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Collagen Supplements: Helpful or Unnecessary?

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Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in most tissues, such as bones, skin, mucous membranes, muscles, tendons and cartilage. Collagen is responsible for the elasticity, cohesion and regeneration of these tissues.

As the body ages, the production of collagen in it decreases. Supplements are therefore offered in the industry, and many celebrities tout their benefits for improving the appearance of skin, hair, nails, or even for strengthening joints and muscles.

What do collagen supplements contain?

In the food industry, there are two ingredients derived from collagen. One is gelatin and the other is collagen peptides, also known as “hydrolyzed collagen”, explains Steve Cui, a researcher at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

The first ingredient, gelatin, is well known and widely used in the food industry, for example to make Jell-O or marshmallow.

The second ingredient, hydrolyzed collagen, is what is found in collagen powder supplements. This collagen is broken down by an enzyme and produces small molecules that can easily dissolve in water.

Whether it is to isolate gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen, collagen is extracted from bovine or marine animal products.

Some supplements show up as vegan. Still, there is no collagen in a herbal supplement, since collagen is an animal protein.

These products contain extracts of fruits, vegetables, plants, and nutrients that can help promote collagen production in the body, but it is not collagen., specifies Kathryn Adel, nutritionist at SOS Cuisine.

Collagen powder.

Hydrolyzed collagen is very soluble, which facilitates its absorption.

Photo: TurnedNews.com / L’épicerie

Naturally present in many foods

While collagen supplements can add collagen to your diet, you should know that the body naturally produces collagen when it ingests protein sources, whether animal or plant.

One does not need to take a collagen supplement to promote collagen production in the body. If we eat a balanced diet with our protein needs, the body will have enough amino acids and proteins to promote collagen production, explains Kathryn Adel.

Certain foods, such as meat, chicken, or eggs, are naturally high in collagen.

When we eat meat or fish with the skin on, there is a lot of collagen. Pork skin and beef tendons… In fact, all meats contain and add a certain amount of collagen to our diet., details researcher Steve Cui.

A bone broth.

Bone broth, obtained after simmering animal bones for an extended period of time, is particularly rich in collagen.

Photo: getty images / istockphoto / Qwart

What the studies say

Some studies have looked at the effects of collagen supplements on skin health and joint pain.

There are still studies that have shown that taking a collagen supplement can help skin health, says Kathryn Adel. For example [ces suppléments peuvent] promote wound healing, but also [aider] in osteoarthritis, reduce joint pain and reduce loss of bone mass.

Regarding the benefits of collagen consumption on other aspects of health, the nutritionist explains that, for the moment, few studies have been carried out.

It is not conclusive. These are really studies that were done in the short term on a very small number of subjects. And then, often funded by industry too. So there may be a source of bias, she says.

Kathryn Adel adds that a few studies have looked at the effects of collagen in sports nutrition, including healing of tendon injuries and post-workout recovery, but they are too few at the moment.

Also, be aware that it is impossible to determine in advance where collagen peptides will be used in the body when a collagen supplement or food containing collagen is ingested.

When we consume collagen, the body breaks it down into these amino acids and then will use these amino acids where it needs them. So even if the supplement you take says it helps for the skin, for example, that doesn’t mean the body will use it for the skin, in fact.

A quote from Kathryn Adel, nutritionist at SOS Cuisine

Products to be taken with caution

A label indicating the maximum dose of collagen to be taken daily.

The maximum recommended dose of collagen is 10 grams per day.

Photo: TurnedNews.com / L’épicerie

Health Canada has set the maximum dose of collagen supplement to be taken in a single day at 10 grams.

It is sometimes difficult to know all the components of the products. Because of its origin, the processing of the product may be different. In this case, the other elements can change the purity of the collagen., explains researcher Steve Cui.

Since collagen supplements are derived from parts of animals or fish, there is a risk that these products contain toxins or heavy metals, adds Kathryn Adel.

For someone who has kidney or liver problems, for example, or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it can be very dangerous. It is always important to talk to your doctor and pharmacist before taking a product.

A quote from Kathryn Adel, nutritionist at SOS Cuisine

For Steve Cui, how to consume collagen is an individual choice. We all have certain food preferences. I think it’s a personal choice, he said.

For her part, Kathryn Adel thinks that it is better to bet on good lifestyle habits than on collagen supplements.

In the majority of cases, it is much more worth investing in improving our lifestyles. Eating a varied and balanced diet, but also limiting smoking, sun exposure and alcohol consumption, is what will have a greater impact on health and the production of collagen in the body. [Plus] than taking supplements, she explains.

With information from Andrée Langlois

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