The Collagen Hype: Too Good to Be True?
Collagen is taking the health world by storm. Maybe you’ve even begun a morning tradition of adding a scoop of this protein to your morning coffee or smoothie. You’ve heard it can help revitalize your skin, hair, and nails. And the claims go even further, with some saying it can help with weight loss.
But are these claims even true? Are we simply relying on fads and trends to tell us what to do? In this article, I’m going to unpack all of this. What should you be aware of?
What is Collagen?
Plain and simple: Collagen is a protein. In fact, this is the most abundant protein in the human body. It contributes to the structural integrity of your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and so much more.
And it’s no secret that as you age, your body actually produces less collagen. So, it makes sense that we’ve come to believe that by supplementing collagen in our diet, we can almost turn back the clock when it comes to age-related effects.
Now, scientific studies do indicate that collagen has various benefits.
For instance, a 2013 study showed that women who took a collagen supplement for 8 weeks had increased skin elasticity and decreased skin dryness (1). Another couple of studies showed how collagen supplementation may help improve osteoarthritis and joint pain (2,3). And yes, there is evidence also demonstrating how collagen increased nail growth and decreased the frequency of broken nails (4).
Then, there’s the claim that collagen may help with weight loss. Again, this is partially true. Protein causes you to feel fuller for longer. Thus, you may eat fewer foods or high-calorie and low-nutrient snacks, which may lead to weight loss. Collagen, in particular, also includes an array of anti-inflammatory amino acids, which may also benefit your weight loss journey and overall health.
But… and this is a big one. We’re missing a whole other aspect here. There is never one miracle pill or supplement that will solve all of your health problems. For example, if you’re looking to improve your respiratory and cardiovascular function and you start going for regular runs but you’re a smoker, you are kind of missing the point. Optimal health and wellness is achieved through holistic approaches. I’ll dive into this in a moment. First, I want to focus on collagen a little bit more.
Not All Collagen Is Created Equal
It’s great to want to make lifestyle changes. It’s even greater if you’re already taking action, such as using collagen supplements. Yet, supplements aren’t the be-all, end-all.
Did you know that the supplement industry is worth billions upon billions of dollars? The goal here is to make money — not to necessarily help you improve your health. This is why I always say buyer beware. Always evaluate who you are buying from. Do they have a message of integrity? Do they offer any healthy guidance or community support? All of these are the foundations of good information and good products.
You should know what’s going into any supplement you take and how it works within your body. Not every supplement is bio-available, meaning your body might not absorb it without other vitamins or nutrients present.
Now, when it comes to collagen, it really depends on the manufacturing and production processes involved. Some brands are better than others. Ideally, collagen should really only have one ingredient: collagen. If there are other ingredients listed, these are often fillers, additives, and other entities which you might not want to be putting in your body every day. Additionally, there may be added nutrients that become excessive if you are combining it with other high-dose supplements, which can lead to issues down the road.
You can think about this in a similar way to the food you eat. Ideally, we want to limit processed and pre-packaged foods. Why? Because they contain preservatives, additives, and other ingredients that don’t benefit our health. In fact, too many of these ingredients can play a huge role in how your hormones and body function.
Thus, before you buy any collagen, ensure you do your research. Use precision in everything you include in your health plan.
Now, I have one last thing to add here…
Collagen is also better to obtain through real food and conscious dietary choices. This is often the case when it comes to supplements in general.
Real and whole food sources always trump supplementation. You can’t fake a bad diet. Nutrition is the cornerstone in your 40s and later years. For instance, if you’ve ever wondered why bone broth hit the health fads and took off running, it’s because of collagen. Bone broth is an easy-to-digest and all-natural source of collagen, providing your body with a similar amino acid profile. Thus, before you hand over your money to the supplement industry, you may want to devote some time to making your own bone broth at home instead. You’ll know exactly what goes into it, and you’ll probably save a bit of money here.
Other Pieces to Consider When It Comes to Your Health
If you’re really making a lifestyle change this is best for you, you need to also ask more questions and tap into your unique individual genetic profile.
Ask yourself: What is the purpose of taking this collagen? Are you measuring it and its effectiveness? If so, how?
For example, maybe you want to include more protein in your diet because you think you aren’t getting enough. You’ll need to measure before and after, as well as calculate the recommended amount of protein per day based on your specific weight.
Many women talk about using collagen for weight loss. Have you done your bioanalysis? What is your body fat percentage? Are you losing brown or white fat? How are you measuring this?
When it comes to measuring these benefits, you also don’t need to do it forever. You simply need to have a plan in place and a reason for doing what you’re doing.
On top of asking yourself the hard questions, you also want to explore other aspects of your life when it comes to reaching your goals. You can’t out-supplement a bad diet or a lack of physical activity or too much stress. Your overall health is a combination of many factors — from your genes and how you feel to what you eat and what you do.
For example, if you’re taking collagen but eating pizza for all of your other meals, it’s unlikely that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
So, what am I getting at overall here?
Be Critical About Health Fads and Trends
Some of them do work. But you want to keep in mind that there is no one-trick-pony.
So, does collagen live up to the hype? Yes and no.
Collagen has its place. It may be beneficial depending on what else you’re doing and your unique genetic makeup.
Want to learn more about how you can optimize your health through balanced hormones and harnessing your genes to work in your favor? Leverage and Lean In My Health Strategy Call. with me today. Together, let’s create a holistic approach to optimize your health and your life.
Wellness & Epigenetics Coach, Consultant, Physician, Health Advocate, Mentor & Author.