Health Benefits of Hydrolyzed Collagen
In my last post about hydrolyzed collagen I talked about what collagen is, where it is found, and the process of hydrolysis. This post is about why we should take hydrolyzed collagen.
I’m always skeptical when people make a lot of incredible claims about any supposed miracle supplement that cures every problem. So, I was skeptical about collagen supplementation when people claimed it could cure everything from acne to rheumatoid arthritis.
Through research and personal experimentation I’ve come to be a believer in this incredible supplement. It also helps that some of the people making these incredible claims about the benefits of this supplement are world renowned experts in health and nutrition such as Dr. Rhonda Patrick.
The biggest reason that I promote this supplement is because I’ve been taking it for about six months now, and I have seen a world of difference. Chronic knee and joint pain has improved, my hair and skin are softer, my nails grow almost too strong and fast, and I swear that I even have fewer gray hairs. My husband has noticed an improvement in his gut health from inflammatory bowel issues, and his brother no longer breaks out in painful cystic acne.
Admittedly, those are anecdotal accounts about people you’ve never met… but, luckily there is also lots of scientific research to back up the benefits of collagen peptides.
What do we Use Collagen For?
Collagen makes up 25-30% of the protein in our bodies. It is abundant in our joints, tendons, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood vessels, eyes, the gut, and the dentin in our teeth. Collagen is literally the glue that holds our bodies together.
As we age our ability to naturally product collagen declines. This is responsible for wrinkles, age spots, gray hair, the tendency for things to start to “droop” and many other issues that we associate with normal aging.
For a long time, it was thought that we couldn’t absorb the additional collagen we need through diet. That’s likely because our digestive systems can’t break down collagen from meat and gelatin effectively enough to absorb very much of it. But, as I explained in the “what are collagen peptides” article, the process of hydrolysis breaks the collagen molecules down until they are more digestible. We can absorb up to 90% of the collagen in collagen hydrolysate.
Let’s take a look at how that may be able to help us.
Joint Pain & Arthritis
In a 2010 survey the CDC reported that 30% of American adults experience moderate to severe joint pain, back pain, or arthritis.
In a 1999 study (Oesser et al) it was discovered that when we ingest hydrolyzed collagen we not only break it down into its component amino acids and absorb those, but that a portion of the collagen is absorbed intact and that it accumulates in cartilage long-term. This study suggested a dose of 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen a day for a minimum of 5 months before seeing results, but it could be the answer to one of the oldest human problems: joint pain.
Weight Loss and Energy
Collagen Hydrolysate is 90% protein and is produced without any additional chemicals, hormones, or additives that may alter the normal function of your body. Because it is a low-calorie powder that packs a heavy protein punch it is an effective appetite suppressant.
Another aspect that may be helping people lose weight is the abundance of proline in this supplement. Our cells convert proline into glutamate and then into a-ketaglutarate, which is then metabolized by our mitochondria to produce ATP. This is part of the process known as “ketosis” that has formed the basis of the popular Keto diet.
Beauty and Anti-aging
Skin is the largest organ of the body, and it is also the most visible place that we show our age.
Collagen is an important component of skin tissue, giving our skin thickness and elasticity. There is no proof that topical application of collagen can reduce or prevent wrinkles, but oral supplementation is able to replace the collagen in our systems that lead to thinning and sagging skin.
Collagen supplementation also heals skin from sun exposure and free radical damage, especially when combined with astaxanthin and vitamins C and E. Collagen even works to prevent and reverse cellulite by strengthening skin fibers.
Some parts of collagen, such as the amino acid Glycine, are excellent prebiotic foods – meaning that they feed the healthy bacteria in guts. The healthy bacteria in our guts are now thought to play a crucial role in our immune systems. That means collagen may help treat or prevent issues such as ulcers and leaky gut.
The amino acids that are in collagen can be broken down by Bifidobacteria and used for energy and growth just like prebiotics such as inulin fiber and onion.
Laboratory research revealed that 10 days after skin is wounded or cut, proline levels at the site of the skin damage increase to 50% higher than plasma levels (Barbul A, 2008). This proline is transported by the system as a precursor to building a collagen fibroid, which is commonly referred to as “scar tissue.”
Glycine is also an anti-inflammatory signaling molecule which not only plays another significant role in wound healing but may be part of the reason for our next point: relief from joint pain
Eyes are made up of both fibrous and a gelatinous-type tissue – both which benefit from optimal collagen intake. Research suggests that age-related decreased in collagen, and/or mutations in collagen, result in cataracts and glaucoma (Indian Ophthalmology Journal 1997).
Hydrolyzed collagen is also rich in Proline, which is abundant in our eyes.
Proline may also help reduce hypertension and lower your risk of heart disease, according to a study in the February 2014 issue of “Amino Acids.”
Lysine, another amino acid absorbed easily from collagen peptides, helps treat herpes infection and cold sores, boosts absorption of calcium and might even have a calming effect or lessen anxiety, according to Drugs.com.
With all the proven health benefits of Hydrolyzed Collagen I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t an overhyped supplement.
Collagen is also safe to take by anyone at any age, with virtually no negative side effects reported in any study. As always, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Update (1 year later):
I still take 10 grams of collagen every day but I’ve switched to a brand called Immortal Tortoise Hydrolyzed Collagen. I buy it from the Immortal Tortoise website and it costs about the same.
I switched to Immortal tortoise from Great Lakes primarily because packaging is compostable/biodegradable. I was going through 3-4 tubes a month at home and it started to be really obvious how much trash I was making. I’ve found since switching that I actually do think it’s a higher quality collagen supplement than the Great Lakes.