What’s the Scoop on Collagen Powder?

Your skin covers your whole body and is a protective barrier from all sorts of environmental dangers [1]. Part of what makes your skin is a type of protein called collagen.

Collagen is a protein found in our skin, bones, joints, and other tissues to help maintain strength, structure, or elasticity [1]. There are different types of collagen:

  • Type I is found mostly in skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type II found in cartilage and skin as well [2]. When our skin ages, it’s because the collagen in it is deteriorating. Type I is found mostly in skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type III is typically found with Type I and is also a component of connective tissue [2].

I keep hearing about different types of collagen supplements. How are they different?  

The collagen supplements you may see in health food stores come from three major sources – chicken, bovine (from cows), and marine (from fish). Since cow and marine collagen are usually Type I, it is often recommended by professionals for healthier skin. Chicken collagen, which is usually Type II, has gotten attention in recent years for its rumoured role in joint health. 

Is it true that collagen levels decrease naturally over time?

Yes! As we age, your body breaks down collagen at a faster rate in your skin, bones, and joints. Here are a few signs you can begin to notice with time [3][4]:

  • Wrinkles on your skin
  • Aching muscles
  • Issues with your gut
  • Poor wound healing

I’ve noticed some of these things! Will collagen powder help me?

So you’ve noticed some wrinkles and are considering collagen supplements. The thing is, though, that consuming collagen supplements does not necessarily mean it will go straight to your skin (or joints) and make them healthier or stronger.

Let’s look at what happens in our body when we consume collagen supplements [5]:

As shown above, your body will decide where and how to use the amino acids broken down from your collagen powder supplement.

But what does the research say?

Good, unbiased research articles that show clear benefits to taking collagen supplements are few and far between. While waiting for more conclusive evidence to come through, it is important to remember that our bodies are amazing and actually make collagen naturally anyways! By consuming a balanced diet with enough protein and making sure you aren’t missing out on important vitamins and minerals, you will be able to give your body the tools to make the collagen you need.

So what’s needed to make collagen? 

Your body needs protein, vitamin C, and trace minerals like zinc, sulfur, and copper to make collagen. Let’s explore each one:

  • Vitamin C and other antioxidants not only help with making collagen but also protect it [5] [6]. It can be found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli. 
  • Zinc assists in the process of making collagen and also comes in handy with wound healing [6]. It is mostly found in meat, whole grains, pulses, and seafood, so consider foods like bran cereal, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, organ meats, and even oysters for some natural sources of this important mineral.
  • Sulfur as part of glutathione prevents the breakdown of collagen in your body [7]. It can mostly be found in protein foods and things like onion and garlic. If you’ve ever wondered what makes these foods taste and smell the way they do, sulfur is your answer!
  • Copper is a major player in building collagen. It can be found in organ meats and seafood such as lobster and oysters [8]. For those hoping to avoid animal products, sesame seeds contain some copper as well. Vitamin C and other antioxidants not only help with making collagen but also protect it. It can be found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli. 
In conclusion…

Collagen production is actually quite simple: by eating a well balanced diet and a variety of healthy foods, you can ensure that you’ll get all the nutrients your body needs naturally. And most of all, you won’t have to spend money on supplements 😉

Until next time,

Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD & Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualized nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

References:

[1] Vollmer, D., West, V., & Lephart, E. (2018). Enhancing skin health: By oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. International journal of molecular sciences19(10), 3059.

[2] Ricard-Blum, S. (2011). The collagen family. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 3(1), a004978.

[3] Avila Rodriguez, M. I., Rodriguez Barroso, L. G., & Sánchez, M. L. (2018). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 17(1), 20-26.

[4] Rangaraj, A., Harding, K., & Leaper, D. (2011). Role of collagen in wound management. Wounds uk, 7(2), 54-63.

[5] Murad, S., Grove, D., Lindberg, K. A., Reynolds, G., Sivarajah, A., & Pinnell, S. R. (1981). Regulation of collagen synthesis by ascorbic acid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 78(5), 2879-2882.

[6] Bishop, A., Witts, S., & Martin, T. (2018). The role of nutrition in successful wound healing. Journal of Community Nursing, 32(4).

[7] Liu, R. M., Liu, Y., Forman, H. J., Olman, M., & Tarpey, M. M. (2004). Glutathione regulates transforming growth factor-β-stimulated collagen production in fibroblasts. American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 286(1), L121-L128.

[8] Harris, E. D., Rayton, J. K., Balthrop, J. E., DiSilvestro, R. A., & Garcia-de-Quevedo, M. (1980). Copper and the synthesis of elastin and collagen. In Ciba Foundation Symposium (Vol. 79, pp. 163-182).

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