By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN
In 2018, American’s spent $46 million on collagen supplements – a 34 percent increase over 2017. What is driving this trend? A lot of hype and marketing and a little bit of evidence. There is some early research suggesting that collagen protein can improve skin quality, prevent muscle wasting and improve joint pain, but it is not enough to warrant this trend.
Collagen is a protein that makes up the connective tissue of the body. It is present in fibrous tissue and skin. Like other proteins, collagen is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. When we consume collagen as a protein source, our body breaks it down into its smallest components, amino acids, and then distributes those amino acids to where they are needed most. Since our entire body is made up of amino acids, they will be distributed as needed to organs, cells, muscles, our immune system, etc. In other words, we can’t simply consume collagen and assume it is going to be used as collagen in the body.
Why are certain types of protein recommended over others for functions like muscle repair and wound healing? Different proteins have different types and amounts of amino acid profiles and they get used by the body differently. For instance, whey protein contains the amino acid leucine, which is good for muscle. Therefore, it is often recommended for someone losing weight rapidly to preserve lean muscle mass or in someone trying to build muscle. Alternatively, collagen protein contains the amino acid arginine, which has been shown to be effective for wound healing. In this case, a medical grade collagen protein supplement might be prescribed by a physician to expedite healing for someone with a wound.
While it is possible to consume collagen directly, it is not necessary. Vitamin C is used to build collagen in the body. Therefore, consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain a lot of vitamin C, is the best way to build your collagen for beautiful skin and so much more.
- Dietary Collagen — Should Consumers Believe the Hype? – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Todaysdietitian.com. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0319p26.shtml. Published 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019.
- How dietary protein intake promotes wound healing – Wound Care Advisor. Wound Care Advisor. https://woundcareadvisor.com/how-dietary-protein-intake-promotes-wound-healing-vol2-no6/. Published 2019. Accessed May 30, 2019.
Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients. She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.