01 May Ask Jenny: What Are The Benefits Of Collagen?
“Hi Jenny! I hear you talk about collagen and lot and recommend it as an option in your Breakfast Smoothies. Can you let me know about the benefits of collagen?’, Sarah, Washington D.C.
Hi Sarah, and thank you for your question – I do love collagen and it is one of my favorite functional foods. Collagen has numerous health benefits and is a great option for anyone wishing to improve their overall health, but here are my top 4 benefits of collagen:
1. An Easily Digestible and Absorbable Source of Protein
I always say ‘its not what you eat, but what you absorb’ that counts, and collagen is a type of protein that is very easy for the body to digest and to absorb. Hydrolysed collagen is composed of low molecular weight small peptides, which means it is both highly digestible and easily absorbed and distributed in the human body. When we add collagen to our smoothies, lattes, baked goods, etc. it is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of both collagen peptides and free amino acids (which are the building blocks of the peptides). This means we are able to reap all the benefit of collagen (energy, blood sugar balance, increased satiety, healthy mood, increased metabolism) without it taxing our digestive system.
2. Helps to Balance Amino Acid Intake
Collagen and gelatin used to be part of our every day diet, as we would eat ‘nose to tail’, not just the muscle meat of an animal, and we would use the bones in stocks, broths, etc. In our modern day diet we have processed this out (partly due to the misguided low-fat diets of the 80’s and 90’s), and typically eat just the muscle meat of an animal (think chicken breast vs a whole chicken).
Eating a diet high in muscle meat creates an imbalance in the types of amino acids we consume. When we (wrongly) hear about the dangers of a high protein diet it is actually this imbalance of amino acids that causes health concerns, rather it is the type of animal protein we are consuming that can have negative health effects, not the amount.
Muscle meat is high in the amino acid methionine, which is converted to homocysteine in the body. Homocysteine has been linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions, although further research is needed to prove this definitely. Collagen is high in glycine, which can help to lower homocysteine levels in the body. It is also high in proline and hydroxyproline, amino acids that can not be found in muscle meats.
3. Beneficial for Gut Health
It is this unique amino acid profile that makes collagen a key tool in healing and repairing the gut. These amino acids help to repair the tissues of the stomach and the lining of the digestive tract, helping heal leaky gut or intestinal permeability.
Collagen also stimulates the production of hydrochloric (stomach) acid which is vital for efficient digestion and absorption of proteins, and it and it attracts water into the GI tract to help move along food and boost detoxification and gastric clearance.
4. Beneficial for Skin Health
Collagen is the main component of the skin, in fact 80% of our skin is formed from collagen. It is found in the extracellular matrix of the skin, so it plays a pivotal role in the skin’s structure and rigidity – it really is the framework that keeps our skin, supple, firm and lifted.
Poor diet, environmental factors, stress can all negatively affect the quality and integrity of collagen in the skin, and as from the age of around 25 both the types of collagen and the amount of collagen in the skin begins to decrease, leading to dryer, thinning skin which is more prone to fine lines, wrinkles and lack of firmness.
After being absorbed in the small intestine they are then distributed around the body, especially to the skin, where they can stay for up to 14 days. When they reach the skin they have a two-fold benefit – they provide building blocks for the formation of collagen fibres, and they stimulate the production of new collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.
I’m a Holistic Nutritionist working in Boston, New York and London, and every week I answer one of your most pressing questions on gut health, weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep and more! Submit your questions to email@example.com to have them answered on the site.