By Lou Wallace
You’ve probably seen references to health supplements called Collagen Peptides. You see them in drugstores, in magazines, on TV and of course the internet. But what are they exactly? Why would you want them and what do they do for you?
What are collagen peptides?
To understand what they are we need to delve a bit into your body’s chemistry. When you eat food you do it for the energy it gives you as well as for nourishment for your body – the cells, organs, bones and all the rest. Food contains energy sources such as fats and starches, and essential proteins and minerals for use as the building blocks of the body.
Collagen is a protein, and of course protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. Collagen protein is an extremely useful food component and is a great source of the biologically important proteins, and include essential amino acids that have been shown in peer reviewed research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566836/) to improve your body’s health and can specifically target the degradation issues generated by some exercise and very importantly, by aging.
Collagen peptides are collagen proteins made up of various amino acids. In that respect they are similar to the collagen in gelatin, however the chemical structure is quite different. Collagen peptides are strands of collagen proteins in a chain, and each molecule consists of three twisted chains of collagen proteins. Visually it’s a bit like the DNA double helix but with an extra chain! The molecules are small and unlike gelatin don’t clump together to create gels so they make a great addition to food and drinks.
So that’s what they are but how are they used in your body?
Collagen peptides are proteins, but to the body not all proteins are equal. Collagen is used by the body to help connect and support the components of cells, support for cells in your muscles, improves your skin’s elasticity and softness, is used in the cartilage around your bones, it is a component of your intestinal walls and even shows up in kidneys, lungs and your heart and arteries.
Your body makes collagen naturally (as long as you have proper nutrition). However as you age the ability to produce collagen decreases and the amount of collagen in your body decreases. Starting in your twenties the need for collagen supplementation begins. And it can be even worse for women – some reports show that at menopause women can lose as much as 30 percent of their collagen!
As collagen levels decrease the effect on skin is visually apparent. You may notice that your skin is becoming drier, and wrinkles start to appear on your face. That’s because with less collagen the skin’s elasticity decreases and you develop wrinkles. In addition with lower collagen levels you begin to have lower production of new skin cells. So instead of soft smooth skin you begin to have dried wrinkles skin in its place.
A randomized, controlled and double blind research study (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23949208/) on collagen and skin showed a statistically significant improvement in the skin of women participants in the study. It also showed improvement in skin moisture in parts of the study group. There are other studies as well that reflect the real value of collagen supplement therapy for treating aging skin (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29949889/, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24401291/).
Another very important body component collagen peptides help protect is cartilage. Cartilage is the softer tissue in around and between bones and joints. It’s what protects the bones from rubbing against each other in joints, and with exercise and aging this cartilage starts to wear out.
Studies have shown that taking collagen peptide supplements can reduce pain when walking and moving. Some studies attribute this to it accumulating in the cartilage itself and reducing inflammation in the joint area, and it may even help the growth and production of new cartilage.
Many people suffer from osteoarthritis, which can be a very painful, debilitating, and disabling disease. Controlled medical studies (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22486722/) have shown that supplemental collagen can help by reducing the pain and improving people’s daily life.
As we age the loss of muscle mass is a serious concern. Resistance training (simple weight training) combined with protein and collagen peptide supplements can help you maintain and even grow new muscle tissue. This is especially important as we age because stronger muscles give support to your bones like those in your legs, arms and back. That can help prevent injuries from accidental falls.
And apparently it can also help your bones directly. Studies have shown that taken with calcium collagen peptides can increase your bone mineral density (BMD). Stronger bones can mean less chance of developing osteoporosis and that reduces your risk of bone fractures as you age.
Heart & Arteries
One of the most common issues as we age is the development in many people of atherosclerosis. This is commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries. This condition can lead to cardiac issues like heart attacks as well as strokes. Studies (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429168/) have shown that collagen peptides can improve patients with atherosclerosis.
While there is no research that definitively proves collagen burns fat, adding collagen peptides to your diets may still help weight loss. That’s because collagen can add to a feeling of ‘fullness’ when eating, causing you to eat a bit less. So less calories equals less weight!
What are good sources of collagen peptides?
You can add foods to your diet that contain the amino acids contained in collagen. Examples of such foods are those you probably already know are protein sources. Eggs, meats, legumes and beans, seafood, and dairy such as milk and cheeses. However these contain the amino acids needed to make collagen, your body will still need to make the collagen and create the collagen peptides. And as we know your ability to make collagen decreases with age.
You can also eat collagen rich foods such as gelatin. Yes even Jello has gelatin! You can also drink bone broth. However that may not be to your liking, especially if you are a vegan.
The easiest way to add the right amount of collagen peptides to your diet is by adding in a dietary supplement,
There are a variety of ways to take a supplement for collagen peptides. While pills and capsules can be found, many people have issues taking a handful of pills every day.
Using a powdered form of collagen peptides is by far the easiest way for most people. You simply add it to a drink – juice, coffee, milk, tea, whatever your favorite morning drink is. And as long as you choose a reliable source for your collagen peptides, it will dissolve quickly, adds no flavor to your drink and is easily digested.
Within a month or two you should start to see results like thicker hair and better nails. And most importantly your skin will look better, your hair will be thicker, your joints will feel better and overall your health may improve.