Collagen supplements are all the rage these days. You can’t even walk through the supermarket without seeing some kind of collagen snack. Originally, collagen was mostly sold in the form of skin creams but now you can find it in a range of oral powders, pills and food products. Unfortunately most people have no idea what it is for or whether it’s worth taking. If you are one of these people in the dark then read below to find out what all the hype is about.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a protein naturally found in your body. It comes in a few different varieties but the most common are:
- Type I (the most abundant, found in connective tissue, very strong)
- Type II (found in your cartilage and bones)
- Type III (found in organs and blood vessels, helps with wound repair)
- Type IV (found in cell membranes).
Collagen exists to strengthen your skin and joints. Without sufficient collagen, your skin can become wrinkly, dehydrated and lacking in elasticity. If you have tough nails, thick hair and no joint pain, then it is likely your body produces collagen efficiently. Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone and some may want to consider supplementation.
Who should take it?
Although negative side effects of collagen supplementation are very rare, there is no point taking a supplement unless it is going to be beneficial to you. Due to the fact our collagen production decreases as we age, those who are getting on in life would benefit most from supplementation. It is estimated that from the age of 20, we produce 1% less collagen every year. This is generally why older people can have thinner skin and more fragile bones. If you are aged 20 or older, then perhaps you should seriously think about collagen supplementation.
Benefits for skin
As with most things, more research needs to be done before we jump to any conclusions. In saying this, studies show that collagen supplementation can have some real benefits for skin health. Researchers have found that oral collagen supplementation improves skin elasticity and can make a tangible difference in the appearance of wrinkles. . This result has been replicated in many other studies.
Although the experts are not sure yet what the mechanism behind these benefits is, it is well established that collagen can effectively improve your skin’s appearance and ability to repair itself. This is great for those who want to look younger or people who notice their cuts and nicks have been taking their sweet time to heal. It is also worth noting that oral supplementation may be superior to collagen creams that are applied to the surface of your skin.
Benefits for joints
Collagen is not just for aesthetics, it can make a noticeable difference to the health of your joints. Supplementation can help improve cartilage thickness which is important for athletes as well as the general population. Athletes in this study felt less joint pain after supplementing hydrolysed collagen for 24 weeks. No one wants to have weak joints that are constantly aching. It is not yet clear if collagen can improve symptoms of osteoarthritis but the research is promising. As you get older, your joints become stiffer and lose the strength they once had. If feeling supple and strong is important to you then a collagen supplement might be a worthwhile investment.
How do I know which collagen to take?
Collagen supplements are ubiquitous but not all are made equal. Products vary in the type, dosage, calorie content, taste and origin of the collagen used. The correct one to buy will depend on what you are using it for.
NZProtein hydrolysed collagen is a combination of type I and III. These types are most commonly used for the improvement of wound healing and skin elasticity. This product is sourced from bovine collagen and is hydrolysed. This means it is already broken down and will be easier for your body to absorb. If you like tasty drinks without all the sugar then this type of collagen would be suitable for you. It comes in three yummy flavours or an unflavoured option for those who just want to add it to smoothies or baking. Hydrolysed collagen is a versatile supplement for joint and skin health. If you don’t fancy taking it in drink form, you can add it to a range of exciting recipes.
NZProtein marine collagen uses type I collagen from fish peptides. This product would be suitable for those who do not consume bovine products for ethical or cultural reasons. Additionally, fish collagen is thought to be more bioavailable due to the particles being smaller in size than bovine. Like our other collagen product, this one is hydrolysed to ensure it is absorbed as rapidly as possible. If you aren’t fussed on taste, NZProtein marine collagen will be perfect for you. It comes unflavoured and can be added to anything your heart desires (even cookies).
For those getting on in age, collagen might be worth taking. Especially if you are concerned with maintaining a youthful appearance and avoiding joint pain. The type of collagen you get will depend on personal preferences and what you are using it for. Maybe you want a fruity flavour or perhaps you’re content with a basic powder that you can sneak into smoothies and baking.
Keep an eye out for hydrolysed options with minimal additives and honest labelling. Products that declare the source and type of collagen on the label tend to be more trustworthy than ones that contain a blend of unspecified ingredients. Take the recommended amount (anywhere from 2.5-15 grams daily has been shown to confer benefits). Be consistent with supplementation for at least a couple of months before deciding whether to continue. If you notice your hair and nails are feeling tougher and your joint pain improving, then you can be assured the collagen is doing the trick.