Have you heard good things about collagen and are doing a bit of research to see if what you’ve heard’s true? Or maybe you’ve caught snippets of positive mentions about collagen here and there, and want to piece them all together?
Don’t worry, by the time you reach the end of this article, all will become clear about collagen – what it does to skin and several main collagen benefits.
What is the best source of collagen?
There’s no one single source of collagen because it’s present in food form (from both plant and animal sources), as well as collagen supplement form. What’s more, different collagen sources provide different types of collagen, and therefore different health-related benefits.
As there’s no single source of collagen, it’s best to try and incorporate it into your diet/life in a way that works best for you. For instance, if you prefer animal sources over plant sources, stick to foods 1 to 3 below, and if you prefer fish/seafood and fruit sources, then stick to those instead. Or, if you don’t mind, then it’s perfectly ok to enjoy a combination of the two!
Before we move on to talking you through some of the main food sources of collagen, we also wanted to mention certain nutrients can help with collagen production too. They are zinc, Vitamin C and copper, so bear them in mind when you’re planning your next collagen-packed meal!1
What foods contain collagen?
The main dietary sources of collagen are:2
- Chicken bone broth – which doesn’t just contain bone, but also cartilage. Because of this, it’s high in the collagen that’s in our skin and bones, as well as glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.
- Bovine collagen – contains two different types of collagen; skin and bone and cartilage collagen, and is especially beneficial for our skin and bones.
- Egg whites – also contains two different types of collagen, but not the same types as bovine collagen. Eggshell membranes contain the same type of collagen found in placentas and the collagen that’s in cartilage and disc tissue.
- Marine collagen – is most commonly found in freshly-caught fish. It’s mainly made up of the collagen that’s in our skin and bones. It also contains some of the same collagen that’s in our gut lining.
Other collagen food sources include citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes), berries (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), tropical fruits (e.g. mango, kiwi, pineapple), garlic, leafy greens, cashew nuts, tomatoes, and bell peppers.3
What are the main different types of collagen?
There at least 16 different types of collagen however, people tend to refer to these five types as the main types:4
- Type 1 – makes up 90% of the human body. This type of collagen is found in our skin and bones, blood vessel wall, connective tissue, and fibrous cartilage. It’s also present in scar tissue, and of all the different forms of collagen, this is the one that’s mainly linked to skin ageing – wrinkles, fine lines etc.
- Type 2 – you’ll find this in the cartilage between your joints. It’s got a good rep for helping ease joint pain and can be found in abundance in bone broth.
- Type 3 – there’s lots of it in our intestines, it helps create and improve the structure of our muscles, as well as our organs and blood vessels.
- Type 4 – is less common than collagen types 1 to 3 and helps our kidneys and organs function properly. This type of collagen is believed to help with wound healing.
- Type 5 – is found in some layers of skin, hair and the tissue of the placenta in pregnant women.
What destroys/impacts collagen?
Despite the fact there are several different types of collagen, our collagen levels don’t stay the same forever. As we get older, our body naturally produces:5
- Less of it
- Lower quality collagen
The main tell-tale signs this is happening is when our skin looks less firm and starts losing its elasticity.
Our age can massively impact our collagen levels, and so too can this:
- Eating lots of sugary food and refined carbs
This is because: Sugar interrupts collagen’s ability to do what it does naturally and repair itself.
- Catching too many rays
This is because: The sun’s UV rays can reduce collagen production, making excessive sun exposure a massive no, no.
This is because: Like UV rays, it’s reduces collagen production too. It can also lead to wrinkles.
What are the benefits of taking collagen?
Taking collagen supplements or upping the amount of collagen-rich foods in our diet can deliver lots of positives. We’ve listed 9 of the main ones below:6
1. Healthier skin
Collagen’s great for overall skin health, supporting the skins natural elasticity levels and overall hydration. Studies have also shown it’s capable of reducing the appearance of wrinkles and dryness.7
Collagen supplements in particular can potentially encourage the body to produce collagen and stimulate the creation of other collagen-forming proteins.
2. Less joint pain
Cartilage, the tissue that’s responsible for protecting our joints, is made up of collagen, and therefore starts to decrease as we get older. This means, we can potentially be more at risk of developing joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis.
Research has found collagen supplements can stimulate tissues in the body to make more cartilage.8
3. More muscle mass
Around 1 to 10% of muscle tissue within the human body is made up of collagen, which helps keep muscles strong and working as they should.
According to research, collagen supplements can potentially contribute to muscle growth and encourage the creation of muscle proteins, such as creatine.
4. Healthier heart
It’s thought collagen supplements may have the ability to reduce the risk of heart-related conditions. The reason for this is because collagen contributes to and maintains the structure of our arteries that are responsible for pumping blood from our heart and around our body.
Not having enough collagen potentially means our arteries become weak and fragile over time.
5. Strong bones
Our bones are mainly made up of collagen, which gives them their structure and helps keep them strong. The older we get, the less collagen we have in our body and the less bone mass we have too.
Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help maintain a healthy bone mass.9
6. Better digestion
According to certain research, collagen contains the amino acid, glycine, which can potentially promote normal and healthy digestion.10
7. Stronger and healthier hair and nails
Collagen can potentially help nails to grow strong and less brittle, and hair to grow
8. Healthier gut
There’s limited medical evidence to back this up, but it has been suggested that collagen supplements can help with leaky gut syndrome
9. Weight loss
Another claim in which there’s limited research to back it up, but it’s thought collagen can help with weight loss because it can potentially speed up people’s metabolism
How are you feeling about collagen now? We’d like to think you’re a lot clearer on the main collagen benefits and now feel more than informed about what it is and some of ways it helps with skin and body health. To continue your collagen research read, ‘Can collagen keep your joints and bones healthy?’
Last updated: 8 February 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.