Collagen often gets attention for its glamorous beauty benefits but there is so much more to collagen than just hair, skin, and nails. While collagen can be linked to beauty benefits like improved skin elasticity and hair growth, it also has a wide variety of benefits for joint pain, bone health, digestion, and gut health. Not to mention, it is also a pure form of protein which can be especially beneficial to women over 50.
Many of us have already started to see some of these changes come about with age, so it is important to understand the science behind collagen and how it can have a positive impact.
To better understand how collagen can have positive effects on all of these things, let’s first cover the basics of collagen, how it works, and how to pick the best collagen supplement for you (plus our favorite pick!).
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen makes up 70% of the protein found in our skin, 90% in our connective tissue, and 90% in our bone mass. This is why collagen is often referred to as “the glue that holds the body together” because without collagen our bodies wouldn’t be able to perform a lot of its essential functions.
While our bodies do naturally produce collagen, unfortunately, the older we get the less collagen our bodies are able to produce. Starting around the age of 25, our bodies naturally start making about 1% less each year. That means by the time we are 50, our bodies can have 25% less collagen than they did when we were 25!
Since so much of our skin and bones are made up of collagen, a lack of collagen in our bodies can be a contributor to a lot of the signs of aging such as wrinkles, thinning hair, and joint pain.
How Does Collagen Work?
The reason collagen has so many benefits is because of its unique amino acid profile. Collagen peptides contain a combination of essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the human body, meaning the only way to get the amount your body needs is through dietary sources or supplements. Non-essential amino acids can be produced by our bodies even if we do not get them from the food we eat.
Even though our body can make non-essential amino acids, we need to ensure we are getting the proper amounts because they are very important to our overall health! The various essential and non-essential amino acids all have different benefits that enable our bodies to function properly.
When collagen is taken as an ingestible, it is absorbed into the bloodstream, helping replenish your body with collagen. We recommend looking for collagen peptides that are “hydrolyzed”, which means that they have been broken down through a particular type of water synthesis to allow them to be absorbed much quicker than non-hydrolyzed collagen or gelatin. Hydrolyzed collagen then provides amino acids that are needed by the body to build connective tissue, help regenerate cell growth, and see all the potential benefits.
Collagen for Joints
Did you know that 90% of bone mass is made up of collagen? When there is a lack of collagen in the body, health issues such as joint pain, arthritis, and osteoporosis can occur, so it makes sense that one benefit of collagen that we are constantly hearing positive feedback on is joint pain, arthritis, and all those other aches and pains that tend to start popping up the older we get.
Four of the amino acids in collagen that directly impact joints and bone health are histidine, isoleucine, valine, and leucine. These four amino acids in particular have been shown to help heal and repair muscle tissue, facilitate muscle protein synthesis and maintain muscle mass, support joint function and regeneration, and have anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease joint pain and stiffness.
As an added bonus, these amino acids also can help regulate blood sugar, control weight and cholesterol levels, and prevent the breakdown of muscle by providing extra glucose for energy.
Collagen for Digestion & Gut Health
It is no secret that what we put into our bodies plays a huge role in digestion but aside from just the foods we eat, supplements can also help to regulate digestion and keep our gut healthy.
Studies have shown that collagen can help aid digestion, reduce gut inflammation, heal stomach ulcers, and regulate acid secretion. The three amino acids that have the most benefits for digestive health are glycine, glutamine and proline.
Collagen for Hair
Let’s talk about hair growth! Hair is primarily made up of the protein keratin. Our bodies use amino acids to build keratin. Since collagen is rich in amino acids, it can aid your body in the production of keratin and in turn, help to strengthen hair. The amino acid proline is the main component of hair therefore, consuming proline-rich supplements like collagen can help provide your body with the building blocks it needs to create hair.
Collagen for Skin
When we think about collagen and skin, the first thing that usually comes to mind is collagen creams or injections because these are the traditional ways that collagen has been used to improve skin; however, collagen powder has become increasingly popular in recent years.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “beauty comes from within” meaning that the way we look on the outside has a lot to do with what we are putting into our bodies (food, drinks, supplements, etc).
Collagen supplements have proven to be significantly more effective than topical products because our bodies can actually absorb the supplements whereas topical products just sit on our skin. When collagen is taken as an ingestible, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, helping replenish your body with collagen more effectively than a topical product.
Collagen as a Protein Source
As we mentioned, collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and since collagen is a protein that comes from animals, collagen powders also contain protein. Protein makes up the building blocks of organs, muscles, skin, and hormones. Our bodies need protein to maintain and repair muscle tissue and can also help lose weight, decrease belly fat, and increase muscle mass. Getting enough daily protein is very important to overall health as we get older, so adding a collagen supplement to your diet can also help get in some extra protein.
How to Pick the Right Collagen Supplement
The most important factor when deciding which supplements to take is knowing how bioavailable they are, meaning how well they are able to be absorbed by the body. The definition of bioavailability is the degree and rate at which a substance (i.e. a supplement) is absorbed into a living system (i.e. our bodies). Anything we put into our bodies (vitamins, minerals, supplements, pharmaceutical drugs, etc.) will only take effect if it can be absorbed by the body. This is why it is important to know how bioavailable collagen supplements are before choosing one.
Our favorite collagen supplement for women is Collagen For Her. All of their collagen products pass the bioavailability test and on top of that are non-GMO, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and soy free (plus, it’s a woman-owned company). A great place to start is either their Unflavored Collagen Peptides or Multi-Collagen Capsules. The unflavored collagen peptides are flavorless and tasteless, so you can add a scoop to coffee, tea, smoothies, baked goods, etc. One scoop has 11g of collagen and 10g of protein. If you prefer collagen in capsule form, their multi-collagen capsules are a great option too.
If you are looking for even more benefits for hair, skin, and nails, check out their Marine Collagen Beauty Blend. This product is sourced from marine collagen, so it is pescatarian friendly, and contains 100% daily Vitamin C, biotin, and hyaluronic acid in addition to collagen for added hair and skin benefits. This product is also flavorless, so you can add it to just about anything. One scoop contains 5g of collagen and 5g of protein.
If you want to try out Collagen For Her’s products, you can use the code “SENIORLIFEMAG” for 10% off through their website here. All of their products are also available on Amazon and you can save 10% on every order when you choose the Subscribe & Save option here.