What are collagen peptides?
There are many different types of amino acids, but the type found in collagen are the most abundant in your body thanks to the role they play in forming your connective tissues and skin. Collagen represents a family of 28 different proteins, which account for 30% of the total protein mass in the human body and play a fundamental role in the structure of several tissues, such as skin and bones. In general, collagen fibrils are made of different collagen types: collagen I and III in the skin; collagen II and III in cartilage. Collagen peptides present as a mix of specific peptides of different length with high abundance of the amino acids hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline.
Improves appearance of wrinkles?
Skin is the largest organ in the body and is subject to deterioration caused by dermatological disorders or environmental conditions (wind, air conditioning, heating). The intrinsic ageing process may also be accelerated by exposure to the sun or other lifestyle issues (extrinsic ageing: smoking, alcohol, stress, lack of sleep). Fine lines begin to appear when the breakdown of collagen within the dermis exceeds its production. Since your body’s collagen production declines as you age, it may seem obvious to add collagen to your diet. However, in most cases, commercial collagen peptide powder is a “hydrolyzed” type-I collagen that has been extracted from animal hides or bones, or fish scales. Hydrolyzed means that the amino acid chains have been broken down into smaller units which allows it to dissolve in both hot and cold liquids. In addition, depending on the brand, one scoop provides about 8 g of protein.
A study published in 2002 by the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacological Research found your gut’s digestive enzymes and acids (pepsin and hydrochloric acid) break down hydrolyzed collagen, which is the type found in most collagen peptide powders. But the same study found type-II collagen may be able to pass through your gut without losing its chemical structure. A study published in 2015 showed that oral nutritional supplement of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, and essential vitamins and minerals, lead to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth after 9 weeks for postmenopausal woman. However, this study presents with some conflict of interests given the lab who tested the formulation also sells the product. Collagen, like any protein, is broken down during digestion into amino acids, which are used to make new proteins. Those new proteins could be collagen or anything else, depending on what your body needs. Therefore, unless your diet is deficient, packing up on more amino acids by taking collagen supplements is unlikely to help. Research is still limited, and the data shows that oral supplementation only with specific collagen peptides can improve skin structure and health from within.
Improves gut health?
There’s some evidence that certain amino acids found in collagen, such as glycine, may reduce gut inflammation, improve digestion, and help with leaky gut syndrome. However, evidence is mixed and most of it didn’t involve collagen powders or supplements, rather specific amino acids in a lab setting. I could not find ANY studies supporting this (image below) besides what’s stated in commercial websites. So, a shootout to other health professionals listening…please share any double blinded randomized controlled trails!
Not FDA regulated
Remember that the FDA does not regulate supplements, except if the product’s manufacturer claims its supplement can cure disease, or something goes wrong and people get sick.
Therefore, if you are to buy a collagen supplement, look for those checked for contaminants by a credible third-party consumer safety group like NSF. Most importantly, ALWAYS consult with your healthcare professional before taking any vitamins or supplements.
Natural sources of collagen
If you feel skeptical about these supplements, you can always just eat collagen-boosting foods such as:
- Wild salmon: contains zinc, a trace mineral that’s been shown to activate the proteins needed for collagen synthesis
- Leafy greens: contain chlorophyll, a pigment that gives plants their vibrant green color, increases the precursor to collagen (procollagen) in the skin
- Citrus foods: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which also helps “glue” the amino acids needed to form collagen, such as proline
- Egg yolks: good source of collagen
- Pumpkin seeds: excellent source of zinc, acts as a cofactor for collagen synthesis
- Avocado: provide vitamin E to help prevent collagen breakdown
Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T. and Prawitt, J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015:14;291–301.
Borumand M and Sibilla S. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. JMNN. 2015;4(1):47-53.
Bagchi D, Misner B, Bagchi M, Kothari SC, Downs BW, Fafard RD, Preuss HG. Effects of orally administered undenatured type II collagen against arthritic inflammatory diseases: a mechanistic exploration. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2002;22(3-4) 101-110.