokines compared to the IL-8 variety. Normally these cytokines assist our joints in the normal healing process, but rheumatoid arthritis creates an overreaction, leading to over-inflammation. Collagen reduces this inflammation, leading to less pain.[12] [13]

    In addition, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends collagen to help promote faster healing.  [14]

    Inflammation and leaky gut

    Nutrition has been undergoing a massive rethink over the last 15 years. Nutritionists like Chris Kresser or paleo diet proponent Mark Sisson are big believers in how systemic inflammation can have major detrimental effects on our long-term health. The theory centers around a condition known as “leaky gut” – an intestinal issue that leads to leakage of bad bacteria.

    Here are some goodstartingpoints if you’re interested in learning more.

    A leaky gut is a hypothesis that digestion issues can lead to malabsorption of vital nutrients. Gluten, cow dairy, sugar, and GMO foods promote bacterial growth in the lower intestine, causing an inflammatory response that promotes systemic conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, skin issues like eczema, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and more.

    Collagen contains the amino acids proline and glycine, known for repairing damaged intestinal lining. The idea is collagen settles your stomach with its powerful amino acid chains, helping your body properly break down bad nutrients before they leak from your gut and cause a negative inflammatory chain reaction.[15]


    Benefits of Collagen for Sleep

    Have difficulties sleeping? You’re not alone. Even with the recommended hours of sleep per night, 35% of Americans believe their sleep to be “poor” or “only fair.” 20% of Americans report that they didn’t wake up refreshed in any of the last 7 days. [16]

    Glycine, an amino acid found in collagen peptides, can improve sleep quality with no adverse side effects. A study of mammals found oral administration of glycine increases extracellular serotonin release in the prefrontal cortex, leading to better sleep patterns. [17]

    Collagen peptides also help settle stomachs by repairing intestinal lining, as mentioned earlier.

    Muscle regeneration and weight loss

    Did you know up to 20% of Americans have a whey allergy? Whey protein is a by-product of the dairy manufacturing process, meaning people with sensitivities to milk products could also see the same symptoms from whey consumption.

    Luckily, grass-fed collagen peptides powder is a great substitute for whey protein powder. Containing 20 essential amino acids, collagen has been shown to increase leucine -- a fundamental part of muscle protein synthesis -- making it suitable as a post-workout recovery nutritional choice. [18]

    A conducted in 2006 by French researchers INRA-AgroParis Tech , showed that collagen peptides are more effective than a standard dairy protein in weight management. The theory is that hydrolyzed collagen has a more complex amino acid chain than dairy whey, meaning it takes longer to breakdown in our intestines and making is a better appetite suppressant. [19]

    As you can see, collagen peptides provide numerous benefits for health and well-being.

    Thank you for reading!

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