By: Griffin McKenzie
Entrepreneur, Health Coach, and Blogger
Collagen: you’re pouring it in your coffee, adding it to smoothies, seeing it pop up in workout drinks, and even baking it into cookies! But, admit it, you’ve wondered, “What is this white powder, and why is everyone so obsessed with it?” Collagen is a primary ingredient in our Bone Broth IQ, and its healing properties extend far beyond what the average consumer hears about this magical supplement. Most people praise collagen for its high protein content and ability to strengthen your hair, skin, and nails, but that’s just one of many benefits you can receive from consuming collagen on a daily basis.
If you’ve been skeptical about adding collagen to your routine through bone broth or another supplement, fear no more. We’re going to break down the mystery of collagen, and you’ll see that anyone can benefit from adding a little extra into their life.
Please Tell Me What This White Powder Is?!
Collagen is literally the protein that holds your body together! It’s the most abundant protein in the human body, comprising ⅓ of the overall protein inside of you, and it is found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It is hard packed, insoluble, and fibrous, which helps give your skin strength and elasticity (1). However, the older we get, the more our collagen production declines, which can cause us to look for additional collagen sources in our diet and supplements. Endogenous collagen is the protein that is synthesized in the body, as referenced above. When we go outside our bodies to consume collagen, that supplement is called exogenous collagen, or synthetic collagen (1).
While collagen is naturally occurring in beef, chicken, fish, and eggs, we often don’t eat the parts of the animal that house the collagen, such as the bones, tendons, and organ meat. Instead, we consume the muscle of the animal, which is flavorful and meaty, but we miss the sinews and less-desirable components, understandably so (11). Not everyone has the time or resources to make their own bone broth, which is why supplementation is a popular solution.
Collagen supplements are typically produced from cows (bovine collagen) or fish (marine collagen). Bovine collagen naturally occurs in the skin, muscles, bones, and tendons of cows, so while the powder might be scentless and tasteless, it is still an animal product (2). Because of this, vegetarians and vegans often shy away from consuming collagen supplements. However, as mentioned above, our bodies synthesize less and less collagen as we age, and our diets are naturally low in collagen (3). Collagen contains 19 amino acids, so it is definitely considered a complex protein; it is a great natural source of arginine, glutamine, glycine, and proline. Proline and glycine are the primary protein components in collagen, and they are known to improve cardiovascular health, build healthy DNA and RNA, and boost ATP (energy) production during a workout (4).
Lifestyle habits such as eating a high sugar diet, smoking, and sun exposure can reduce collagen levels (4). This may sound confusing to some, as we know that collagen, calcium, and vitamin D work together to improve bone health and strength. Though vitamin D from the sun can increase calcium and collagen absorption, too much sunlight can damage the skin and collagen/elastin fibers and carotenoids (5). Sunscreen can help protect against these adverse effects, and supplemental collagen can encourage the synthesize of new collagen in the body. Consuming vitamin C alongside your collagen will also increase your body’s ability to convert collagen into a useable protein (4).
Collagen vs. Collagen Peptides vs. Gelatin: What’s the Difference
Collagen peptides are formed from the enzymatic hydrolysis of collagen, or the breakdown of the original collagen strands into peptides. Just as any protein must be digested and the peptide bonds broken down, collagen is no different. That is why many supplements you see list “collagen peptides” instead of just collagen; the peptides are highly bioavailable, which means that they can be easily digested and absorbed into your body (6)!
Gelatin, another ingredient in our Bone Broth IQ, is obtained by the partial hydrolysis of collagen, but it has a higher natural protein content and doesn’t dissolve in liquid the way collagen peptides do (7).
The Many Benefits of Collagen
Collagen is regularly incorporated into different skincare products in the cosmetic industry, and for good reason! It reduces cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles by thickening and tightening your skin. Collagen helps your skin retain moisture, and regular consumers of collagen report vibrant, youthful skin, and stronger hair and nails (4).
Collagen also strengthens joints and bones, and those who suffer from joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis have seen huge benefits from supplementing with exogenous collagen on a regular basis! Both strenuous exercise and inflammatory diseases can be the cause of chronic joint pain, which can leave its victims in need of a serious remedy to enhance mobility. One study found that undenatured type II collagen, derived from chicken sternum, vastly improved the vitality and level of joint pain in a test group that consumed it for 120 days (8). Type II collagen primarily helps build cartilage, and there are actually six different types of endogenous collagen in your body (4)! All have slightly different functions within various organ systems, including type V (5) collagen, which is found in the placenta of a pregnant woman. Bovine collagen is rich in type I and III collagen and glycine, as well.
One of the biggest reasons the bone broth trend has caught fire is the ability of the collagen in bone broth to do wonders for your digestion and metabolism. Leaky gut syndrome occurs in a wide range of people and is marked by large molecules, such as undigested protein and fat, seeping through the intestinal lining and leading to an allergic response, bloating, fatigue, joint pain, and more (9). The trauma caused by leaky gut can eventually lead to autoimmune conditions, so the need to tend to it and remedy it is of primary importance! Collagen can help heal the intestinal lining and begin to reverse the damage of leaky gut syndrome, reducing intestinal permeability. For those with preexisting gut conditions, such as SIBO, IBS, and ulcerative colitis, this supplement could have life-changing effects on their ability to better absorb nutrients from their food (4).
Interestingly enough, collagen can contribute to your body’s detoxification processes because it helps with the conversion of glycine, an essential amino acid, which helps your liver fight off damage from toxins (4). Gut health and liver health are linked, as studies have shown that changes in intestinal permeability, including leaky gut, can contribute to the development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) (10). Bone broth cleanses are often done by those who are eager to reset their body’s natural ability to detox and digest.
Tell Me How to Use It!
With the recent growth in collagen popularity, there are countless ways to consume collagen supplements, but we’ll tell you a few of our favorites! Our Bone Broth IQ is obviously our main recommendation, and we advise consumers to take 1-2 scoops daily, mixed with water, almond milk, or another yummy drink!
Adding collagen peptides to your coffee is a popular way to add protein to your morning drink and mitigate the jittery effect that caffeine can have on your nervous system. Additionally, because coffee is often consumed on an empty stomach, collagen can provide your body with the protein it needs to feel satiated, even before you’ve had the chance to eat breakfast.
Because collagen peptides are odorless and tasteless, they can be used in cooking and baking. Collagen works well as a thickening agent in baked goods, without manipulating the flavor or causing you to add additional flour to the recipe. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, this is one of our favorite paleo cookie recipes that uses collagen: https://rachaelsgoodeats.com/
Smoothies are another brilliant way to incorporate collagen into your daily routine, especially if you’re not a coffee or bone broth lover. Collagen instantly thickens smoothies and gives the recipe a smoothie-bowl consistency! Additionally, it can be challenging to create a well-balanced smoothie that contains protein, fats, fiber, and greens, without altering the taste through a strange protein mixture. Collagen contains roughly 16-20 grams of protein per serving, so it’s an incredible substitute for your typical protein powder. Find some great smoothie recipes that use collagen for protein here: https://www.marksdailyapple.
With any supplement, we recommend trying it for a 30 day period to really see the benefits and results for yourself. We hope you’ll give collagen a try and find a way that this incredible protein works with your diet and lifestyle.
Darvin, M. E., Richter, H., Ahlberg, S., Haag, S. F., Meinke, M. C., Le Quintrec, D., & … Lademann, J. (2014). Influence of sun exposure on the cutaneous collagen/elastin fibers and carotenoids: negative effects can be reduced by application of sunscreen. Journal Of Biophotonics, 7(9), 735-743. doi:10.1002/jbio.201300171
Lugo, J. P., Saiyed, Z. M., Lau, F. C., Molina, J. L., Pakdaman, M. N., Shamie, A. N., & Udani, J. K. (2013). Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled study in healthy volunteers. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 2-25.
Luther, J., Garber, J. J., Khalili, H., Dave, M., Bale, S. S., Jindal, R., & … Patel, S. J. (2015). Original Research: Hepatic Injury in Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Contributes to Altered Intestinal Permeability. Cellular And Molecular Gastroenterology And Hepatology, 1222-232.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jcmgh.2015.01.