Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it is the substance that holds the whole body together. It is found in the bones, muscles, skin and tendons, where it forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure. Surprisingly, 50% of your bone tissue is made from protein, and most of this protein comes from collagen. Gelatin is collagen before it’s broken down. Collagen supplements are made from hydrolyzed (broken down via heat) gelatin that is extracted from cattle, shark, porcine or chicken sternum. Alternatively, denatured collagen is when gelatin is broken down via heat and acid. Collagen will no longer create a gelatinous texture once its been broken down. All collagen supplements are derived from animals, and as such, they are not vegan friendly.
What is supplementation used for?
When it comes to collagen supplementation, some research suggests that it supports digestion and joint health, that it tones and tightens skin, and that it supports a healthy metabolism. Still, the most common effect seen in research is for the reduction of joint and arthritis pain. Hydrolyzed collagen may help make up for the natural decrease in collagen production that comes with age.
It is hypothesized that humans lose 1-2% of their skin collagen per year after age 30, in part due to UV irradiation. Supplementing your diet with bone broth and collagen may attenuate this process. Collagen is composed of the amino acids proline and glycine. Proline is the amino acid that promotes tight skin and prevents cellulite. Supplementation may help make up the deficit that is created as the aging process takes its toll.
Collagen protein supplementation is safe for those with digestive problems because collagen supplements are usually already broken down into its peptide form so it goes into your blood stream with minimal effort from the digestive system. A major issue for many is gastrointestinal permeability, otherwise known as ‘leaky gut.’ Leaky gut is when there is a hole in the digestive tract. Undigested food particles and lipopolysaccharides from bad bacteria can pass through the hole into your blood stream and trigger an immune response, resulting in system wide inflammation. Collagen may help mend leaky gut due to the amino acid glutamine, which supports the digestive system.
Consuming plenty of protein in your diet can help to create lean muscle tissue. Hydrolyzed collagen protein contains 6 grams of protein per tablespoon, but that does not mean that you should use it as your main protein source. It has a very low biological value, which means your muscles can’t use it very well in comparison to whey and other protein sources.
Our cortisol levels are naturally highest in the morning, and decrease throughout the day. With chronic stress, cortisol can be heightened in the evening making it difficult to fall asleep. Collagen contains glycine, which is an important amino acid for buffering cortisol at night to promote relaxation and restful melatonin levels.
Collagen increases osteoblastic differentiation, which is an important step in bone formation. One study even noted an increase in bone mineral density in osteoporotic women; however it is unknown as to whether supplementation would have the same result in a non-diseased population.
Dosage of Collagen
Therapeutic dose for joint pain reduction and bone mass increase requires a high oral dose of 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen per day.
A dose of 40 mg per day of undenatured collagen was associated with increased range of motion, but not with joint pain reduction. Though there is not a specific time of day recommended to take it, supplementing collagen prior to breakfast on an empty stomach may be ideal for the best results.
Benito-Ruiz, P., Camacho-Zambrano, M. M., Carrillo-Arcentales, J. N., Mestanza-Peralta, M. A., Vallejo-Flores, C. A., Vargas-López, S. V., … & Zurita-Gavilanes, L. A. (2009). A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 60(sup2), 99-113.
Lugo JP, et al Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2013)’
Takeuchi Y1, Nakayama K, Matsumoto T Differentiation and cell surface expression of transforming growth factor-beta receptors are regulated by interaction with matrix collagen in murine osteoblastic cells . J Biol Chem. (1996)