Most people on the planet, regardless of gender, would automatically be drawn to a magical potion or concoction that promises everlasting youth. Unfortunately, such a potion doesn’t exist and there’s no way to grow older and wiser without a few age lines. Right?
Over the last couple of years, you may have found the term collagen being thrown around as the next best thing to happen to health and beauty. People have given their testimonies on how well collagen has helped in treating certain ailments like leaky gut, hair loss, and stiff joints.
However, we already know that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So what’s the deal with collagen? Why are there so many types? What benefits do they offer? And most importantly, does taking collagen really work?
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most plentiful type of protein found in our bodies. It’s the building blocks to create skin, connective tissue, and bones. Collagen is also helpful in filling in any cracks in our bodies so our bones and skin don’t lose their structural integrity. So if we have so much collagen, then why do we age and why do our bones become brittle as we grow older?
Unfortunately for our bodies and our looks, collagen production decreases by approximately 1% every year by the time we reach 20. By the time we hit our 40s, we’ve lost up to 20% of our collagen levels which means thinning hair and sagging skin.
Types of collagen
In our bodies alone, we’re dealing with 20 types of collagen, but the most common types are types I, II and III (the names aren’t very creative but at least they’re easy to pronounce!)
Type I makes up about 90% of the collagen in our bodies. It is found in scar tissue and used to repair tendons, bones, skin, and ligaments. Type II makes up the cartilage between our joints and vertebrae. Type III is found in bone marrow and many of our organs.
The natural way of obtaining collagen is by consuming meat (fish, beef, chicken) and fish. Of course, there’s no vegetarian alternative since plants don’t have connective tissue. Beef will provide the largest amount of types I and III collagen which will help skin, joints, hair, and our stomachs. Fish and other sea creatures contain higher amounts of type II which can combat cartilage degeneration.
What about collagen supplements?
If you’re over the age of 25 and are worried about what a reduction in collagen production can do to your body (saggy skin, thinner hair, etc.) then yes, taking collagen supplements is a good idea. You only require about 5 milligrams of collagen a day which is easily obtainable in supplement form. The good thing about over-the-counter collagen supplements is that they don’t just provide you with the much-needed collagen to fight the symptoms of aging, but they also contain vitamin C which improves the absorption of collagen.
The effects of taking collagen in supplement form have been studied extensively. The most prominent research was done in 2013 and found that groups who had taken collagen supplements during the duration of the study found significant improvements in skin elasticity – i.e. healthier, younger skin – than those who had taken placebos. In short, collagen supplements do work, especially if they’re fortified with vitamin C.
However, if you’re afraid of taking pills or are just looking to go at it the old fashioned way, just increase your consumption of meats and fish. In fact, if you can stomach it, drink beef bone broth straight from the pot. This stuff is rich in collagen and amino acids. However, to get the same beneficial effects of collagen supplements, you’d probably have to drink around a gallon of bone broth daily.