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Is Consuming Collagen Worth the Hype?

Collagen seems to be the nutrition craze these days, everyone is adding collagen to their smoothies in hope of smoothing wrinkles and alleviating arthritis symptoms. But does eating collagen equate to an anti-aging version of a healthier you?

First of all, what is collagen and why do we need it?

Collagen is a rich source of protein found in our connective tissues, cartilage, bone, and tendons. Our bodies make collagen, but production slows down with age. Collagen contains the amino acid hydroxyproline that’s associated with plump youthful skin.

Unfortunately, we don’t have control over where our body puts things. When we eat or drink a protein like collagen, our stomach and small intestine will break the protein down using enzymes. These small fragments are generally up to three amino acids long before our body can absorb them. That’s not a lot of amino acids. And most of the time our body can’t tell if these fragments come from collagen, because they could be any number of other proteins.

But what about science, you say?

Sure, you can read quite a few studies that have concluded that taking collagen improves skin and relieves some arthritis symptoms. But when you look closer at those studies, you will see that some studies were done on mice, rats, and pigs, not humans. I’m not sure how they determined that mice, rats, and pigs got more youthful skin after collagen. Also, what works in the lab doesn’t always work in real life.

It is important to note that the “clinical studies” that are widely referenced and reported as being conducted on humans taking collagen supplements, are all paid for by collagen-selling companies, and didn’t have a placebo group.

All this to say that while it appears that collagen supplements are promising and could work, it is mostly marketing and spin. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from people sharing their own personal experiences with collagen supplements and adding bone broth to their diet. I’ve heard some positives with people believing their skin looked better, or felt they experienced less pain. I’ve also heard people say they felt and saw no changes at all.

What’s the bottom line?

Once again, a magic pill does not exist. If you want to see how increasing collagen works for you, you can start by eating collagen-rich foods like tougher cuts of meat: chuck, roast and rump which are naturally rich in collagen.

Bone broth, as I’ve already mentioned, can be used in soups, stews, and other dishes, is another great source of collagen. Collagen is also available as a supplement, similar to a protein powder, and some swear that it’s easier on digestion than whey-or pea-based powders. Because our body breaks down collagen into amino acids and then assembles them into proteins, taking supplemental collagen probably isn’t any better than eating the foods rich in collagen.

Eating more protein-rich foods helps build collagen, so don’t skimp on meat, fish, dairy products, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms, and wheat germ. Vitamin C-rich foods, like bell peppers, kiwis, citrus fruit, broccoli, and kale, are also said to be important for collagen production.

Stay hydrated to keep your skin more youthful, and instead of ingesting collagen supplements, use proper skincare that has Vitamins A, C, retinol and tretinoin.

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