Where is My Collagen Coming From? - Amandean

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April 23, 2021 6 min read

In this article:

  • Benefits of Collagen
  • Sources of Collagen supplements
  • Types of Collagen
  • Can Collagen be plant-based?

Benefits of Collagen

Collagen protein is the most abundant protein in the human body. All throughout our lives, our body produces collagen to serve as a building block for our connective tissues, joints, ligaments, eyes, blood vessels, and muscles, keeping them flexible and strong. It's the most important element of our anti-aging skincare routine by supporting skin elasticity, hydration, and thickness, to fight away wrinkles like no topical product ever could! We need this stuff! The problem is that as we age (and especially after menopause for women) our body decreases in collagen production and any collagen we alreadyhave can become damaged by free radicals. The good news is that we aren't the only ones who produce collagen. Collagen is produced by many animals and can be extracted into a pure collagen supplement. When consumed, collagen protein powder is broken down into amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Sustainably, ethically, and responsibly sourced collagen powder can help to alleviate joint pain, increase gains in the gym, and support healthy glowing skin in addition to many other health benefits including:

  • Maintaining vision
  • Improving skin clarity
  • Fighting off wrinkles and signs of aging
  • Reducing injury recovery time
  • Speeding up wound healing
  • Supporting joint health
  • Building lean muscle
  • Improving gut health
  • Preventing osteoarthritis

Sources of Collagen Supplements

The most common source of collagen supplements comes from animals. Cows, chickens, and fish all produce collagen in their skin and connective tissues. This means that aside from bone broth, you can't get collagen just by eating some chicken breast or a nice steak. Thus, dietary supplements were created! Collagen can be extracted from these animal sources through a process called “hydrolyzation” in which the collagen (or collagen hydrolysate) is broken down into a smaller molecular weight that can easily be absorbed by humans. When it comes to purity and sustainability, however, not all of these sources are equal.

  • Bovine Collagen:Bovine collagen is sourced from the hides of cows. In terms of sustainability, hydrolyzed collagen peptides can be looked at as a "zero waste" solution in that it makes use of an animal product that would otherwise be discarded. When it comes to purity though, finding an ethical source makes a world of a difference. Grass-fed, free-ranging cows produce the cleanest, purest bovine collagen possible. This also circumvents any concerns about using antibiotics or harmful additives that can be introduced in mass cow farms.
  • Chicken Collagen: Collagen can also be sourced from chicken cartilage and eggshell membranes. This is a common source in multi-collagen formulations and supplements that claim to only contain type II collagen. However, the way chicken collagen is made is one "can of worms" worth opening before you buy. Chickens spread disease quite easily. This is because they're often crammed into small rooms by the thousands. Cleaning out these rooms is difficult and time-consuming, which is costly for mass chicken farmers. This begs the question, are the rooms cleaned out at all? Chickens are often given antibiotics to help slow the spread of the disease, but when slaughtered for food or collagen, this gets passed on to the consumer. There is rarely a silver lining to this source, since "cage-free" just means that more chickens are put into a much larger room that is no longer classified as a cage. If you're concerned about purity in your supplement, try to avoid collagen sourced from chicken and/or eggshell membranes, as well as ambiguous "multi collagen" formulas that use inexpensive chicken collagen as a filler.
  • Gelatin: If you consider gelatin, you have started to understand the role of collagen in the body. It provides the spring to your step and helps to add volume and flexibility to your joints. Gelatin is basically cooked collagen that is often sourced from cows. But don't go running to the baking aisle or rip open a jello packet just yet! The source is incredibly important here too. If you want to make some homemade jelly, antioxidant rich gummies, or give your pie some more height, a high quality gelatin powder sourced from grass-fed, happy cows can do the trick! Supplement brands hydrolyze the collagen into smaller peptides to make them more bioavailable and bioactive.
  • Marine Collagen:Marine collagen comes from the skin and scales of fish and is considered the “creme de la creme” of collagen. Compared to collagen peptides, marine collagen can be hydrolyzed to a much smaller molecular weight to be better absorbed by your body. It also makes use of byproducts of the fishing industry, the skin and scales, and turns them into a high-quality and highly sought after product. Just like bovine collagen, not all sources of marine collagen are the same. Farmed fish can contain harmful additives and often has a strange odor and taste to boot. Wild-caught fish, on the other hand, help to ensure you are getting a purer and more natural supplement. If you begin looking for a marine collagen supplement, try to find one that not only uses wild-caught fish, but also one that is made of sustainably caught fish, which avoids overfishing.

Types of Collagen

Just as there are different sourcesof collagen, there are different typesof collagen as well. For example, chicken collagen (the source) is often used to source type II collagen. In fact, there are at least 16 different types of collagen but of all the collagen used and produced within the human body, types I, II, and III account for 80-90%. Though they all work together to support your joint health, muscle growth, and dermatology needs, each type can be found in different concentrations in various areas of the body, so certain types may be better for specific needs.

  • Type I:Type I collagen alone accounts for 90% of your body's collagen production and provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth. Both bovine and marine collagen are great sources of type I.
  • Type II: Type II collagen is found mostly in the cartilage and is great for supporting joint health. Marine and bovine collagen contain small amounts of type II collagen.
  • Type III:Type III collagen can be found in many of the same areas as type I collagen, albeit in much smaller amounts. Additionally, it's found in the blood vessels and arteries. It is a great choice for building muscle and restoring skin elasticity and clarity, especially when used along with type I collagen. Both can be found in marine and bovine collagen.

Can collagen be plant-based?

One potential downside of collagen supplementation is that it doesn't fit everyone's diet. In most cases, collagen is sourced from the animal products listed above, so it is not vegan. Recently, however, some vegan collagen supplements have been created. This is done by genetically modifying yeast and certain bacteria using human genes that code for collagen. Potentially, this could be a great alternative to animal collagen but as of now, not much research has been done to test the bioavailability of these supplements. Additionally, all this extra work comes with a higher price tag. Though there aren't many collagen-rich foods that are plant-based, consuming vitamin C, nuts, legumes, and beans may all support your body's natural collagen production.

There's never a bad time to start taking collagen supplements! Collagen has virtually no side effects outside of over-consumption and digestive issues. If you want to start, try consulting a doctor or dietitian first. When you begin your shopping journey, remember to be a curious, conscious consumer and look out for these qualities in a clean and effective supplement. Knowledge is power!

Summary Points

  • All throughout our lives, our body produces collagen to serve as a building block for our connective tissues, joints, ligaments, eyes, blood vessels, and muscles, keeping them flexible and strong
  • When consumed, collagen protein powder is broken down into amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline
  • Collagen can be extracted from animal sources through a process called “hydrolyzation” in which the collagen (or collagen hydrolysate) is broken down into a smaller molecular weight that can easily be absorbed by humans
  • There are at least 16 different types of collagen but of all the collagen used and produced within the human body, types I, II, and III account for 80-90%
  • Potentially, this could be a great alternative to animal collagen but as of now, not much research has been done to test the bioavailability of these supplements

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