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What is collagen protein and do I need it?"

"What is collagen protein and do I need it?" This was a question that recently came up in Valley to Peak.

Collagen is a protein that plays a crucial role in the human body, and whether it's "good" for you largely depends on your specific goals and maybe more important- are the reported benefits true? Let’s explore it…

What it is: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a key component of connective tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

There have been many reports in recent years that this is the up and coming best protein source for us to take. Before we look at the truth in those claims (I.e. we’re not saying the claims are true…we’re reporting what the belief is). These are the five main beliefs::

  • Skin Health: Collagen is often associated with improved skin health. It provides structure, elasticity, and hydration to the skin. Many people use collagen supplements or topical products to promote youthful-looking skin, reduce wrinkles, and increase skin hydration.

  • Joint and Bone Health: Collagen is a critical component of joints and bones. Some individuals use collagen supplements to support joint health and alleviate joint pain believing it It can help maintain the integrity of cartilage and bone density, particularly as we age.

  • Gut Health: Collagen contains specific amino acids that may support gut health by strengthening the gut lining. This can be beneficial for people with digestive issues like “leaky gut syndrome”- a term many health experts suggest isn’t even a real diagnosis.

  • Hair and Nails: Collagen is also believed to promote healthy hair and nails by providing necessary building blocks for their growth and strength.

  • Muscle Growth: While collagen is not a complete protein source for muscle building, it does contain some essential amino acids that can contribute to overall protein intake. It can be a useful addition to a balanced diet for those looking to support muscle growth and recovery.

So, does it work?

It depends on who you believe. There’s very little no research to suggest collagen is a superior source of protein over other options (whey, beef, chicken, eggs, etc.). However, there are a handful of folks who have tried collagen and report things like better hair growth. Here’s some fast facts to consider:

  • Topical collagen does very little. You’d need to consume it.

  • Most studies have been funded fully or partially by the collagen industry (i.e. could skew results).

  • There’s no research suggesting taking collagen protein or peptides can directly benefit skin/joint health. Protein is always ‘dispatched’ to areas of the body that need it most first. We don’t get to choose where they’re directed to (skin/joints in this case).

  • There are virtually no side effects if you did want to try it.

Whether or not you opt for using collagen is a personal choice. It’s worth knowing it’s not a superior source of protein and there’s very little studies to suggest it does what many say it will. With that said, it’s easy and relatively harmless to try if you’re interested. Like any supplement, it shouldn't take the place of an intake of nutrition tailored to your goal, but utilized as a source of convenience when we’re unable to get our normal intake in.

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