HEALTH Q&A

Q: Every­one seems ob­sessed with col­la­gen right now. What are the ben­e­fits of this pop­u­lar sup­ple­ment?

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - — Stephanie, St. Louis

The Real Story on Col­la­gen Every­one seems ob­sessed with col­la­gen right now. What are the ben­e­fits of this pop­u­lar sup­ple­ment?

A: Back in the 1990s, I worked in New York with nu­tri­tion­ist Oz Garcia. Oz was very cut­ting edge with nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions, and we had an en­tire dis­pen­sary filled with all kinds of high-end brands of de­signer vi­ta­mins, ex­otic nootrop­ics from Europe, and in­jecta­bles like glu­tathione and al­pha-lipoic acid. Top-ofthe line stuff.

And right there on the shelf along­side these su­per­star sup­ple­ments was a big car­ton of plain old Knox gelatin.

That’s right, gelatin. Like the stuff they make Jell-o from. And it was on the shelf with all the su­per­stars be­cause—at the time—it was one of the most pow­er­ful nat­u­ral treat­ments we had for joint health.

The rea­son we used gelatin for joints was that it’s a pre­cur­sor to some­thing our joints ab­so­lutely need—col­la­gen. And in those days, we were taught that you couldn’t re­ally take col­la­gen sup­ple­ments be­cause they weren’t well di­gested, so an en­ve­lope of gelatin seemed like the only op­tion. But that was then. The no­tion that you couldn’t di­gest and ab­sorb oral col­la­gen sup­ple­ments has long since been buried on the garbage dump of wrong nu­tri­tional the­o­ries, and col­la­gen sup­ple­ments have now be­come, as they say, a thing.

So what’s the deal? What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween gelatin and col­la­gen? And what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween col­la­gen sup­ple­ments for the skin and col­la­gen sup­ple­ments for the joints? And what’s up with col­la­gen pro­tein pow­der?

Glad you asked.

COL­LA­GEN AND GELATIN

First, let’s sort out the gelat­in­col­la­gen re­la­tion­ship. Gelatin is the cooked form of raw col­la­gen. The raw col­la­gen it­self comes from an­i­mals, par­tic­u­larly the parts of the an­i­mal that we usu­ally don’t eat, like gris­tle and car­ti­lage, ten­dons and bones. When you cook that stuff—as you do when you sim­mer bones in a broth for 12 hours—the col­la­gen heats up and turns into a form we know as gelatin. And that’s ex­actly what it looks like, a kind of gelati­nous yel­low waxy sub­stance float­ing in the bone broth, that, though unattrac­tive, is none­the­less quite edi­ble.

The prob­lem is that bone broth is not a par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient way to get col­la­gen into your body—at least not if you want that col­la­gen to do the things it is known for (like help­ing to im­prove joints and skin). Here’s why. Bone broth con­tains col­la­gen pro­teins in the form of gelatin, and that’s a good thing, as col­la­gen pro­tein is a ter­rific pro­tein (which is why so many man­u­fac­tur­ers are us­ing it in pro­tein pow­ders). But col­la­gen pro­teins—also known as pep­tides, strings of amino acids—are big messy mol­e­cules, and they need to be bro­ken down fur­ther if you re­ally want to ab­sorb them. Your body will ab­sorb the col­la­gen pro­tein—but it won’t ef­fec­tively break it down into small enough par­ti­cles for it to be of max­i­mum use to you in re­pair­ing and main­tain­ing con­nec­tive tis­sue. That’s where hy­droliza­tion comes in.

Hy­drolyzed col­la­gen is col­la­gen that’s been bro­ken down

into tiny, mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles that the body will just suck up and use at ex­actly the places you need it. And it’s hy­drolyzed col­la­gen sup­ple­ments that are pri­mar­ily sold for skin, hair, nails, and joints. Don’t get me wrong—bone broth is a ter­rific food that sup­plies a rich ar­ray of vi­ta­mins and mi­cronu­tri­ents and some col­la­gen in the form of gelatin. But if you want col­la­gen for more spe­cific pur­poses, hy­drolyzed col­la­gen sup­ple­ments are the way to go.

And, although there are many vari­a­tions and com­bi­na­tion prod­ucts, most fall into one of two cat­e­gories: prod­ucts that pro­vide col­la­gen 1 and 3, and prod­ucts that pro­vide col­la­gen 2.

WHAT ARE ALL THESE DIF­FER­ENT KINDS OF COL­LA­GEN?

There are at least 16 dif­fer­ent types of col­la­gen, but about 90 per­cent of the col­la­gen in your body con­sists of types 1, 2, and 3. Col­la­gen 1 and 3—which are al­most al­ways found to­gether— are mainly in the skin. Col­la­gen 2 is found in the joints. All the col­la­gens serve the same pur­pose: to help tis­sues with­stand stretch­ing. Most col­la­gen sup­ple­ment com­pa­nies of­fer at least two for­mu­las—a com­bined col­la­gen 1 and 3 sup­ple­ment (for the skin) and a sep­a­rate col­la­gen 2 sup­ple­ment (for the joints).

So why do we need col­la­gen sup­ple­ments any­way? Num­ber one, col­la­gen is the most abun­dant pro­tein in the body, so by def­i­ni­tion it’s pretty im­por­tant. Num­ber two, we need it for just about ev­ery­thing: strong bones, car­ti­lage, ten­dons, joints, skin, hair, and nails. (Re­mem­ber, it’s the main pro­tein in con­nec­tive tis­sue!) And last but not least, we make less of it as we get older.

We don’t know why col­la­gen pro­duc­tion de­clines with age, but it does—dra­mat­i­cally (just as pro­duc­tion of NAD, testos­terone, and all kinds of other bio­chem­i­cals slows down with age). In the case of col­la­gen, af­ter the age of 20, one per­cent less of col­la­gen is pro­duced in the der­mis ev­ery year. In our 40s, we es­sen­tially stop mak­ing it.

When you don’t have enough col­la­gen, bad stuff hap­pens. In the skin, the fibers thicken, stiffen, and lose their elas­tic­ity—all re­sult­ing in ag­ing lines and wrin­kles. Joints be­come less flex­i­ble. Joint aches and pain in­creases.

Which brings us to col­la­gen pro­tein pow­der. While col­la­gen sup­ple­ments are a great way to get sup­port for skin and bones, there’s re­cently been a trend to­ward high-qual­ity col­la­gen pro­tein pow­ders, which of­fer a much greater dose of the col­la­gen pep­tides. Col­la­gen pro­tein pow­der is rich in amino acids that are im­por­tant in build­ing joint car­ti­lage. Clin­i­cal stud­ies sug­gest that 10 grams per day of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal-grade col­la­gen re­duces pain in pa­tients with os­teoarthri­tis of the knee or hip. One pub­lished re­view con­cluded that “Col­la­gen hy­drolysate is of in­ter­est as a ther­a­peu­tic agent of po­ten­tial util­ity in the treat­ment of os­teoarthri­tis and os­teo­poro­sis,” adding that “its high level of safety makes it at­trac­tive as an agent for long-term use in these chronic dis­or­ders.” An­other study, last­ing 24 weeks, showed improve­ment of joint pain in ath­letes who were treated with the di­etary sup­ple­ment col­la­gen hy­drolysate. I think col­la­gen pro­tein is a very promis­ing pro­tein pow­der that could work well as a high-qual­ity pro­tein source. (Vi­ta­min Shoppe car­ries a num­ber of high-qual­ity col­la­gen pro­tein pow­ders.) There’s not nearly as much re­search on col­la­gen pro­tein pow­der as there is on whey, so for the time be­ing, whey pro­tein pow­der re­mains my go-to pro­tein pow­der.

But I con­sider col­la­gen pro­tein an ex­cel­lent choice and of­ten use it in­stead of whey just for va­ri­ety. It might be a par­tic­u­larly good choice for those who are ex­tremely sen­si­tive to dairy.

COL­LA­GEN: FISH OR BEEF?

There re­ally is no ve­gan source of col­la­gen, but there is a pescatar­ian one—fish col­la­gen. As a com­mer­cial prod­uct, it hasn’t been around as long, but it does have a few def­i­nite sell­ing points. Num­ber one, it’s your only op­tion for veg­e­tar­i­ans—or at least veg­e­tar­i­ans who eat fish. Num­ber two, fish col­la­gen pep­tides are smaller than beef col­la­gen pep­tides, and stud­ies have shown that they are very well ab­sorbed and di­gested. (Many of my natur­o­pathic doc­tor friends, like Dr. Nikki Ar­guin­zoni-Gil, rec­om­mend fish col­la­gen sup­ple­ments for pa­tients with any gut is­sues or sen­si­tiv­ity, since they are so easy on the gut.) And num­ber three, fish col­la­gen is high in a par­tic­u­larly valu­able amino acid—hy­drox­ypro­line—that seems to have par­tic­u­lar value in stim­u­lat­ing col­la­gen syn­the­sis. A re­cent study showed that peo­ple tak­ing an­tiox­i­dants to­gether with fish col­la­gen had im­proved mea­sures of mois­ture and skin elas­tic­ity.

It’s also worth point­ing out—as I have many times be­fore—that prod­ucts that come from beef, such as col­la­gen, or whey pro­tein, should al­ways be sourced from healthy cows. A num­ber of com­pa­nies—such as NeoCell—have grass-fed/ pas­ture-raised col­la­gen in their prod­uct lineup; a very en­cour­ag­ing sign in­deed!

A PER­SONAL NOTE

I re­cently had the priv­i­lege of speak­ing at the Vi­ta­min Shoppe Con­fer­ence (my sev­enth time), and many of you came up to me and asked what col­la­gen rou­tine I per­son­ally fol­low. I promised I’d an­swer in the monthly col­umn, so here it is: My daily rou­tine con­sists of 1½ serv­ings of NeoCell 4000+C pome­gran­ate liq­uid (about 6,000 mg a day), and 1 serv­ing of NeoCell Col­la­gen Type 2 Joint Com­plex.

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