The Truth About The Collagen Craze

Did You Know… that the collagen craze may be all it’s cracked up to be?

The paleo community—you know, those cavemen and women who favor eating meat (including bacon) and plant foods while avoiding processed foods and carbs like the plague—have zeroed in on a new trend that more mainstream health enthusiasts might want to take part in.

It’s the collagen craze, and it’s catching on big.

Eat Collagen… No, Really… Eat It! 

Collagen is the most plentiful protein in our bodies, but it’s also the most likely to deteriorate over time.  Collagen makes up our connective tissues, bones, muscles, blood cells, cartilage, arteries, and organs, but as the years go by, collagen production declines, our skin wrinkles, and we develop degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.  Preliminary research suggests that consuming collagen in the form of supplements, collagen powders, or collagen-rich foods, might help build up collagen throughout the body.

Although most evidence is anecdotal, and studies thus far show contradictions, collagen via the diet may help:

Thicken hair  Improve nails
  Strengthen immunity
  Balance blood sugar
  Help with sleep
  Accelerate wound healing
  Reduce inflammation

How Eating Collagen Helps Build Collagen 

Collagen is made up of long chain proteins.  When we consume collagen, the digestive system kicks in and breaks these long chain proteins into absorbable amino acids.  The body then puts these amino acids to work building up collagen.  Collagen powders in particular are high in the amino acid glycine, which helps balance out meat intake.

This is important for meat eaters who regularly eat animal foods like muscle meat, eggs, and dairy that are high in methionine, which animal trials have shown can decrease life span.  Fortunately, glycine can counteract the effects of methionine, while supporting metabolic functions and detoxification.

Juice Up Your Joints 

Consuming collagen has a palliative effect on joint pain caused by exercise stress.  A 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated the effects of collagen supplementation on 55 healthy people suffering from joint pain due to physical activity.  Participants received either a placebo or UC-I (a patented form of un-denatured type II collagen) each day for 4 months.

At the end of 4 months those supplementing with collagen had more knee joint mobility, less joint pain during physical activity, and were able to maintain physical activity for longer periods of time.

Smooth Your Skin 

As we age, our stores of type 1 collagen diminish, causing wrinkles and loss of suppleness to the skin.  A collagen supplement may help increase collagen production and build up the second layer of skin called the dermis where collagen resides.  Collagen powder may then boost your skin’s moisture levels and help plump it up a bit.

However, more proof is needed here.  The skin-saving benefits of collagen are mostly anecdotal, and because the digestive system breaks down the collagen, some researchers believe that the odds of collagen reaching the skin are slim.

Consuming Collagen 

Collagen comes from the parts of animals we typically don’t eat, like connective tissues and tendons, although companies are now manufacturing everything from powders, to bone broth, to protein bars, making it easier for you to eat your way to increased collagen.  If you are looking to supplement, choose one with types I and II collagen (for skin and joint health).  To enhance absorption of the amino acids in collagen, take on an empty stomach a half hour before mealtime.  Collagen has been shown to cause gastrointestinal upset, so as always, consult your healthcare provider before taking.

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