Collagen as a Supplement
To know if you would benefit from collagen or biotin supplements, it is important to understand what exactly collagen is and where it is located. Collagen is essentially a protein made up of little building blocks of amino acids. The main amino acids in a collagen molecule are arginine, proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. These amino acids form a triple helix structure which is collagen. Molecules that help support this structure are vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese.
Collagen is found throughout our body in bones, tendons, ligaments, skin, blood vessels and even our internal organs like our kidneys and liver.
There are 3 main types of collagen in humans.
This type is found in bones, ligaments, tendons and skin for elasticity and strength. Bovine and fish supplements may help with these types of collagen.
This is cartilage- the tissue that cushions our joints or is found in the pinna of our ear.
This type is found alongside type I in skin, blood vessels and internal organs. The supplement source comes from bovine.
One point I like to make regarding collagen supplements- the collagen does not just directly float to your skin and bones and insert itself directly. After we ingest a collagen supplement, it gets broken down in our GI tract into its smaller parts- those 4 amino acids I mentioned earlier: arginine, proline, hydroxyproline and glycine. Our body can then possibly use these amino acids to rebuild new proteins where it feels this is necessary, but this is not a guarantee. Eating a high protein diet in general could potentially be more beneficial for collagen support. As we get older, our body requires more protein to maintain healthy muscle mass, strong bones, and repair damages. I usually advise focusing efforts on a high protein diet and focusing on an individuals’ micronutrient deficiencies over taking a collagen supplement. Micronutrient testing can show which amino acids or vitamins and minerals we are deficient in so we can focus our efforts on adding those deficiencies as supplements.
When considering collagen supplements, it’s essential to choose high-quality sources. Collagen can be derived from various sources, including bovine, marine, and poultry. Marine collagen, sourced from fish, is particularly popular due to its bioavailability and absorption rate. Additionally, collagen peptides, which are smaller, more easily digestible forms of collagen, are commonly found in supplements, maximizing their effectiveness.
Overall, I would say studies are divided on whether collagen benefits us or not. The harm is fairly minimal as long as you are using a trusted source- so I usually don’t discourage patients from taking collagen if they personally feel they have a benefit. Some potential negative effects of collagen are the potential for heavy metals or toxins to be in your collagen product if not from a reputable source. There is also the potential for collagen to cause high calcium, GI issues like diarrhea and kidney stones. Whether or not to start it though, is a personal decision. I would say if there is a plan to start collagen, consistently taking it for 6 months and monitoring for improvement in joint pain, skin texture, flexibility would be a good gauge if the supplement is benefiting you individually. If no improvement, you stop.