Written by Camille Baekelandt
Photos: Marie-Josée Bédard
“Taking collagen supplements without understanding the hydrolyzation form is like trying to unlock a door without the right key- It may not open the door to the benefits you seek.”
Collagen, a critical protein found in the skin, joints and muscles , plays a pivotal role in maintaining the health and functionality of these vital body components. As a pharmacist, I aim to provide insight into the importance of collagen, the factors that lead to its gradual decline, and the role of collagen supplements in counteracting these effects. Additionally, we will explore the different types of collagen, including Type I, Type II, and Type III, and how they impact our overall well-being.
Collagen is a structural protein that serves as a fundamental building block for various tissues in the body. It is a complex molecule with different types, each with unique functions and distribution within the body. Collagen accounts for a significant percentage of the skin's composition, providing it with elasticity and strength. In the joints, collagen helps maintain their flexibility and overall health, while in muscles, it supports their structural integrity.
The decline of collagen with Age
From the age of 25-30, the natural production of collagen in our bodies starts to decline. This decrease in collagen synthesis leads to visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles, sagging skin, and joint discomfort. To counteract the decline and support overall health, many people turn to collagen supplements.
Several Factors contribute to the decrease in collagen production within our bodies, affecting the skin, joints, and muscles alike. These factors include;
1. Genetics Factors: Genetics can influence how quickly collagen production decreases with age, making some individuals more prone to premature aging signs in their skin, joint discomfort, and muscle-related issues
2. UV light: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from the sun or tanning beds, can accelerate collagen breakdown and lead to premature aging of the skin, as well as affect joint and muscle health
3. Unhealthy Lifestyle: Poor dietary choices, smoking, chronic stress, and excessive alcohol consumption can all contribute to a decline in collagen production, impacting skin, joints, and muscles
4. Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause, can affect collagen levels, leading to changes in skin elasticity, joint discomfort, and muscle-related concerns
5. Pollution: Environmental factors, including pollution and toxins, can also contribute to collagen degradation, impacting skin, joint, and muscle health.
6. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the body can trigger collagen breakdown, affecting all three components- skin, joints, and muscles
Choosing the Right Collagen Supplements
When considering collagen supplements, it's crucial to choose wisely. Not all supplements are created equal, and their effectiveness can vary based on several factors:
1. Source of Collagen: Collagen supplements can be derived from various sources, including bovine (cow), marine (fish), or plant-based (collagen boosters). Each source has different types of collagen with varying benefits. For instance, marine collagen is rich in Type I collagen, which is essential for skin health.
· TYPE I Collagen: This is the most abundant type and is found in skin, tendons, bones, and other connective tissues. It provides structural support and helps maintain skin elasticity, joint flexibility, and muscle integrity
· TYPE II Collagen: Primarily present in cartilage, Type II collagen is crucial for joint health and flexibility. It plays a vital role in maintaining the structural integrity of joints and their associated cartilage
· TYPE III Collagen: Often found alongside Type I collagen, it plays a role in supporting the structure of muscles, blood vessels, and organs. It contributes to muscle health and overall body structure
2. Molecule Size : Collagen molecules are relatively large, making absorption into the bloodstream a challenge. Look for supplements that mention "hydrolyzed" collagen on the label. This means the collagen has undergone a process that breaks it down into smaller, more easily absorbed peptides
3. Additional Ingredients : Some collagen supplements may contain added vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants that can further support skin and joint health. Be sure to read the ingredient list to find a supplement that suits your specific needs. For example vitamin C is essential for collage, synthesis in the body. So it can enhance the body’s ability to create new collagen molecules.
Beware of Added Sugars
While choosing a collagen supplement, it's important to avoid those with added sugars. Excess sugar intake can burden the liver and potentially lead to adverse health effects. Sugar is often used in collagen supplements to improve taste, but it's best to opt for products with no added sugars or natural sweeteners if taste is a concern.
Vegan Collagen supplements?
Traditionally, collagen has been primarily sourced from animal-derived materials, because collagen is a protein that makes up the connective tissues in animals. Common sources of animal-derived collagen include cows (bovine collagen, contains Type I and III collagen), fish (Marine collagen, Type I collagen) or chicken (Type II collagen).
However, in recent years there has been growing interest in developing alternative sources of collagen, including plant-based collagen alternatives. These plant-based collagen alternatives are not actual collagen but rather plant-derived ingredients that are believed to support the body’s natural collagen production. They often include nutrients like silica, biotine and vitamin C. which are essential for collagen synthesis.
Collagen is a vital protein that influences the health of our skin, joints, and muscles. Its decline with age, exacerbated by various factors such as genetics, UV light exposure, an unhealthy lifestyle, hormonal imbalances, pollution, and inflammation, underscores the importance of collagen supplementation for maintaining overall well-being. Understanding the different types of collagen, including Type I, Type II, and Type III, allows individuals to make more informed decisions about their health and choose supplements tailored to their specific needs. While a healthy lifestyle can help sustain collagen production, it is often insufficient to fully compensate for the natural decrease that occurs over time. As always, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable when considering collagen supplements or making significant lifestyle changes.
Camille Baekelandt is a pharmacist- nutritionist, and founder of UrPharma. UrPharma is a distribution company of clean brands based in Qatar.