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ERSOY: Are collagen supplements necessary?

The sport supplements industry is worth more than $25 billion, and almost every week new products are coming on the market. It can be very confusing, and many products are very expensive too. Yet, understanding what you may need to supplement is crucial for your health.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a supplement as “something that completes or makes an addition.” One of the popular supplements on the market is collagen, which you can find added to many protein supplements, sports drinks, gummies, etc. You can also buy it pretty much any grocery store, pharmacy or nutrition store.

It has been claimed that it improves bone density, joints, hair, skin health, and promotes muscle gain and overall well-being. However, there is simply not enough research to support those claims. So are collagen supplements truly necessary or can our bodies get enough collagen through diet and natural processes?

First, what is collagen? It is an essential protein that forms approximately 30 percent of your body’s protein content, providing structure and strength to various tissues including bones. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity and elasticity of these body parts. Especially as we age, the natural production of collagen decreases, leading to weakened bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by fragile bones and a higher risk of fractures.

Collagen can be found in a variety of foods, particularly those rich in protein, such as bone broth, meat and fish, especially cuts that contain connective tissue. Egg whites contain large amounts of proline whip, one of the amino acids necessary for collagen production. Gelatin is a type of cooked collagen used in baking desserts and food products.

However, complete whole food sources are the best because when consuming collagen-rich foods the body also needs nutrients like vitamin C, zinc and copper to synthesize the collagen effectively.

Collagen supplements, typically in the form of hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, are believed to stimulate the body’s own collagen production. These supplements may provide the necessary amino acids that serve as building blocks for collagen synthesis. When ingested, collagen peptides are absorbed in the intestines and transported to target tissues, including bones, where they can support collagen formation and improve bone health.

However, individual differences in digestion rate can slow down the absorption so you need to take larger quantities, such as 10 grams. Furthermore, while collagen supplements might be beneficial for an individual who can not get enough whole food protein in their diet, and especially patients on bed rest or after surgery, they still need to add other protein supplements too.

If you are eating a balanced diet rich in collagen-promoting nutrients and natural sources of collagen, supplements will most likely not be necessary. Also, you should be aware of potential allergic reactions, such as if the supplements are derived from fish, shellfish,or eggs.

In addition, they are not as well regulated as pharmaceuticals, which means the quality and concentration of collagen, as well as the cost, can vary between products. Ultimately, they are supplements, so if you feel you need it then please to assess your lifestyle and your diet before you purchase them.

They can be beneficial for specific situations, but remember that no supplements will fix your lifestyle. And they will not give you a miracle. Adding healthy whole food protein sources to each meal, and drinking enough fluids, may solve the symptoms that you are looking to heal.

If you are considering collagen hydrolyzed supplements, it is important to choose high-quality products and if possible consult your doctor or nutritionist before making decision to be sure that it is appropriate for your specific health needs.

References:

• Medical News Today. “Can collagen benefit people with osteoporosis?”: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/collagen-for-osteoporosis#benefits

• National Library of Medicine. “24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain”: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18416885/

• National Library of Medicine. “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793325/

• UCLA Health. “Collagen peptides may be beneficial for menopausal bone loss”: https://www.uclahealth.org/news/article/collagen-peptides-may-be-beneficial-menopausal-bone-loss

• MedicineNet. “Collagen Diet, Benefits, How to Get It, Diet Tips & More”. https://www.medicinenet.com/collagen_diet/article.htm

• Cleveland Clinic. “Collagen”: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.); master trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro); registered yoga teacher; founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness; and founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.
Source: The Garden Island

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