What is Collagen: A Complete Guide For Men
The multi-billion dollar supplement industry has taken front stage in the 21st-century marketplace as one of the leading products in demand. This is likely due to the fact that holistic lifestyle has become increasingly popular, making natural supplements one of the obvious choices to turn to in remedying health ailments.
There are many different forms of natural supplements on the market today that have their own unique healing properties on the body: herbs, amino acids, proteins, probiotics, greens, flower essences, etc. More than ever, people are turning to these various natural remedies to not only treat disease and other health conditions but also to address their aging concerns.
One such supplement that addresses this concern, and one that is expected to gross 122 million dollars for the total year of 2018 as it continues to skyrocket in growing popularity, is a protein called collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a strong, fibrous and flexible protein found within the human body that contributes to one-third of all its protein makeup. This connective tissue is what makes up most of the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and skin as well as a small amount of the muscle in the body. In more precise terms, it accounts for around 75 percent of the skin that each person has, 85 percent of the tendons in the body, 90 percent of the bone, 70 percent of the joint cartilage, 70 percent of the ligament makeup, and six percent of the tendinous muscles in the body.
There are three different types of collagen: types one, two, and three. However, types one and three are what make up the majority of human tissues. Collagen has the ironic ability to both stretch so as to accommodate the wide array of human movement while at the same time remain impeccably strong minimizing the chances of breakage.
What is The Role of Collagen in the Body?
Collagen has a vital role in the body, making the body dependent upon it for its health and survival. It is what essentially holds the body together, the tendons, muscles, tissues, and skin all keeping the body glued together so to speak. It also is what enables the body’s amazing ability to have such a wide flexibility in movement and remain strong so as to be able to perform its every day human functions.
Collagen is Like the ‘Scaffolding’ of the Human Body
A scaffold is a structure that is used to help people both build, maintain, and repair a building. Likewise, collagen is like a scaffold in that it builds by packing cells tightly together, therefore binding these cells as one in order to create durable tissues. This then maintains the body by giving it structure, stability, and strength. Lastly, It repairs because of its inherent ability to rapidly produce new cell growth, thus regenerating damaged or worn out tissues.
Collagen Production Declines with Age
The production of collagen starts to decrease as early as 21 but really doesn’t start to more rapidly cause tissue degeneration until ages 35-40. This is due mostly to the effects of free radicals over time such as too much sun exposure, smoking, a high sugar diet, and pollution. Additionally, our own body’s enzymes ever-increasingly break down collagen as we age. Although much of the degeneration is unavoidable, a healthy diet and proper care of the body can slow down collagen deterioration.
Collagen Supplements Are Thought to Help with Skin Health, Wound Healing, and Muscle Growth
In regards to skin health, collagen is what plumps up the skin making it look fuller and more youthful. As people age, the skin starts to lose collagen, thus making the skin sag and look older. Thus, it is thought that supplementing with collagen can plumpen loose and aging skin. A 2014 study done by the University of Kiel in Germany revealed that after just eight weeks of the administration of either two and a half or five-milligram collagen hydrolysate dosages, women showed a “significant improvement in comparison to the placebo.”
In regards to wound healing and muscle growth, collagen can stimulate rapid cell growth. Additionally, the very nature of collagen is that its protein strands bind tightly together, creating a gluelike effect for the body’s tissues. Thus, studies have been done to confirm that collagen might really heal wounds and grow stronger muscles.
What is Collagen Good For?
Collagen is incredibly healing for all tissues of the body as already learned. Therefore, it makes sense that there are many benefits that collagen offers.
Collagen Powders May Help With Muscle Growth, Wound Healing, and Arthritis
As stated above, because of collagen’s ability to bind together and stimulate rapid cell growth, it makes sense that it has proven beneficial in certain studies on muscle growth and wound healing. However, it is always good to keep in mind two things: firstly, that there haven’t been enough separately conducted trial studies to solidify these claims into a concrete fact. Additionally, every person’s body is different and will react in different ways to the supplementation of a collagen powder. Some may experience a large improvement while taking it, others only a slight difference and others may not experience any notable benefit.
As for arthritis, the idea behind the claim that collagen powder can reduce pain or even heal the condition stems from the basic assumption that if collagen binds, repairs, and makes joint cartilage stronger, that it will then help to heal damaged and inflamed joint cartilage, thus taking away the pain of arthritis. However, there have been zero studs proving that collagen repairs cartilage.
However, there have been a couple of studies, one a 2016 University of California and InterHealth Nutraceuticals study and the other a 2009 University of Tennessee study, that show the beneficial connection between arthritis and the ingestion of collagen:
In the 2016 study, the osteoarthritis people that were given type two, undenatured collagen supplementation, which supposedly lowers inflammation by hindering the immune system’s tendency to attack joint cartilage, demonstrated improved pain levels with a better fluidity of movement and less soreness.
In the 2009 study, the rheumatoid arthritis people given type two, undenatured collagen also showed slight improvements in soreness, stiffness, and joint pain.
Collagen Protein Creams and Lotions May Help With Stretch Marks and Wound Healing
Due to the fact that collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by the pores of the skin, these creams are mostly just moisturizing the skin rather than boosting collagen production. Nonetheless, the marketplace is having major successes in effectively marketing and selling these creams, thus strengthening the claim that they do indeed work for stretch marks and healing wounds.
In regards to using collagen cream for stretch marks, most of the creams and lotions that are used for this purpose have other ingredients in the products, like vitamin E and cocoa butter, that makes it more effective. As for wound healing, the study mentioned above reveals that it is possible to use a topical collagen to increase the rate at which a wound heals; but again, more research needs to be performed to make this argument a certainty.
Regardless of the ambiguity, there is a way to make topical collagen more accessible to the skin and body, which leads us to the next consideration:
Collagen Peptides Could Be a More Absorbable Form of Collagen Supplement
Peptides are much more readily and easily absorbed by the body making them highly bioavailable. Therefore, in hydrolyzed collagen, which is the process of breaking individual collagen strands into smaller peptides of amino acids, the body is able to absorb these peptides which then go to work rebuilding collagen. Hence, many companies are starting to utilize peptides in their creams and lotions.
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?
Although there have been studies, as shown above, to suggest that collagen supplementation can improve bodily strength and repair bodily tissues, the fact remains that there still needs to be much more study done to solidify claim into fact. The mass market’s efforts to make collagen into an almost superpower for those that buy and consume the product is not enough to make the claims true.
There Has Been Some Promising Research to Support Collagen for Wound Healing And Muscle Growth
In regards to wound healing, the nature of collagen production in the body produces a state where the cells of these collagen tissues are constantly binding together and quickly replicating in number. Consequently, you have a tissue that, with adequate levels of collagen, regenerates quickly. A 2014 study done by the Chung-Ang University College of Medicine in South Korea revealed that after a four-week administration of a high advanced-collagen tripeptide gel, the women all showed a more swift wound closure as compared with the women who took an oral collagen who did not see an increased wound healing.
As for muscle growth, the same principle applies as above with the wound healing. A 2015 study by the University of Freiburg in Germany revealed that significant muscle growth, or muscle mass, was attained in men above 70 years of age after taking 15 grams of collagen daily and lifting weights for three months. This was compared with men the same age who solely lifted the weights without taking collagen. They saw no big improvements.
Some of the Research Has Been Mixed or Inconclusive
Although the results from the above research might make one conclude that collagen may very well be a miracle supplement, there has also been some trial studies that have had mixed results, thereby making the studies inconclusive.
Although the 2009 arthritis study mentioned above revealed a slight improvement in the patient’s joint pain, soreness, and stiffness, they actually found more relief when they took methotrexate.
A 2012 University of Liège study in Belgium revealed that after three months of ingesting collagen hydrolysate for joint pain, no significant improvement was noted. It was only after six months that they finally noticed an improvement. They suggested that “more studies are needed to confirm the clinical interest of this food supplement”.
Another 2012 Veterans Memorial Medical Center in the Philippines also revealed that improvements were only noted after six months. Additionally, this study went on to say in the results when objective measurements were taken that “there was no significant difference in the medial knee joint space measured at baseline and after six months in both groups.” Therefore, the results are quite confusing.
Risks and Side Effects of Taking Collagen
After reading all the marketing advertisements on how beneficial collagen is for the body, it is easy to assume that taking it is completely safe, especially considering there is a growing number of people buying the supplement. However, there are some things to consider before buying collagen.
One Thing That Doctors And Researchers Fear is Heavy Metals in Supplements
Although there is a very small percentage of evidence to suggest that heavy metals are indeed contained within many collagen supplements, the concern is still plausible due to the fact that sometimes the cow, chicken, pig, and fish parts are all ground up together which can hold heavy metals. However, many companies are starting to advertise that they test for heavy metals to keep contamination of the supplements to a minimum.
Others Fear Animal-Borne Diseases in Collagen Products
Although the FDA has now prohibited the use of certain cow parts in supplements to ensure that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, does not infect humans, manufacturing practices are not as heavily monitored as pharmaceutical drugs are. Therefore, even though the chances may be extremely low in actually getting a contaminated product, the safest way to minimize these chances is by getting a collagen product that has a trusted NSF or USP label and also that uses cage free, antibiotic free, and free range animal tissues and bones.
How to Buy Collagen
If you do decide to take a collagen supplement, it is imperative that you are informed of the best brands out there to ensure safety and quality as well as where you can find these products:
Popular Collagen Supplements Include Vital Proteins and Sports Research
Two best-selling collagen supplements that are not only free of antibiotics, hormones, and heavy metals but also that contain peptides for fast and easy absorption are Vital Proteins and Sports Research. Check these two collagen supplements out to see if they are the right fit for you.
Where to Buy Collagen Supplements
Although you can go directly to a certain brand’s website to purchase that brand, often times it is much more affordable to shop online for these supplements through a wholesale website like Amazon.com or Vitacost.com. However, if you desire to have a collagen supplement right away, then you will be able to find the best quality brands at your local health food store. Some big chain grocery stores might carry collagen but it might not be a superior quality supplement so it best to stick with either online shopping or purchasing from an actual health food store.
Deciding If Collagen is Right For You
If you find that you are desiring a natural solution for your body, then trying collagen might be a great option. Although there is no 100 percent assurance that collagen will help your arthritis symptoms, build up your muscles, heal your wounds, or take away your stretch marks, it is definitely worth the try, especially if medical options are either not desirable or have not worked.