In a world where fads come and go, sorting through what’s “of the moment” versus what’s “here to stay” can be as challenging with nutrition as it is with fashion — especially since it’s not always so easy to sort the good from the bad. For example, we know that a crisp blazer or LBD (little black dress) is a forever classic while no one, and I mean no one, looks good wearing sweatpants with a logo emblazoned across the rear. But, it gets tricker with diet and nutrition.
First, it was apple cider vinegar every day, then coconut oil on everything, then we moved on to being obsessed with kale. We were cutting carbs and going all protein, then we were strictly juice cleansing and doing coffee enemas (seriously, it’s really a thing). Plus, most of the hype around health foods are actually really good for you. I cannot stress enough the incredible benefits of ACV, cold-pressed coconut oil and an abundance of leafy greens.
But, with so much information constantly thrown our way, touting the next best “miracle” to cure our ailments, shed our belly fat, promote eternal youth, insert-desire-here, most of us have simply begun to tune it out as white noise and we may be missing out in the process. Take, for example, one of the latest nutrition trends to enter the market: collagen.
What is collagen?
Collagen itself isn’t exactly new, per se. For those of you who remember high school science class, you may recall learning that collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom, found in everything from our bones, muscles, tendons and blood vessels to our skin and digestive system. It plays an integral role in our body’s development and as such, begins to decline in production as we age.
This is the reason why wrinkles begin to form, skin starts to sag and our joints become stiffer and weaker. Until recently, most of the uses for collagen were strictly cosmetic. From injecting collagen into the face to achieve a smoother, plumper (read: younger) appearance, to listing collagen among the ingredients on facial serums and lotions, adding collagen to one’s beauty routine was believed to stave off the effects of aging — at least superficially.
Now, everyone from nutritionists to athletes have taken it a step further and begun adding it to their smoothies, taking it in pill form or drinking bone broth (which extracts the collagen from the bones and tendons of animals) by the liter.
So, is collagen the next-best-thing in wellness? Well, that depends. Here’s what you need to know.
What type of collagen is best?
Much like the various organisms (including humans) collagen is found in, there are many forms available for consumption. One of the best ways is through drinking bone broth, either homemade or store-bought. If you do this, make sure to find the highest quality, organic broth available to you.
However, the idea of drinking a hot mug of broth isn’t exactly the most appealing to some on a hot summer day. Thankfully, in a world of convenience, you can also take collagen supplements in the form of capsules (similar to a multivitamin) or the more popular version, in a powder form known as collagen peptides. Peptides are regarded as being the most convenient as they can easily be mixed into hot and cold beverages, blended into smoothies or added to baked goods. Unfortunately, even though there are many forms collagen can take, it is important to note that it is only made from animal products, meaning there are no vegan options available.
Who benefits from taking collagen?
While topical collagen supplements are touted for their ability to assist in reversing the effects of aging, the results of consuming it may yield slightly different results. A 2014 study found that daily consumption of a collagen supplement resulted in a noticeable reduction of skin dryness and wrinkles after two months. However, skeptics argue that your body’s digestive system can break down hydrolyzed collagen (such as the kind found in peptides) well before it has a chance to work its magic. Interestingly enough, there may be evidence to show that the amino acid glycine (found in collagen) can help to reduce symptoms associated with GI inflammation and leaky gut syndrome.
Although research is still new on collagen’s benefits to your skin and gut, there have been numerous studies dating back to the 1990s on its effects for those suffering from arthritis or joint-related issues. A study from 2009 found that four out of five patients suffering from osteoarthritis experienced a decrease in pain by 26 percent after taking a 40-milligram dose of collagen daily.
So, while the results may be mixed on whether or not collagen should be an integral part of your diet, researchers agree there is no harm in trying it. It is important to note, however, that it must be consumed on a daily basis over a period of time for any of its potential effects to take place.
— Megan Harris