Collagen Peptides: What You Need to Know
Updated: Nov 10, 2018
Collagen peptides are all the rage in the health and nutrition world right now. In fact, questions regarding collagen peptides and their health benefits are some of the most common questions that we get asked by our followers. Which is why we wanted to dedicate a blog post to this supplement superstar.
Before I go any further, I should clarify exactly what collagen is. Collagen is a structural protein found in the skin and connective tissues of the body. It is comprised of a mixture of essential amino acids such as proline and glycine, and is responsible for giving hair its strength and skin its elasticity. To sum it up, collagen is what holds your body together! Unfortunately, our body’s production of collagen declines with age… hence the wrinkles we start to see in the mirror when we hit a certain age. Certain lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, excessive sun exposure, and smoking can also negatively impact collagen production.
Collagen peptides are made up of the same amino acids as collagen but have different properties. They are made by breaking down the full-length collagen molecule into smaller fragments and are therefore more digestible and bioavailable- meaning better broken down in the digestive system and absorbed into the bloodstream.
So, what exactly are the potential benefits of consuming collagen peptides on a regular basis? Read on to find out!
Skin, Hair, and Nail Health
Most people are probably familiar with the theory behind taking collagen for this indication. As mentioned above, collagen is what provides structure to your skin, hair, and nails, consequently making your skin appear smooth and hair/nails stay strong. So, it would make sense that consuming collagen would increase your skin, hair, and nail health… no? Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the collagen that you consume gets converted into collagen in your body. And robust science supporting the supposed benefits of collagen peptides for skin, hair, and nail health is spotty at best. One study in 2014 found that 2.5 to 5gm of collagen hydrolysate per day in women aged 35-55 significantly improved skin elasticity after 8 weeks (1). However, this was a small study with only 69 participants. Regardless, I have to include our own, personal experiences using collagen peptides in this discussion. While we make a point of trying to share evidence-based health information, we have to say that collagen peptides have made a HUGE difference in our own nail and hair health. Jaci and I have been consuming them on the daily for the last 8 months and have both noticed that our nails barely ever break and our hair is growing faster than ever before! This MAY just be due to consuming an easily absorbed form of protein versus the collagen peptides specifically, but we have no plans to stop using them any time soon!
While the effect of age-related collagen loss on your skin affects your appearance, the effect on your joints affects your function. Collagen makes up the cartilage within your joint capsules, thereby allowing them to move through their range of motion with ease. It is also found in your tendons, ligaments, and bone, making it the main structural component of your joints. The evidence for collagen supplementation in joint health is somewhat mixed, but there are some studies that support the notion that it reduces joint pain (2, 3, 4) and can stimulate activity of the chondrocytes (collagen producing cells) within joints (4). The bottom line? If you experience joint pain on a regular basis, give collagen peptides a try for at least 8 weeks. If you notice an improvement in your pain, continue it. If not, stop it.
While collagen’s potential effect on joint, skin, and nail health is what has fueled its rise in popularity, the amino acids it contains help to support and repair the intestinal lining. In other words, it is a great supplement to take if you are suffering from leaky gut type symptoms such as gas, bloating, and indigestion. If you recall from our blog post, “Gut Healthy Supplements,” leaky gut is the less fancy name for “increased intestinal permeability” and refers to when the tight junctions (the spaces between the single layer of cells lining the intestinal wall) have been damaged. This disruption in the integrity of the intestinal walls allows everything from undigested food particles to bacteria to “leak” through the wall and into the blood stream. What is the problem with this? One word- inflammation. Certain foods (gluten, dairy, and soy) and an overgrowth of unhealthy gut bacteria (aka SIBO, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and yeast are perhaps the most common contributors to a leaky gut. L-glutamine, one of the amino acids in collagen, can help restore the integrity of the tight junctions, thus “repairing” leaky gut (5) and improving digestive function. Research looking at collagen supplementation for gut health in humans is lacking, but there are some studies in animal models using L-glutamine that had promising results (6,7).
While you can get collagen from ingesting such foods as bone broth, it may be helpful to incorporate a collagen peptide supplement into your daily routine. Both Jaci and I have certainly seen benefits and have found them be a great way to get extra protein into our diet. I personally have a hard time tolerating most protein powders, both whey based and vegan varieties, and find collagen to be very gut-friendly. If you follow us on Instagram, you have probably noticed that we love Vital Proteins collagen peptides. Their products are sourced from pasture-raised cows (they also have a marine collagen sourced from wild-caught fish) and dissolve easily into both hot and cold liquids. The plain variety is completely tasteless and works wonderfully in coffee and smoothies. Vital Proteins also produces some flavored varieties, as well as matcha and coffee creamer. I am currently on a kick of making a healthy hot chocolate by blending the Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Collagen Peptides with hot nut milk. Talk about delish! Some alternative quality collagen peptide supplements are produced by Thrive Market, Primal Kitchen, and Dr. Axe. Regardless of which collagen peptide supplement you decide to purchase, be sure that it contains 100% hydrolyzed collagen derived from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle or wild-caught fish.
There you have it! Collagen peptides in a nut shell. As I have alluded to throughout this post, the research on collagen peptide supplements and their benefits is somewhat lacking in terms of strength, but there are some promising seeds of evidence that will hopefully be expanded on in the future. Regardless, they are a safe supplement to incorporate into your diet and, at the very least, provide quality, easily digestible protein. If you have any further questions regarding collagen peptides be sure and contact us either by email or on one of our social media platforms.
Continue to #FollowYourGut,