We've been seeing plenty of articles lately touting the benefits of ingestible collagen. Whether you like your collagen in a capsule or prefer a drinkable powder, the question is...does it actually do anything for your skin?
First, what is collagen?
Collagen is a protein, with approximately 60% of it's makeup being the amino acids Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine. Collagen is found primarily in bone, skin and various tissues of animals, including human beings. When it comes to skin, collagen is an important factor in skin firmness, fullness and shape, and is necessary for keeping a youthful complexion. It's also an incomplete protein and a poor source of dietary protein. Think gelatin.
What influences collagen production?
Their are a few factors such as estrogen levels, diet, stress, and lifestyle that can influence our bodies ability to product collagen and maintain optimum levels to keep skin looking youthful. From a dietary standpoint, ensuring our bodies have the proper mix of amino acids, vitamin C and anti-oxidants is important in maintaining youthful levels of collagen.
- Proper balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are super important for collagen production
Is it beneficial to ingest collagen supplements?
While we won't say it isn't beneficial, there are better options. Collagen protein is primarily Glycine + Proline which are non-essential amino acids (meaning our bodies are able to produce these on their own) and an incomplete protein source.
Collagen lacks the essential amino acids which our bodies cannot produce, but are absolutely necessary in tissue repair and new collagen synthesis. These essential amino acids must be obtained through other food sources or additonal supplementation.
Once ingested a collagen supplement goes through the same digestive process as all other proteins, being broken into smaller chain amino acids and then "reassembled" by our bodies into complete amino acid chains and the building block of tissues and new collagen. To make the most of any protein source, it should be complete, containing all the necessary amino acids...this is where collagen on it's own comes up short.
- Higher quality protein sources will offer a greater benefit
- Collagen contains only 8 of 9 essential amino acids (it's an incomplete protein)
- Collagen is broken down once ingested just like all other proteins
- Other nutrients, such as Vitamin C, are necessary for collagen formation
So while we aren't against the use of collagen supplements, it's important to understand their limited ability when it comes to the maintenance and repair of healthy skin.
How can we support and preserve our bodies natural collagen levels?
Following a proper, balanced diet is extremely important in maintaining and encouraging optimum levels of our bodies collagen. If you are vegan, vegetarian, or consume very little or incomplete protein sources then a collagen supplement may show a benefit as one may be lacking certain amino acids to begin with. The key is ensuring our bodies have a complete mix of non-essential amino acids and nutrients to build the protein strains necessary for collagen production.
- Ensure a healthy balanced diet with adequate protein intake
- Eat high quality (complete) protein sources (should contain the 9 essential amino acids)
- Ensure your diet contains enough fruits and vegetables (Vitamin C and anti-oxidants are important for collagen synthesis)
While part of our bodies own process is the elimination of old collagen, we can minimize it's premature destruction by:
- Reducing sugars and refined carbs in our diets
- Avoiding excessive UV exposure
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding excessive alcoholic beverages
- Not smoking
- Reducing stress levels