A new trend in supplement – Collagen is referred to as the glue that holds the body together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kolla” that means glue and “gen” that means produce. Collagen is a protein and the most abundant one found in the body.
Types of Collagen
It plays an indispensable role: Collagen is a building block for bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin. The teeth, eyes, and blood vessels also contain some amount of collagen. Collagen comes in four types, I, II, III, and IV.
Type I is the most plentiful and gives skin, bones, teeth, and connective its structure. Type II is flexible and cushions joints. Muscles, arteries, and organs are supported by Type III collagen. Type IV works as a filter and is found in the skin.
Collagen breaks down faster than it is replaced as we age. Because of this, the skin, bones, and joints can be affected: Skin becomes less plump, and wrinkles develop. Arthritis, achy joints, weak muscles are other symptoms related to the body not producing enough collagen.
1980s Plump Lips
In the 1980s, collagen became popular for plumping up lips and smoothing wrinkles on the skin when injected. The injections didn’t always give desired effect; lips looked swollen instead of plump. While the injections are no longer popular, collagen is once again trending. While collagen is still a “fountain of youth” treatment, supplements have replaced injections.
Research on Collagen Supplements
Some small studies in the last few years suggest that ingesting collagen may help improve skin, heal wounds, stop muscle wasting, and reduce the symptoms of arthritis:
- Skin elasticity improved in women who took 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen a day for eight weeks compared to women who didn’t a 2014 study found.
- Another study found supplements made from chicken collagen reduced dryness and wrinkles and increased blood flow to the skin.
- Pressure ulcers are a concern for long-term care patients. A study involving 89 residents who took collagen supplements three times showed their wounds healed twice as fast as patients who didn’t take collagen supplements.
- A study on sarcopenia, a muscle wasting disease caused by aging, found that elderly men in the study who consumed 15 grams of collagen a day gained muscle mass. Along with the intake of collagen, the men also lifted weights three times a week.
- Collagen for arthritis in studies has shown mixed results as well as for those with sport-related joint pain.
- Collagen is recommended by some naturopathic doctors and other alternative and complementary practitioners for the leaky-gut syndrome.
Concerns about Collagen Supplements
There is a caveat, however, to the studies. Physician and director of the complementary and alternative medicine program at the University of Michigan, Mark Moyad, says the studies are small and were partially funded by the collagen industry. While he thinks there are some problems with the research, he also believes there may be some promise in collagen supplements.
Another of Dr. Moyad’s concerns is the safety of potentially consuming containment and heavy metals from grinding up animal parts. Because all parts of the animal (hide, hooves, nerve tissue, etc.) is ground up, there is also a concern for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Also known as, mad cow disease, the FDA in 2016 banned the use of some cow parts for dietary supplements. However, the FDA exempted gelatin from the prohibition; gelatin is one of the leading collagen supplements.
Some research has also shown there can be side effects from taking collagen supplements. High calcium levels can occur from collagen supplements made from fish sources. Fish-resourced supplements can also cause an allergic reaction as can those supplements made from eggs. Collagen supplements may also increase insulin secretions. If you have allergies to fish and eggs, it’s important to read labels and know the source of the collagen.
Buying Collagen Supplements
Many companies are aware of these concerns and advertise their products as being tested for heavy metals, contaminants, and are BSE free. As a guide, health experts recommend that consumers do their homework before buying collagen supplements.
For example, buy supplements from companies that get their animal ingredients from cage-free, free-range, and organic sources. Also, look for trusted companies who have third-party certifications that verify their ingredients are pure.
They also suggest refraining from purchasing collagen supplements that have other ingredients such as probiotics and other additives that can interfere with how well it works.
Getting Collagen from Sources other than Supplements
Another option to know for sure the purity of collagen you are consuming is to get it from whole foods. Broth, soup, or stock made from chicken, fish, or beef with bones is an excellent source of collagen.
Also, you can help your body to make collagen by consuming foods that aid its production. Here’s a list of collagen-producing nutrients:
- Proline is found in egg whites, cabbage, asparagus, mushrooms, wheat germs, and dairy products.
- Glycine is in many types of protein foods such as pork and chicken skin.
- Copper is found in cocoa powder, sesame seeds, cashews, lentils, and organ meat.
- Vitamin C is in citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers.
- Amino acids found in protein also help to make new proteins. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, soy products are some sources of protein.
You can also slow the breakdown of collagen by changing certain lifestyle habits and avoiding certain types of food:
- Smoking slows collagen production.
- Excessive alcohol consumption interferes with vitamin A production. Vitamin A is important for making collagen.
- Sugar and other refined carbohydrates found in white flour and rice interfere with collagen repair and the manufacturing process.
- Ultraviolet radiation from too much sun exposure reduces the body’s ability to produce collagen.
Types of Collagen Supplements
The two most popular types of collagen on the market are hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin. In supplemental form, the large proteins in collagen are broken down into smaller peptides. It makes it easier for the body to absorb the proteins.
Hydrolyzed collagen comes in a powder that is incorporated into smoothies and other foods. Gelatin forms of collagen are used to thicken foods, such as jello or “gummy” candies. Collagen also comes in capsules and tablets.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner before consuming any supplements or using any new therapy. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat any medical condition or recommend any therapy.
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Nnama, Helen. Side Effects of Taking Collagen Supplements (November 4, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/325664-side-effects-of-taking-collagen-supplements/.
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