Curious about collagen?
Collagen supplements are one of the more popular supplements within the protein family. Just walk down the supplements aisle near the powders and you’ll see an assortment of collagen mixes, attracting the eye of bodybuilders, menopausal women, and arthritic seniors. I’m sure you’ve even asked yourself a time or two, should I be taking a collagen supplement? Today I’m going to help you answer that question. I’ll break down what collagen is, what it does, and help you decide which form is best for you.
What is collagen and what does it do?
Collagen are proteins within the body that make up the connective tissues’ structural components. Skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage are all made up of collagen. The three amino acids, proline, glycine and hydroxyproline are assembled into collagen fibrils. These fibrils are bundled into larger groups to make cable like structures which gives strength and elasticity to these tissues. Collagen’s main function is to provide structure, support, and strength to your body. It plays a role in regenerating skin cells, it provides strength and elasticity to skin, tendons, and ligaments. It also plays a role in helping blood clot. Collagen proteins make up about 25% of proteins found within the body.(1) Not all collagen is created equal, though. There are several different types of collagen and most fall within type I-V.
The five main types of collagen are found within different parts of the body.
Type I is densely packed and used to provide structure to your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. This one is the most abundant type of collagen.
Type II is found in cartilage and provides joint support.
Type III is found in muscle, arteries, and organs.
Type IV is found within the layer of your skin.
Type V is found in the cornea of your eyes, also within the layers of your skin, hair, and placenta. (2)
Like many proteins within the body, collagen production decreases as you age and existing collagen begins to breaks down at a faster rate. When collagen decreases, skin loses its elasticity leading to wrinkles and sagging. Tendons become stiffer and less flexible. Joints can also become stiffer and more prone to pain from worn cartilage. Gastrointestinal problems can also occur from the thinning of your digestive tract.
Now that you are really freaked out and convinced you too need collagen supplements, let me share what research has found. Like a lot of nutrition related topics, there is a lack of randomized controlled trials in this area to support all the claims the supplement companies would like you to believe. However, there are
studies to support the effectiveness of collagen on improving skin hydration and elasticity, relieving pain and join function in knee osteoarthritis, improving muscle wasting and repairing damaged gut lining. (2-5)
Wondering what type should I buy?
Personally, I skip the expensive powders and go the food-first route. Your body utilizes the individual amino acids that make up collage to produce more collagen. Eating foods that contain proline, glycine, vitamin C, iron, and zinc can support the production of collagen. You can easily make your own collagen-rich bone broth by slow cooking the leftover bones of chicken, beef, or fish. See Easy Bone Broth recipe below. Save your broth for soups, stews, or a healthy protein-rich drink to sip on when you’re at your desk and enjoy the benefits.
Easy Bone Broth Recipe
Ingredients: Use naturally raised and/or organic ingredients when possible
- 1 cooked chicken carcass, meat removed and reserved for another recipe; use the bones, skin and all pieces of the chicken besides the meat in your bone broth
- 1 white or yellow onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, scrubbed or peeled and cut in half
- 2 celery stalks, cut in half
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed open or cut in half
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Handful of fresh parsley (only add for last 30 min of cooking)
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 3–5 one-inch pieces of fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sea salt (optional, add more or less once broth is finished)
- enough filtered water to fill the pot
Step 1: In a 6-quart slow cooker, add the bones, skin, and everything leftover from the chicken after you removed the meat. Add all broth ingredients and enough filtered water to cover, about 1/2 inch from the top of the pot. Cover and set to high for 3-4 hours, or until the water comes to a simmer. Turn to low and let simmer 12-24 hours, or overnight.
Step 2: Strain broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheese-cloth (I find the fine mesh strainer to be easier). Discard everything else that was in the pot.
Step 3: Use your stock as the base of a soup or pour into mason jars to enjoy all week. Let the broth come to room temperature before putting in the refrigerator. It will keep in airtight glass containers with lids (I like to use mason jars) for up to 5 days and frozen up to 6 months.
- Tortora, Gerard J., Derrickson, Brian. Principles of Anatomy & Physiology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2014. p.36
- Wang H. A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies. Polymers (Basel). 2021 Nov 9;13(22):3868. doi: 10.3390/polym13223868. PMID: 34833168; PMCID: PMC8620403.
- Khatri M, Naughton RJ, Clifford T, Harper LD, Corr L. The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review. Amino Acids. 2021 Oct;53(10):1493-1506. doi: 10.1007/s00726-021-03072-x. Epub 2021 Sep 7. PMID: 34491424; PMCID: PMC8521576.
- Shaw, Gregory et al. “Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 105,1 (2017): 136-143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594
- Garcia-Coronado JM, Martinez-Olvera L, et al. Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritisritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Int Orthop. 2018 Oct 27.