Collagen supplements have seen a boom in the health and wellness world over the past few years with promises of smoothing skin, growing luxurious locks, and boosting bone health. What is all the hype surrounding hydrolyzed collagen and is it truly worth it?
What Is Collagen?
Named after the Greek word kola or “glue,” collagen is a major structural protein that makes up between 25-35 percent of the proteins in our body. Similar to the scaffolding of a building, collagen proteins help stabilize the structural integrity of our bones, joints, blood vessels, skin, digestive system, and more. Although there over 28 different types of collagen throughout the body, type I, II, and III dominate the playing field, comprising between 80-90 percent of all collagen proteins in the body. Of these, type I collagen is the strongest and important for skin health and wound healing, type II is heavily populated in cartilage and joints, and type III comprises the extracellular matrix of our skin and organs (1). All collagen proteins are composed of complex strands of 19 different amino acids (building blocks of protein). The three most concentrated amino acids include proline, glycine, and glutamine, all of which have their own incredible health benefits, including boosting cardiovascular health, aiding cellular detoxification, and supporting neurotransmitter production.
Several cells in the body are responsible for producing sufficient levels of collagen, including fibroblasts and epithelial cells, both of which are housed in soft and connective tissues. Unfortunately the production of collagen slows down with age, inflammation, poor diet, and excessive sun exposure (2), and thus can contribute to imbalances in the skin, hair, GI tract, bones, and joints over time. Luckily in today’s health and wellness world, high quality collagen supplements are easy to come by and include those sourced from beef (bovine), pork (porcine), chicken, eggshell membrane, and fish (marine), each of which have varying arrays of collagen types. Beef collagen is rich in type I and III, chicken collagen is high in type II, marine collagen is loaded with type I, and eggshell membrane has type I, III, IV, and X (3).
What Is Hydrolyzed Collagen?
“Hydrolyzed” collagen is a type of collagen that has undergone enzymatic hydrolysis, which includes the use of water to help break down large strands of amino acids into short chains.
Those shorter chains are easily assimilated by the cells of the body. Since collagen protein by itself cannot easily be broken down or utilized, hydrolyzed collagen (aka “collagen hydrosylate” or “collagen peptides”) is recommended.
In addition, due to the hydrolysis process, hydrolyzed collagen’s versatility far extends that of its cousin gelatin, which has a tendency to “gel” in hot liquids.
5 Health Benefits of Hydrolyzed Collagen
BONES & JOINT BESTIE: Fascinating research from The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitamonology showed that oral consumption of hydrolyzed collagen significantly increased the size and composition of fibrils in the Achilles tendon (4). Fibrils are an important type of fiber responsible for maintaining the structure and elasticity of our bones and joints (5). Outside of supporting joint structure, the regenerative properties of collagen can help mitigate discomfort associated with “wear and tear” of our joints.
A separate study of athletes given collagen hydrosylate showcased significantly lower levels of inflammation-associated joint discomfort compared to others over a 24-week period (6).
BEAUTY BOOSTER: As the clock turns over year after year, the body’s ability to produce sufficient collagen dwindles. The classic signs of aging such as sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, and thinning hair begin to appear. A randomized, double-blind controlled study showed participants using hydrolyzed collagen over a 12-week period had significant improvements in skin elasticity, hydration, and levels of wrinkling compared to placebo groups (7) and collagen supplementation was shown to support the fast-growing cells in the hair and nails with nutrients needed to maintain proper strength and sufficient growth (8).
WONDROUS WEIGHT SUPPORT: Being purely protein, collagen hydrosylate helps maintain lean muscle mass, which is much more metabolically active then fat tissue. A loss of lean muscle mass due to age and lack of exercise has been correlated with increased waist circumference, BMI, and body weight. Utilizing a versatile collagen powder or supplement can help negate some of these negative consequences (9). The protein content of collagen also boosts the rate of thermogenesis that occurs in the body, a process that burns fat as a source of fuel.
As if that wasn’t enough, due to the lengthier amount of time (and energy) needed to break down protein, consuming higher protein foods such as collagen can help slow down the rate of food digestion, equating to longer feelings of satiety (meaning you can keep cravings at bay)!
IMMUNE & GUT GO-TO: Epithelial cells of the gut depend on sufficient amounts of collagen to maintain their integrity. Due to the constant “use and abuse” of our GI tracts, maintaining the connectivity between the tissue cells that line our guts can be supported through collagen (10). Additionally, since nearly 80 percent of our immune system is housed inside our gut, collagen can help maintain proper inflammatory levels and immune-cell signaling. Speaking of inflammation, glycine (one of the primary amino acids in collagen) is a rate-limiting factor in the synthesis of the body’s master antioxidant glutathione, which is needed to help break down toxins, enhances liver health, and support DNA and cell division.
HEART HELPER: The concentrated proline content of collagen has been shown to protect the arteries from high accumulations of fatty deposits that can constrict blood flow to the heart. Proline also supports the regeneration of damaged tissues. Arginine, another amino acid found in collagen, helps to enhance the body’s production of nitric oxide, which is needed to promote proper blood flow and circulation of nutrients to our tissues (11).
How to Use Hydrolyzed Collagen
The form of hydrolyzed collagen you choose to use is really dependent on lifestyle and end-nutrition goals. Since type I, II, and III are the most prevalent forms of collagen found in nature, these are the forms that flood the current market’s offerings. Collagen powder is one of the most versatile forms, and since it has nearly no flavor or effect on food and beverage consistency, it can literally be mixed into everything from smoothies and soups to tea, coffee, and even water for a boost of easily miscible protein. Powdered collagen supplements come in large tubs or individual packets that are perfect for when you know you won’t have time to eat a sufficient meal on-the-go or want to “sneak” in a bit of extra protein into lower protein items like salad dressings, baked goods, or vegetable soups. For fans of pills, collagen capsules are another option and great for sensitive palates that might not enjoy the (light) taste of some collagen powders. Pre-mixed beverages or fortified foods/supplements are options as well, however, the amount of collagen peptides (shown in grams) and source/type may differ from product to product.
Chocolate Chia Pudding Recipe
YOU WILL NEED:
- High-speed blender
- 1 scoop Dr. Colbert’s Keto Zone Hydrolyzed Collagen Powder
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
- Frozen or fresh raspberries (for topping)
- Place ingredients—besides the raspberries—in your blender.
- Blend until smooth and creamy, adding additional coconut milk if the mixture is too thick.
- Pour mixture into a mason jar and let sit in the fridge overnight.
- Top with raspberries.
Potential Side Effects of Hydrolyzed Collagen
Generally speaking, collagen supplements are well tolerated by many and are a nutritious addition to a healthy lifestyle. That being said, the quality and source of the collagen supplements you do choose to take is important to consider, especially regarding potential heavy metal contamination.
Using products from reputable companies that undergo third-party testing is one step to avoid contraindications, and selecting pasture-raised and organic varieties is another way you can bypass ingredients you may want to avoid.
If you suffer from an allergy to shellfish, pork, or beef, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it may be best to avoid collagen or look for alternative sources that suit your lifestyle.