The collagen supplement business has exploded over the last couple of years. Suddenly it seems as if every major beauty brand and a whole army of social media influencers are either promoting a new collagen powder or attempting to convince you of the magical properties of a collagen cream.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at collagen powder. What it is. Where it comes from. And what it might do for you.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is an insoluble protein which occurs naturally in our bodies.
It’s a vital part of our cartilage, tendons, muscles, intestinal lining and bones. And it’s also a major component of our skin. The best way to think of it is as the glue that holds us together.
As long as our diets include the necessary nutrients, our bodies produce collagen. However, as we get older, we make less of it and this can lead to health issues, as well as many of the changes that we associate with ageing – like looser, less bouncy skin, aching joints and a more ‘sensitive’ digestive system.
For a more comprehensive look at collagen in general, please see Collagen Explained, here.
So What Is Collagen Powder?
Collagen powder is a man-made dietary supplement. It is created by extracting collagen protein from natural sources and turning it into a powder that can be added to drinks and meals.
The majority collagen powder is derived from animals, though there are also plant-based alternatives starting to get a foothold in the market – more on that below.
- Bovine Collagen – comes from the by-products of the beef industry with cow skin, bones, connective tissue and tendons being used. Some people may have a reaction to it.
- Marine Collagen – made from the skins and scales of fish (generally wild -caught ocean fish) and shellfish.
- Porcine Collagen – is extracted from the skin and bones of pigs. This is close to human collagen.
- Multi Collagen Protein Powder – created from 2 or more sources. For example, the Renew Brand includes bovine, marine, chicken and egg proteins.
- Animal-based collagen powder is paleo and keto friendly, gluten and dairy free.
- *Vegan Plant-Based Collagen – derived from complex combinations of plants which vary from brand to brand, but can include such diverse ingredients as pea and rice proteins, various fungi, wheat grass, kale, silica, hyaluronic acid and spirulina.
*Vegan Plant-Based Collagen. Really?
What’s in a name? Well, in the case of vegan plant-based collagen, quite a lot!
The big point to make here is that it’s debatable whether plant-based collagen powder genuinely exists or not.
But hang on! There’s tubs of it for sale online and in every supplements store in the country!
Yes and no.
It’s true that if you do an Internet search for vegan collagen powder or plant-based collagen powder, you will be presented with dozens of products. However, look closer at virtually all of these supplements and you’ll see that strictly speaking few, if any of them, are truly collagen powders.
In fact, 99% of them are collagen ‘boosters’ or are a vegan collagen ‘builder’. This might seem like nit-picking over words, but actually there is a major difference between a pure collagen powder and a collagen booster or builder.
In reality, these vegan collagen supplements are plant-based supplements which provide the nutrients necessary for your body to make its own collagen rather than being a dose of collagen itself that you digest.
The simple reason for this is that collagen comes from animals. Vegan collagen technically doesn’t exist.
I say technically as, when there are huge amounts of money involved (and the collagen supplement business is already worth multiple millions) there is always a way round a problem.
Scientists have managed to formulate a vegan collagen powder from a strain of bacteria, genetically modified (GM) yeast and 4 human genes. It sounds like a real Frankenstein creation, I know, but it’s a plant-based collagen and the demand for such a product is huge.
We’ll look more closely at so-called vegan/plant-based collagen in a later article, but until then, make sure you read all packaging labels carefully so you know what you’re buying before you spend your money.
For more on the confusion surrounding vegan collagen, please see here.
Types of Collagen
The other thing that’s important to know about any collagen powder is that they can claim to support differing functions within your body.
There are many types of collagen, though 5 are them are particularly abundant in the human body.
As you would expect, different types of collagen play different roles in the body. For example, Types I and III are especially important for healthy, plump skin. Therefore, if you wish to slow some of the more visible signs of ageing in your skin, you might wish to try a supplement containing these specific types of collagen.
In contrast, if you are pregnant, Type V may be the best collagen supplement for you as it is particularly important for the development of a healthy placenta.
When you choose a collagen powder, make sure you read the small print on the labelling so you know which types of collagen are in the product. Some state clearly on the front of the tub or jar exactly what types of collagen is inside, whilst for others you may need to do some research before you buy.