Please note the products reviewed in this feature were gifted to us on our request. Our views are our own.
Collagen is often touted in the beauty industry for its ability to give a more youthful complexion. But what exactly is the function of collagen in the body and is it only beauty benefits it offers? Let’s take a look.
Collagen accounts for 1/3 of all protein in the body
Collagen plays a significant role in the body; not only does it help with the skins elasticity, making up 3/4s of the skin’s weight, but it also connects tissues to tissues and is a major component of bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. Though 90% of our collagen is made up of 1 type of collagen, there have been 28 different types identified, accounting for 1/3 of all protein in the body. In essence, collagen helps to provide structure, support and mobility all around the body.
As we get older collagen production decreases around 1-1.5% per year affecting all of these areas, become thinner and weaker. It can not only affect the appearance of our skin, causing fine lines and wrinkles, but also contributes to weaker joints, muscles and bones.
In addition to the natural causes in its reduction, lifestyle factors are a major contribution into the depletion of collagen within the body. Smoking, sun exposure and alcohol consumption can all accelerate the lifecycle of collagen, causing us to age faster.
How to support collagen production
You can adjust your lifestyle to help reduce the impact of collagen depletion, including: wearing sunscreen, stopping smoking, getting plenty of good quality sleep, and reducing your sugar, caffeine, and alcohol intake.
Additionally, ensuring you have a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes and soy products can also be helpful at supporting your bodies function with collagen. Collagen itself is only found naturally within animals and fish. As such, the best way to bolster your collagen levels through diet is to include bone broth, chicken, eggs, shellfish, and fish such as sea bass and salmon; though you’d need to consume the heads and scales to get the most benefit. Once broken down, your body will prioritise the protein based on its needs. As collagen is needed in a lot of different functions, and assuming you’re following the recommended diet which should support normal function, you may just get enough to maintain the existing requirements. However, as only 28% of the population are eating the recommended portions, the chances are you’ll not be getting enough to replace any depletion, let alone tackle any particular concerns.
You may be wondering if skincare can play a role in boosting collagen levels. After all, there is an abundance of skincare products on the market that claims to contain collagen or a soluble version of it. However, numerous studies have shown that there are two main issues with this: firstly, the molecular structure of collagen is simply too large to be absorbed in this way and secondly, collagen isn’t found on the surface of the skin but found deep within the skin’s many layers. As such, any product that promises to deliver collagen may well have other ingredients that can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, like hyaluronic acid, but you will not get any of the actual benefits of collagen.
How supplementing can help
Studies on supplementing diet with collagen are limited. However, the research carried out so far does suggest that taking a collagen supplement does increase the skins elasticity and can help with mobility and ease joint pain, particularly those that suffer with osteoarthritis.
You may consider a supplement because you have a particular goal, or you may think supplementation is the best course of action because you have noticeable symptoms. As collagen covers a breadth of functions, there is the potential for numerous benefits. However, it’s important to highlight that even though you may have a particular goal when it comes to taking supplements, just like with diet, your body will break it down and use it where it feels it’s needed most. Skin is often one of the last areas to benefit from the nutrients we consume in diet and as such, can often be neglected if the need is greater elsewhere. Over time, as normal function is replenished and maintained, the excess resources can be utilised elsewhere, for example giving you a fuller, more youthful complexion.
We tried the collagen supplements loved by Jennifer Aniston
I wanted to see what benefits collagen supplementation could offer for my skin, as this was the most touted benefit when considering this feature; I try to look after it, but I can certainly do a lot more.
During my research, I came across an advert for Vital Proteins, showcased by Jennifer Aniston. Having once read somewhere that she would only advertise products she genuinely uses herself, I was intrigued.
Turns out, Jennifer Aniston also became their Chief Creative Officer in 2020 and has been using the products herself for around 9 years. The company itself was founded in 2013, is the leading collagen brand in America; offering a range of nutritional products, with collagen being a primary focus, helping to promote beauty from the inside out.
About the supplements
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides comes in powder form in both bovine (animal) and marine (fish), that promises a neutral taste which can be added to cold and hot liquids- water, smoothies, coffee, whatever your preference. This form appealed to me greatly as I envisioned adding it to my morning coffee, (hoping) without disrupting its taste, and I don’t much like taking tablets. Additionally, as a sufferer of IBS with poor absorption, the soluble powder form would make this easier for my body to process and ultimately get benefit from.
My experience of the Vital Protein collagen supplements
I had one scoop of the Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides every day over 3 weeks and one scoop of the Vital Proteins Marine Peptides, every day for a further 2 weeks. Each product has a slight smell; the Marine Peptides a slight fishy smell but not obtrusive, or overbearing, certainly not off-putting, and the Collagen Peptides smelt like most protein powders do. Although there was a slight distinguishable taste to my coffee initially on introducing the powder, it didn’t last and quickly and easily became part of my morning routine. Interestingly, there was no change to the taste of my coffee when switching the powders so it must have just been an initial heightened taste. Regardless, it was very easy to integrate into my daily routine that quickly became a new, effortless habit.
On reflecting back over the 5 weeks of taking them, it was easy to distinguish that I couldn’t see any significant difference in my skin’s texture or fullness. Though it’s not to say there were perhaps some subtle differences. However, there were some significant changes in my overall health during that time.
The first noticeable difference was that my energy levels throughout the day appeared more consistent. I wasn’t feeling fatigued at any point throughout the day and in fact, for the last 3 weeks, I haven’t needed a coffee in the afternoon. This was something I’d become quite reliant on to get me through the day. Whereas no I don’t even have a craving for another one whatsoever. In turn, I’ve been more productive, had a clearer thought process and have definitely been working more optimally.
A second noticeable difference was that my joints didn’t feel as heavy or as achy. Throughout Autumn and the early months of Winter I was recognising that my wrists, hands, fingers, ankles and toes were all more achy than previous winters and a throbbing sensation had been more consistent. However, this seemed to have eased considerably whilst taking the Collagen Peptides. Since switching to the Marine Peptides a few weeks ago though, I have noticed an increase in the cramping sensations again and I am wondering if this is because of the lower dosage.
Finally, I also feel that it is helping my muscles. It could be the collagen taking effect in this area too, a combination of the effect on joints and energy, and/or an increase in movement in my working day and week, but I am feeling much stronger in the gym, and I am able to go farther and faster. Before, it didn’t matter the frequency or type of exercise, I still felt more fatigued and took ages to recover. I am actually quite amazed at the difference.
Although there was no initial perceived change in my skin, there have been a number of welcome improvements in my overall health since taking the supplements. I personally feel that the Collagen Peptides worked better for me overall and I am inclined to increase the dosage to two scoops per day to further garner the benefits I am already seeing, with a thought it could enhance my skins appearance too in time; I am working on the theory, based on the research above, that my body hasn’t had enough of the proteins through diet and its prioritising my joints and muscles over my skin.
I’m interested to see where it goes from here.
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