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Employee Wellness: Collagen: Supplements or Food Sources?


Photo of a cup of coffee with a female hand adding a spoonful of collagen powder into the coffee. Next to the cup of coffee is a dish filled with a collagen powder supplement. 

Collagen is a protein that is a crucial component in bones, skin, connective tissue, muscles, and joints, providing structure, strength, and support. It is considered a primary building block and makes up for about 30% of our body’s total protein. 

 

In the human body, collagen is used for: 

  • Aiding in the growth of new cells 

  • Helping with blood clotting and wound healing 

  • Protecting organs 

  • Giving strength and elasticity to skin, hair, nails and connective tissue 

 

As we age, our bodies begin to produce less collagen and the existing collagen breaks down at a faster rate. This slow decline starts in our late 20s, but once in our 40s, collagen will drop drastically. Collagen also decreases faster if the body is exposed to smoking, excess sunlight, and highly processed diets. Autoimmune diseases also damage collagen because the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues, damaging collagen. 

 

Signs and symptoms of low collagen:  

  • Brittle nails and hair 

  • Hallowing around the eyes 

  • Wrinkled or saggy skin 

  • Loss of mobility due to joint stiffness and pain 

  • Gastrointestinal issues 

  • Low blood pressure 

 

Should we be taking a collagen supplement, or do we get enough through the foods we eat? 

 

Collagen through food:  

 

Collagen in its whole food form cannot be fully absorbed by the body. When we eat foods with collagen, the body will break it down into amino acids which does not directly result in higher collagen levels. Instead, providing the body with supporting micro and macronutrients will help produce collagen.  

 

Important components of collagen production include:  

  • Vitamin C: a water-soluble vitamin found in citrus fruits and other fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers. 

  • Zinc: a trace mineral that is necessary for enzymes in the creation of cell growth, the building of proteins, and a healthy immune system. Zinc can be found in red meats, oysters, poultry, beans, chickpeas, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. 

  • Copper: a mineral the body uses to create energy, build connective tissues, maintain healthy blood vessels, and foster brain development. Copper can be found in shellfish, whole grains, beans, and organ meats. 

  • Glycine: an amino acid that is used to create proteins that are needed for tissue growth and maintenance. This amino acid is a main component in the make-up of collagen. Glycine can be found in protein-rich foods such as red meats, legumes, pork, turkey, chicken, and seeds.  

  • Proline: an amino acid that can help with skin healing, antioxidant reactions, and immune responses. Proline can be found in mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus, nuts, fish, and egg whites.  

There are few foods that the body can absorb as collagen. These foods include bone broth, sardines, organ meats, and skin-on chicken.  

 

Collagen through supplements:  

 

Collagen supplements have become increasingly popular in the health and beauty industries. Since the body cannot absorb collagen in its whole form, it must be broken down into smaller amino acids, called peptides. Peptides can be found in collagen supplements. Oral supplementation can come in all forms such as pills, powders, liquids, and convenient snacks, soups, or candies. Collagen supplements can be found as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, which is a term that is used interchangeably, but both are the same.  

 

Before taking a collagen supplement, there are some things to consider: 

 

  • The Type of collagen  

  • There are 28 types of collagen, but the majority of the body is made up of 5 types: Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, Type V 

  • The source of collagen  

  • There are sources of bovine, marine, eggshell, chicken and pork 

  • The amount of collagen  

  • Collagen supplementation is recommended anywhere from 10-20g per day 

  • The form of collagen 

  • Pill, powder, or liquid 

 

What are the benefits of collagen? 

 

  • May improve skin health, increasing elasticity and reducing the appearance of wrinkles 

  • May relieve joint pain, reducing joint stiffness and inflammation 

  • May prevent bone loss by increasing bone mineral density 

  • May increase muscle mass 

  • May improve gut health 

  • May strengthen hair and nails 

 

 

Collagen supplementation or food consumption plays an important role in providing structure, strength, and support to the body. It is an individual preference if you would like to consume collagen through foods or incorporate a supplement into your daily routine. Having a well-balanced diet will promote collagen production in your body, while collagen supplementation will directly give you the specific collagen you are looking for.  

 

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure 

 

 

Written by: Alivia Worley, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern 

 

Sources:  

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