Read through natural products industry “top trends for 2020” or “on the horizon” reports written in 2019 and odds are you’ll come across collagen as one to watch. The ingredient shows up quite a bit on our What’s Selling column, and made several appearances in our Expo West 2020 Product Roundup, which served as our “virtual stroll” through the aisles of the cancelled trade show. In a Trust Transparency Center (TTC) survey released October, 64% of respondents said they take a supplement daily—and collagen (as well as protein powder) was experiencing the largest increase in usage.
There are many great reasons collagen is capturing the spotlight. Amy Myers, M.D., calls collagen “your body’s superhero,” explaining, “Think of collagen as the ‘glue’ that holds your body together. In fact, collagen comes from the Greek word ‘kolla’—meaning ‘glue.’ It’s the fibrous protein found throughout your body, in organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, blood vessels, tendons, joints, cartilage, and your digestive system.” Taking a collagen supplement daily, she says, is “essential for optimal health and functioning.”
Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, counts collagen as an essential as well—and he was calling out the coming trend years ago. “It might be too early to hand out a ‘supplement of the year’ award for 2017, but it’s not too early to nominate one: collagen,” Bowden said in his WholeFoods Magazine column The Nutrition Mythbuster back in March 2017.
The following year, Bowden spotlighted collagen in his column again, sharing, “I’ve been taking collagen since 1998, and — I kid you not — I’ve had Uber drivers comment on how good my skin looks. Obviously it’s not just the collagen that makes your skin look good, but it sure helps.”
As Bowden explained, collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, but we make less of it every decade after age 20, and we stop making it around age 40. “It’s absolutely critical to all the connective tissue, including skin, which wrinkles and folds partially because all the collagen is depleted. Although there are 20 or so collagens in the human body, we only need to worry about three of them: Collagen 1, 2, and 3. One and three are for skin, two is for joints.” He noted that there are a lot of options in terms of what to take, but his take home is to get both 1 and 3 for the skin, and 2 for the joints.
Offering a closer look in the article “What Is Collagen? Benefits for Skin, Hair, Joints and More,” Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS, explained that Type 1 collagen is made up of eosinophilic fibers that form parts of the body, including tendons, ligaments, organs and skin. “Type 1 collagen also helps form bones and can be found within the GI tract. It’s very important for wound healing, giving skin its stretchy and elastic quality, and holding together tissue so it doesn’t tear.” Type 2 collagen, he continues, primarily helps build cartilage and is beneficial for preventing age-associated joint pain or various arthritis symptoms. And Type 3 is a major component of the extracellular matrix that makes up organs and skin. “It’s usually found with type 1 and helps give skin its elasticity and firmness,” Dr. Axe said. “It also forms blood vessels and tissue within the heart. For these reasons, deficiency in type 3 collagen has been linked to a higher risk for ruptured blood vessels and even early death, according to results from certain animal studies.”
High-protein foods including beef, chicken, fish and egg shell membranes deliver protein. “So,” Dr. Axe questioned, “do we necessarily need collagen supplements to make sure we’re getting enough collagen in our diet? In other words, do collagen supplements work? The answer to both questions is yes.”
Bowden reports that supplemental collagen has been “a boom industry”—think bone broth diets, which he notes are a great source of collagen, and collagen protein powders. And Dr. Axe notes, “Because of their shorter chain length, versatility and high bioavailability, collagen peptides are a great option if you’re looking to start supplementing with collagen in your diet. Look for terms like ‘collagen peptides,’ ‘collagen hydrolysate’ or ‘hydrolyzed collagen’ on the ingredients label.”
Of course, as with any lifestyle change, consumers should discuss collagen supplements with their personal health care provider. And they should be patient. As Naomi Whittel notes in an article addressing the benefits of collagen supplements for joint health, supplementation delivers the molecules, but results may not be felt in a day or in a week, as might be the case with pain medication, “but over weeks and months as the body begins to rebuild the essential structure, many report significant improvements with both pain and inflammation.” WF