You may have seen adverts for health products on TV talking about collagen dipeptides and hyaluronic acid. What exactly are these unusual-sounding chemicals, and why have they taken the health industry by storm?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body. It forms the building blocks of the connective tissues that knit together to form your skin, bones and hair, not to mention your internal organs. It acts like glue - quite literally.
The word “collagen” is actually derived from the Greek word for glue, "kólla". But there’s more than just one single form of collagen - up to 16 in fact. For simplicity, we tend to focus on four of these collagen types. Let’s delve into the world of this structural protein, and some of the health benefits of collagen.
Types of Collagen
Collagen protein is often distinguished by its four primary forms:
- Type I forms 90 per cent of your body’s collagen and consists of dense fibres. These serve to keep your skin, bones, teeth and other tough tissues such as tendons woven together. Type I is what springs to mind most often when people refer to collagen.
- Type II collagen is found in more supple forms of tissue, such as the cartilage found around joints, providing a special cushion around them to aid mobility. Joint pain can stem from a deficiency in type II collagen.
- Type III collagen keeps structures such as arteries, muscles and organs in place.
- Type IV collagen is far more hidden. It primarily aids filtration, especially in the skin, where it is most highly prevalent.
Collagen is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of all life, which are woven together into a triple helix, which biologists refer to as a collagen helix. Collagen is created through secretion by a number of different cell types, but your body isn’t able to keep up the good work forever.
As a basic fact of biology, our bodies start to produce less collagen as we age, and this has a noticeable impact on our health over time. Skin loses its elasticity, causing an increasing number of wrinkles to appear and muscles become less sturdy, making mobility harder over time.
In addition, bones become weaker and more prone to fracturing. It’s eminently understandable, then, why many people seek to delay this process. Fortunately, it's possible to introduce additional collagen intake into your diet, and scientific research is increasingly reinforcing the theory that there are a number of tangible collagen peptides benefits to be had from taking collagen supplements.
What is Hydrolyzed Collagen?
When reading about collagen products on the market, you may see mention of hydrolyzed collagen, but what is collagen in its hydrolyzed form exactly? Otherwise known as collagen peptides, hydrolysed collagen is a form of collagen, a protein that can be broken down into amino acids, something far more soluble, which are an important part of your daily diet.
Being broken down into amino acids means that collagen proteins can be formed into effective dietary supplements, that can be ingested in the form of hydrolyzed collagen powder or even collagen capsules.
You might see mention of dipeptides - these are some of the least complex forms of peptides, in which two amino acids are linked together to form an effective chain. A peptide that has formed a chain of three or more aminos is known as a polypeptide.
Noticeable Collagen Benefits
So now you have a rough idea about what collagen is, and the various forms it takes. But what about those collagen health benefits? Cosmetically, collagen supplements are known to help reduce the formation of wrinkles on your skin, helping lessen the occurrence of dry skin. And the benefits of collagen don’t just end in the cosmetic sense.
Not only can collagen supplements help maintain healthier skin - they can also give your body a much-needed boost by increasing muscle mass and decreasing the chances of bone tissue loss. Collagen supplements can even constitute an effective form of pain relief if you experience some form of joint pain.
Supplementing your diet with additional collagen can help you reduce food intake, as it serves as a source of protein, increasing the sense of fullness between meals, helping you maintain a healthy body weight. Collagen supplements are also great for muscular strength because they help fortify your muscles.
Remember, though, that a healthy body comes from not just the right kind of diet - an effective exercise routine is crucial, to help reinforce a healthy lifestyle.
To those who don’t know, collagen is good for helping your body maintain strength, both inside and out. No single person nor health product can claim to stop the ageing process definitively, but collagen protein, when ingested on a regular basis, have a tangible impact and help slow the signs of ageing.
Sources of High-Quality Collagen Supplements and Possible Side Effects
Collagen supplements come from a variety of organic sources, through foodstuffs such as fish, egg white, algae and even spirulina, an edible form of cyanobacteria. There are so many kinds of collagen supplements to choose from, whether they’re marine-sourced or even bovine collagen.
When taking supplements, there’s a chance you might experience some form of collagen side effects. These include feelings of fullness, heartburn or an unsavoury taste in the mouth. Collagen supplements are generally safe for human consumption, so there are limited collagen supplement side effects, with most reactions manifesting in mild symptoms.
Rashes and diarrhoea are examples of such rare side effects, but can occur in a minority of cases.
If you have specific dietary requirements, it’s understandable that you might be put off by the idea of having to ingest a health supplement sourced from the bones and protein of animals, for example, as many manufacturers do.
It’s still possible to enjoy collagen peptide benefits without having to compromise on dietary requirements. Many vegetarian and vegan collagen supplement options are available instead, sourced from algae.
Collagen Peptides Research Findings
Much time has already been spent by scientists carrying out research into the effects of collagen protein intake, especially in the field of sports research. The journal Nutrients published a report in May 2019 that detailed a double-blind trial to study the effects of long-term collagen protein intake on a cross-sectional group of recreationally active men.
Through random selection, 57 men were chosen and double-blind divided up into groups who received either a placebo or 15 gram collagen protein samples per day. The study found that men who consumed collagen peptide supplements in their diet showed a marked increase in fat-free mass compared to the placebo group, which the journal described as improved body composition.
This suggests that one of the main collagen benefits, when including supplements in your diet, is potentially greater muscle mass. More collagen sports research needs to be undertaken in order to determine the other ways in which athletes could benefit from collagen supplements, although it is nonetheless encouraging to see how even small amounts of collagen supplements can have a noticeable effect.
Not only has there been collagen peptides research carried out on recreationally active men, with a specific collagen sports research angle. Another article published in the May 2019 edition of the Nutrients journal delved into how, after 20 years of research, scientists had identified a number of other health benefits of taking significant amounts of functional collagen protein as part of one’s diet.
The study aimed to see what the limit was to the amount of collagen peptides they could add to a person’s diet.
Encouragingly, they learned that collagen peptides could be used as a form of protein substitution as part of someone’s daily diet, while ensuring that a person still continues to receive the required levels of amino acids that they would need to maintain a healthy body.
It's important to clarify that studies always offer a snapshot of something which may be the case, using representative numbers of respondents who may or may not be a good sample for the general population. Results from such studies are informative but should be viewed in relation to others, to see if a clear correlation actually exists.
Based on the results from sports research on collagen peptides and also on their usefulness as a dietary supplement in general, researchers in each study nearly always conclude by saying their work in this field warrants further research, to conclusively prove a connection between increased collagen protein consumption and better overall health.
Hydrolyzed Collagen Supplements - a Guide
There are a wide range of hydrolyzed collagen peptides products to choose from, but no two products are the same. You can consume this protein a number of ways, whether that’s in the form of collagen capsules, or in collagen protein powder, for example.
What is the recommended collagen supplement daily dosage? It depends on the person who consumes it. Some brands of collagen supplement can be a little bit vague about precise daily dosages, and if you have joint pain, you might benefit from a slightly higher dose than if you are fully mobile without pain.
One study found that 10 grams of collagen protein were all that was required, when consumed daily, as part of a fruit-based health drink, to help reduce the depth of existing skin wrinkles in a group of women after just nine weeks.
However, if you’re experiencing a bone-related malady such as osteoarthritis, a dose of hydrolyzed collagen closer to only eight grams per day could be enough to boost the levels of plasma collagen in the body and help relieve symptoms.
Fresh Body Mind is pleased to reveal a multi collagen supplement of its own - our new Collagen Complex Supplement contains the four main collagen types, as well as a healthy dose of Vitamin C and a number of essential digestive enzymes.
Not only that - our supplement includes hyaluronic acid, a naturally-occurring substance which helps maintain moisture of skin and eye tissues. It’s packed with all the necessary chemicals your body could need to help maintain wellness and vitality for longer.