Avoid the Dangers of Collagen. Collagen is all the rage now. The New York Times stated: Google search data reflects the growing obsession: People have searched for collagen an average of 1.4 million times each month this year to date, a number that’s jumped 35 percent from last year, according to research firm Spate. Collagen powders and drinks lead those searches.”

I can certainly understand why. After all, there are claims that it has many benefits such as supporting cartilage, tendon, ligament and fascia self-repair, joint lubrication, joint cushioning, and increased flexibility with decreased joint pain, rejuvenation of healthy hair, skin and nails, and reducing fine lines and wrinkles as well as cellulite. Collagen is a critical element of skin and connective tissues and decreases with age and environmental factors. It gives skin a youthful bounce, and as it declines, so does skin appearance and overall connective tissue health. Over time joints can become painful and tendons tear or become worn and inflamed.

lady looking in the mirror rubbing her cheeksMany people choose a product based on price, a high dose or claims that taking more collagen types is the best approach. The more types, the more complete, the better, right? Not necessarily so, clinical research has only studied type I and type II collagen.

Most people don’t consider the source and how the source or purity of the collagen can lead to bad reactions. Products can also have other ingredients and it is difficult to know if there is a reaction, which ingredient is causing it. Report of bad reactions are:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Skin breakouts
  • Itchy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Canker sores
  • Rare elevation of liver enzymes

There is a way to get the benefits while avoiding the risks!

Choose carefully. Look at the ingredients. Buy from a reputable company that tests its products and has quality control.

  • Hydrolyzed collagen is broken down into small peptides, is absorbed better and enables you to mix them into hot or cold liquids. Gelatin is only partially hydrolyzed and does not mix well in cold liquids.
  • Look at the source. Collagen could be sourced from cows, pigs, chicken, fish, eggshell membranes and if you are allergic to fish or eggs, you are at greater risk of an allergic reaction if your collagen is made from something you are allergic to.
  • Choose the type for the purpose you want to achieve.
    • Skin contains mostly type I and type II collagen
    • Tendon and bone are also made of type I and II collagen
    • Cartilage has type II cartilage.
  • Check purity since these proteins can be contaminated with heavy metals. A well know brand has been found to have high levels of cadmium. The manufacturer should tell you if it was checked for heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Organic only means no pesticides and herbicides and does not account for metals which are found in soil, water, and plants and taken up and stored in bone.
  • Look for patented ingredients backed by studies such as:
    • FORTIGEL®, backed by more than fifteen studies, provides the smallest bioactive collagen peptides (BCPs) available for easy absorption and assimilation into tissue.
    • Mobilee®, a high molecular weight hyaluronic acid, cushions and lubricates joints and hydrates skin by pulling water into the dermis.
    • TendoActive®, is a combination of type I collagen, proteoglycans and key factors that support tendon cell health and the normal regenerative healing process. Protects and promotes connective tissue biosynthesis.
    • FIT Food® Lean Collagen features bovine collagen peptides complemented with beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) and vitamin D3, making it an optimal choice for supporting collagen production, the integrity of connective tissues, and muscle health. A natural metabolite of leucine, HMB increases lean muscle mass through dual mechanisms: inhibiting protein degradation and promoting protein synthesis.

Does it work?

Aside from the studies done on patented ingredients, the compilation of other studies showed the following:

  • Skin wrinkles show 10-20% improvement with 1-10 grams of collagen. Studies show a dose of 2.5 grams is sufficient. Some studies also showed improved elasticity, hydration, and reduction in the appearance of cellulite.
  • Ankle stability improved with 5 grams of hydrolyzed collagen and exercise; 60% of runners with Achilles tendinopathy were able to return to running after 3 months of 2.5 grams of collagen prior to calf strengthening exercises.
  • Joint pain improved after 1200 to 10,000 mg of collagen for 3 months but pain relief was not as good with eggshell collagen.

Collagen can be a useful supplement and as with any supplement, it must be accompanied by a good diet, sunscreen, exercise and a healthy lifestyle and environment if you want the health benefits. If you want access to a good source, sign up for Supplement Savvy, a free, educational series and access to high quality supplements at a discount direct from the manufacturers or authorized distributors. These companies were carefully chosen by a knowledgeable functional medicine doctor. Be Supplement Savvy.