Collagen – is it all that it is cracked up to be?

Have you also been wondering what all the hype is about collagen these days and if you really are missing out on something? So, four months ago I decided to give collagen a try and I’m here to report back.

But firstly, what is this magical thing called collagen actually?

Collagen is the “glue” that helps holds your body together. It is the most abundant protein in your body and is found in your muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, hair, nails, teeth, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, digestive tract, so basically throughout your entire body. When we are young the body produces collagen in abundance, however as we age production starts to decline and, yes, we start to come unstuck in all the places where collagen is now less abundant. The wrinkles appear and the whole body becomes less flexible and our movements less fluid, all because our bodies are making less collagen.

So in case you haven’t been receiving all the memos let me start by briefly touching on all the purported benefits of collagen supplementation:

Collagen improves hair, skin and nails

collagen for hair skin and nails

This is surely the one we already knew as it’s the longest known fact about collagen. It has been used in the beauty industry for decades due to its benefits to skin, hair and nails. Women have been applying it in creams for just that long, in the hope that wrinkles will disappear. However it is now known that applying collagen topically is nowhere near as effective as ingesting the pure hydrolyzed collagen peptides. Reports of improved skin tone and elasticity, reduced wrinkle depth, a more hydrated skin, and even reduced cellulite or dimpling on thighs, have become the order of the day.

When it comes to hair, collagen is reputed to be a potential therapeutic agent for hair loss by regenerating hair follicles. Hair may also grow faster and thicker in some lucky individuals. Feedback relating to healthier nails is ubiquitous.

Collagen can grease that squeaky joint

osteoarthritis of the knee

The reduction of collagen in tendons and ligaments as we age can result in stiffness, pain and restricted movement. Noticeable benefits of collagen supplementation in these areas may take a bit longer, for some 4 to 6 months, however there has been a lot of positive feedback on this.

Collagen supplementation may also play a positive therapeutic role in osteoporosis and osteoarthritis by potentially increasing bone mineral density, having a protective effect on cartilage and providing symptomatic relief of pain.

Collagen can repair the gut

By building connective tissue in the cell walls of the lining of the stomach and the entire digestive tract, supplementing with collagen can help heal and seal the gut. Hence it is beneficial in symptoms such as leaky gut syndrome but there are also reports of improvements in IBS, acid reflux, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis sufferers. A strengthened gut wall will also improve absorption of nutrients that might otherwise go to waste. Read more here.

Cardiovascular benefits

The importance of collagen in arterial health, hence cardiovascular health, is probably one of its least known benefits. Lower collagen production as we age is linked to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. The amino acid called arginine in collagen helps with vasodilation or widening of the arteries and relaxation of the smooth muscles cells within the vessel walls which improves elasticity. The result? Your heart doesn’t have to work so hard anymore.

Collagen and weight loss

replacement breakfast

Collagen supplementation can bring about weight loss better than other protein supplements. This is because the peptides in collagen are very satiating, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. This means you’ll snack less during the day thus decreasing your overall calorie intake. 20g of a pure hydrolysed collagen powder could actually suffice as a replacement breakfast. Another reason why collagen can bring about weight loss is because it increases lean muscle mass and muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat. Studies have shown that the weight loss that follows also lasts longer than in those taking alternative protein supplements. When it comes to choosing a protein supplement that’s ideal for burning fat and streamlining muscles for the perfect slim, toned body, collagen protein is believed to be better than other protein supplements such as whey.

Collagen for the athletic types

collagen for athletes

Throughout any workout or physical exertion, muscles, tendons and ligaments are under stress and in danger of injury. It is recommended to supplement with collagen before a workout so that the body parts undergoing stressful exertions can absorb the collagen peptides while contracting and relaxing, thus making repairs during the workout and potentially avoiding unnecessary injury. Supplementing with more collagen after any athletic exertion will give the body the raw materials it needs to help speed up recovery and rebuild damaged tissue.

How to use collagen

collagen in coffee

Firstly be sure to get the hydrolised collagen peptides powder. This is collagen that has been hydrolised into tiny peptide units that dissolve better in hot or cold liquids, so are better absorbed and taken up where needed.

Because it is tasteless, collagen peptides powder can be added to any foods without anyone even knowing it. You can dissolve peptides in coffee, tea, juices or smoothies. Or stir them into pasta sauces, eggs, gravies or any other food when you’d like to get an extra boost of protein.

Be aware however that the body cannot synthesise this collagen without adequate dietary vitamin C. So if you feel you may not be eating enough vitamin C rich foods, and most of us don’t, then consider adding a bio-available plant based vitamin C supplements such as Super Natural C to your supplement plan.

What does the science say?

Collagen is one of the most tried and tested supplements around with many randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies giving results that support the many claims.

What have I decided?

As an over 60 that’s heard it all, I like to think that I’ve passed the gullible stage and don’t easily fall for a hoax. As such no one is more surprised than I am that, after 4 months on MAXD Pure Hydrolyzed Collagen powder, dissolving 4 teaspoons in hot water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it every morning, I do believe I can tick most of the benefit boxes above. And since I’m not in the habit of consuming pigs’ feet, shark fins or cow hides I’ll probably continue to add this supplement to my daily regime indefinitely. Why not?

Perhaps you have more questions? Here are the answers to some you may want to ask: Frequently asked questions about collagen.

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