Is collagen good for you?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and the key structural component in our skin, muscles, bones, blood vessels and connective tissue. Collagen supplements are everywhere in the form of pills, powders, lotions, and drinks. But is collagen worth the hype?
Registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Money uncovers the truths, dispels the myths, and explains collagen’s effects on health.
Rania Habib (Host): Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and the key structural component in our skin, muscles, bones, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Collagen supplements are everywhere in the form of pills, powders, lotions, and drinks. US today estimated that Americans spent nearly $300 million in 2020 on collagen supplements. But is collagen worth the hype?
This is Flourish, a podcast brought to you by Prisma Health. I’m your host, Dr. Rania Habib. Joining me today is Lisa Money, a registered dietitian nutritionist who is board certified in sports dietetics with Prisma Health and she is here today to uncover the truths, dispel the myths, and guide you through collagen’s effects on your health.
Welcome, Lisa. And thank you for joining me today for this important discussion about collagen.
Lisa Money: You are most welcome. Thanks for having me.
Host: Let’s begin with a simple breakdown. What are collagen peptides?
Lisa Money: Well, as you said, collagen is found the most abundant protein in your body. And when you’re thinking about the collagen as far as peptides, collagen peptides have been hydrolyzed into a form that is easily digestible. And so, it’s basically peptides that are amino acids and it’s proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. So, that’s what makes up collagen peptides.
Host: Are there benefits to taking collagen supplements?
Lisa Money: There can be in certain situations. When someone has finished their growth spurt, so after the age of 19 or 20 years old, our bodies start to lose collagen and when your body is losing collagen, then It’s perfectly natural to try to make that up so that you get the complete benefits of a body that has 100 percent of this vital protein.
Host: So, we’ve seen that collagen exists in so many different forms. You can take them in pills, you can take it in powder, you can take it as gelatin. So, let’s specifically talk about powder collagen. What are the potential benefits and also the side effects of taking powdered collagen?
Lisa Money: The great thing to know about powdered collagen is that, again, we’re trying to replace the collagen that we’ve lost in our skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. And this powdered collagen is in the form that it’s most easily digestible. It has a heat tolerance to 570 degrees. So even if you heat it up, you’ll be able to digest it, and it will be able to be absorbed into the body readily.
Host: So, there are lots of people that strive to get their nutrition naturally from food instead of supplementation. What foods provide collagen?
Lisa Money: Well, again, collagen is from an animal product, and it’s usually gained from the collagen, the ligaments, the tendons, the hooves and the cells from animals such as cow, pig, chicken and fish. And so, those animals, when the skin, the tendons, the hooves have been ground down, you get the collagen and it’s the collagen 1 and collagen 2. And those are different types that are most readily available.
And I think the question to ask is which one is for what type of situation you have in your body. So for instance, if you’re looking for more elasticity in the skin, then you would want to take a collagen that has a type 1 in it. If you’re looking for more de-inflammation of your tendons and joints so that you have less knee pain, then you’re looking for collagen type 2.
Host: Can you take too much collagen, Lisa?
Lisa Money: It can happen. But most of the studies that we have looked at have anywhere from 5 to 10 grams of collagen ingestion for over five months, and there have been no adverse effects with taking that type or that amount of collagen. When they looked at randomized controlled studies, they have found that the typical adverse effects happen to both sides, either the ones that were taking the collagen or the ones that were in the group study, the control group, and they all tended to have migraines or a digestive issue, as far as constipation or diarrhea.
Host: Now, Lisa, I know that you mentioned that type 1 collagen versus type 2 collagen is important to what our end goal is. But is there one form of collagen that is more effective in delivering the collagen to our system?
Lisa Money: Earlier, when we were first studying collagen, we thought gelatin, gelatin was it. That was the easiest form of collagen, but the researchers started to find out that gelatin was difficult to work with, and it actually did not contain the triple helix that’s found in the collagen because it’s been denatured during the process of making the gelatin.
With the collagen peptides, they’re not put under the same heat processes that regular making of gelatin is. So, that triple helix is not destroyed in the collagen type 2. So, that’s the one that seems to be absorbed the best, and it’s also absorbed the best from bovine species.
Host: Okay. Now, we’ve heard a lot about bone broth as a great way to supplement collagen. What are your thoughts on that?
Lisa Money: There’s a lot of research on bone broth. But just recently, they have decided and discovered that bone broth does not have enough of the triple helix. So, it’s adequate if you drink enough of it, but you just can’t drink enough of it for it to do the trick.
Host: That’s good to know. Now, we know as Americans, we like to hoard things sometimes. So, is it safe to consume collagen powder that’s expired?
Lisa Money: Well, I know, during this time and age, and we’re trying to save money, it’s very tempting to do that. But because it is derived from an animal product, you kind of need to treat it like an animal product, and that means it usually a shelf life similar to whey protein. And so, that would be about 12 months. So as long as it’s been kept in a dry storage area and it’s been kept free from contaminants, you can feel pretty safe that you’re taking collagen that is healthy for you, as long as it’s under 12 months. Be aware though, because it’s a dietary supplement. If it doesn’t smell right or if it starts to taste funny, then better be safe than sorry and go ahead and throw it out.
Host: I love that advice. Now, as you had mentioned, we start to lose collagen around age 19 or 20. Is it safe to give children and teens collagen powder?
Lisa Money: Oh, that’s a great question, and one would think it would be safe. But as a dietitian, we always say food first. And so, teens and their bodies are growing during this time, so they are actually better at building collagen on their own if they simply use a food first approach and have the basic four food groups to include the dairy and to include their protein choices and their bodies will build that collagen up to the standards that we require. So, there’s just not enough research to use the dietary supplements for children under 18.
Host: Thank you for sharing that. Now, Lisa, you mentioned that there are so many different forms of collagen. What is better, marine or bovine collagen?
Lisa Money: I have many vegan patients that ask that question, vegan athletes and vegetarian. And we just have to go back to what is the most practical for the person to get that collagen absorbed. And because collagen is found in animal products, then there’s actually no collagen in the marine type products. There’s, similar types of amino acids in those products, but not exactly the same as the collagen and the triple helix.
I always tell people if it’s their form of living that they do not want to use any animal products, then the next best step can be the marine-based. But if they want to try to use a marine-based product that only has the scales of fish in it, then they can try to do that so they can get just a little bit of a type of collagen that mimics the bovine collagen.
Host: That is great information to know. Thank you for sharing that, Lisa. Is it better to ingest collagen or apply it topically?
Lisa Money: I even had to look that one up, Dr. Habib, that one was a very interesting one. You think about CBD oils and different things that people are using topically. And from what I have gleaned from this is that there’s no formal studies that even prove that oral collagen is most easily digested above a topical. However, the topicals that are absorbed are only the collagen type 1. And so, that would only be used for if you’re looking at skin elasticity. So, that would make sense since we see so much collagen in cosmetics. So, that’s why they do that is it’s probably the collagen type 1. And with collagen type 2, it does reach the bloodstream within an hour of ingestion. And so, you definitely will know that it’s ingested, but there’s not a lot of studies that prove that that’s how it’s being digested.
Host: Lisa, you’ve shared so much information today. Do you have any recommendations for us when choosing a collagen supplement?
Lisa Money: The best thing to do is safety first, because collagen is considered a dietary supplement. But the collagens that are out there that have been detected and have been inspected by consumer labs, all come from food products. And so, there has been no contamination from the collagen supplements that are out there now. But just to be safe, you want to pick a brand that has a label on it, very similar to this label here. That would be a third party testing. This has the label NSF and that can show that a third party has tested that product and it does in fact contain the collagen that it says that it contains. So, you would want to make sure that your collagen supplement is a pure supplement.
Host: And how often should we be taking collagen supplements if we decide to take them?
Lisa Money: Yeah. It’s perfectly fine to take collagen supplements daily for the rest of your life. You don’t necessarily have to stop taking them because again, as we start to lose the collagen in our body, we want to replace that. So, it would be great to have a commitment of taking that collagen on a daily basis, whether it’s in your coffee or in oatmeal or in a glass of juice. And as long as your GI system tolerates it fine and you’re in that habit, you can feel good that you are cushioning your joints using the collagen and you might be increasing the elasticity in your skin.
Host: Thank you so much for all your information, Lisa. This has been such an insightful episode. What final take home points would you like to share with our listeners and viewers today?
Lisa Money: As a sports dietician, I want to highlight that in the sports world, we use collagen and collagen for athletes who are rehabbing from tendon injuries. So just remembering that taking collagen an hour before an athlete goes to a rehab session can increase the cross bridging of those tendons and ligaments and that can help that athlete heal quicker and build stronger ligaments and tendons. So, I want people to remember you can use collagen in the rehab setting as well as for health and beauty.
Host: That is fantastic. Thank you so much to all of our listeners and viewers today for joining us on this episode of Flourish. For more information and to listen to additional episodes of Flourish, please visit PrismaHealth.org/Flourish I’m your host, Dr. Rania Habib. And this has been Flourish, a podcast brought to you by Prisma Health.
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