Over the last decade, collagen supplements have become increasingly popular as people realize the benefits of this natural protein and more studies are conducted. Collagen is naturally found in the human body and is used to make connective tissue; however, collagen production decreases with age. Supplementing with collagen has numerous benefits that support bone and joint health. Still, not all supplements are created equal. There are many products that use artificial sweeteners and fillers, and even some that have traces of heavy metals. Therefore, it’s important to read labels, do research, and choose the most natural form of collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen fibers are naturally found in the body and form connective tissue in bone, skin, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. It’s the most abundant protein found in the body and helps keep tissue strong and resilient. As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen and the fibers start to loosen in the deep layers of our skin. Overtime, collagen can also break down as a result of sun exposure or poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise.
To reverse the effects of aging, many consumers are turning to collagen as a way to boost joint, skin, and bone health. Collagen is naturally found in many animal products, namely meat and fish with connective tissue. Foods such as brisket, pot roast, fish skin, and bone broth are high in collagen.
Collagen is not naturally found in plant-based foods. However, foods high in vitamin C, zinc, and other crucial antioxidants help support collagen production in the body. If you follow a plant-based diet and want to support collagen production in the body, foods such as berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, legumes, and herbs contain amino acids such as glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline to support skin, joint, and bone health.
The Benefits of Collagen
When searching for quality collagen, it’s best to choose products made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and wild-caught fish. Avoid products with added sugars, sweeteners, and artificial flavors.
Top benefits of collagen supplementation include:
- Support skin health and skin elasticity: Some controlled trials have shown that taking hydrolyzed collagen improved skin hydration and elasticity, and reduced the appearance of wrinkles compared to placebos.
- Improve joint mobility: Collagen makes up about 60% of cartilage in the body. Cartilage is a dense tissue that surrounds bones and protects them from high-impact. Studies have shown that collagen supplements can boost joint mobility and decrease associated pain from osteoarthritis, or in athletes in high-impact sports, which makes it a great joint supplement for runners.
- Reduce joint pain: Supplementing with collagen, especially type II collagen, has been shown to reduce joint stiffness and joint pain. Type II collagen makes up cartilage and is believed to fight pain and swelling in the body.
- Repair tissue and cellular migration in the body: Collagen is a structural protein, which means it makes up the framework of cells and tissue and is responsible for tissue repair.
- Support immune response: Collagen contains the amino acid glutamine, which stimulates the immune system to fight colds and infections.
- Support bone health and strength: Taking collagen can support bone health. In a study conducted with menopausal women, those who consumed 5g of collagen peptides every day for a year significantly increased their bone mineral density in their spine and femur.
- Help women in late stages of pregnancy: Towards the end of pregnancy, women’s bodies are in greater demand for glycine, an amino acid that contributes to cellular growth. Collagen is rich in glycine, so taking a supplement can help ensure women’s bodies are getting enough.
Best Collagen Products on the Market
Vital Proteins is one of the most popular collagen products on the market, and for good reason. It’s ConsumerLab approved, which means it’s tested through independent studies to verify health claims and consumption safety. Vital Proteins is also NSF Certified for Sport, which means it’s a safe sport supplement for athletes. Each scoop of Vital Proteins contains 20g of collagen, and it also contains vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to support skin health.
Natural Force: Marine Collagen Peptides
This collagen product is made entirely from the skin and bones of wild-caught fish. It is produced in a CGMP facility (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) with regulations enforced by the FDA. You’ll get 11g of type I collagen per scoop, which supports your skin, hair, and nails.
Thorne Collagen Plus
If you’re looking for some natural berry sweetness in your collagen, Thorne Collagen Plus is blended with stevia and free from gluten, dairy, and soy. You’ll get 13g of bovine collagen per serving. Produced in a CGMP facility and NSF Certified, you feel confident in the quality of this product. It also contains nicotinamide riboside, a compound that stimulates healthy aging and cellular repair.
HUM Nutrition Collagen Love
If you prefer taking capsules over hydrolyzed powder, HUM carries capsules with 600mg of collagen per serving. Sourced from grass-fed and pasture-raised bovine, these capsules are easy to take on-the-go and also provide other benefits from vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, red wine extract, and grapeseed extract. It’s non-GMO and doesn’t include any artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Moon Juice Collagen Protect
If you’re searching for a plant-based solution, Moon Juice Collagen Protect is a vegan collagen powder designed to prevent collagen loss in the body. While the product itself is not made of collagen, it uses a blend of silver ear mushrooms, rice bran solubles, and hyaluronic acid to support skin and bone health.
Can you buy vegan collagen?
While vegan collagen does not exist, you can buy plant-based products that support collagen production in the body. These products are high in antioxidants to stimulate the immune system and cellular repair.
Does taking collagen really work?
While there aren’t an enormous amount of studies available on the effectiveness of taking collagen, the studies available do show extremely positive benefits to taking collagen on a regular basis.