What is collagen protein?
Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in our bodies. It provides structure and integrity to our skin, tendons, ligaments and bones and is also found in other body parts, including blood vessels, organs, teeth and even the corneas in our eyes. Collagen is the "glue" that holds our body together.
Taking collagen protein as a supplement can benefit us because it provides us with a very easy to digest form of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids and amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of our bodies. By taking collagen, we give our bodies 18 important amino acids which can then be used by our bodies to repair, heal and grow as well as form new collagen.
Try using collagen in this apple spice porridge tray bake!
1. Can improve skin health
Skin is made up of collagen protein but, as we age, our bodies produce less quantities of collagen. This reduction in collagen results in our skin becoming less elastic and more loose, causing creases or wrinkles to slowly develop over time which leads to fine lines and sagging skin. Skin issues are a natural and normal part of the ageing process so many people take collagen protein powder for skin health.
Increasing collagen intake can make your skin appear firmer and smoother.  Adding collagen to your diet can also help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite. As skin loses elasticity and becomes thinner, cellulite may be more visible. Some studies have shown that collagen supplements can help slow down ageing by reducing wrinkles, adding moisture, and improving skin elasticity. 
Read about how collagen can help skin health and radiance.
2. Can prevent bone loss
The structure of our bones is mostly made up of calcium and collagen. These help keep our bones strong. With age, as collagen deteriorates, so does our bone mass along with it. People always talk about taking calcium to keep bones healthy, but they should also include collagen.
Some studies show that supplementing with collagen may help prevent the loss of bone density. One study had women take either only calcium or collagen and calcium supplements for one year. The group of women taking the calcium and collagen had lower levels of a protein responsible for breaking down bones in their blood.  
3. May help relieve joint pain
Our joints connect two or more bones together and are made up of tendons, cartilage and ligaments. If we didn’t have these joints, then it would actually hurt to move our bodies. Collagen is a vital part of these connective tissues and helps us move fluidly with ball and socket joints like our hips, and hinge joints like our knees. Collagen allows our joints, tendons, and ligaments to glide and move easily. The risk of development of degenerative joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis, increases as the collagen in our bodies depletes with ageing.
As we age, joints may therefore become more stiff and painful, which can ultimately lead to a loss of mobility leading. However, studies have shown that supplementing with collagen protein can reduce joint pain and alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis.  Researchers believe that supplementing with collagen leads to an accumulation of collagen in the cartilage which then stimulates your tissues to make more collagen. Such research also suggests that this could lower inflammation, improve joint flexibility and mobility and reduce pain.
4. May boost muscle mass
Collagen is an important component of muscle tissue and is vital to keeping your muscles and muscle fibres strong. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may increase strength and muscle growth in people with age-related muscle mass loss. When combined with resistance training, collagen protein can help build bigger and stronger muscles. 
One particular study compared a group of men in their seventies taking collagen peptides against a group of men also in their seventies taking a placebo pill. For three months, they did resistance training and took collagen peptides. At the end of the study, the men that took the collagen protein supplements showed a greater increase in strength and muscle mass than those taking only the placebo pills. 
Representing GB on the world sporting stage, find out how collagen is helping athlete Louise.
5. Can support heart health
Supplementing with collagen protein can also help decrease the risk of heart conditions such as atherosclerosis, which is a disease where the arteries become clogged with fats lining the artery walls. Arteries are the blood vessels that send blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Collagen helps maintain the structure of these arteries and, without sufficient collagen, your arteries can become fragile and stiff. Reducing the stiffness of arteries can therefore help promote heart health. 
The fatty residue that lines the arterial walls is known as plaque and buildup of this residue clogs your arteries and prevents blood from flowing to other organs. Collagen can help to reduce this buildup in your blood vessels and protect you from having a heart attack. One study had participants take collagen twice a day for 6 months which resulted in a decrease in the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol ratio, demonstrating that collagen can help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. 
6. Can promote hair growth
Amino acids are the building blocks of the body and when certain individual amino acids join together with others in long chains, they form complex molecules known as protein. Hair is primarily made up of a complex protein molecule called keratin. Keratin contains 18 amino acids. Some of these amino acids, like proline, are abundant in collagen. Therefore, consuming collagen protein can benefit hair growth by providing our bodies with the amino acid building blocks that it needs to make hair. 
Collagen may also help prevent the hair thinning that occurs with ageing. Hair that grows around our bodies comes from follicles that exist in the thick, middle layer of our skin known as the dermis. Seventy percent of this dermis, which includes the root of each hair, is made up of collagen. As we get older, our bodies become less effective at producing collagen and replenishing cells in the dermis.  This can be one reason why our hair thins out over time. Consequently, collagen supplementation can help maintain a healthy dermis and prevent hair thinning.
Read about how collagen helped Emma's luscious locks.
7. May improve gut health
One of the main ways that collagen protein powder can support our health is by helping to repair a leaky gut. The inner lining of our gut is made up of just one single layer of cells known as the epithelium. Every day, this gut lining suffers wear and tear from having to break down food, absorb nutrients, eliminate waste and deal with stress. This wear and tear can weaken the lining of the gut meaning that food, infections and toxins can pass across the gut wall and into the bloodstream. This is known as leaky gut and results in inflammation, food sensitivities, poor nutrient absorption and auto-immune disorders.
Almost 80% of our immune system is in the gut so leaky gut is harmful to health and can cause unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhoea, upset stomach, bloating, fatigue, food allergies, constipation and even malnutrition. Vitamins and minerals pass right through your system instead of being absorbed. The amino acids in collagen stimulate tissue growth, helping to heal and seal these leaks and improve gut health.  Collagen also helps to strengthen the gut wall, making it less permeable and helping to maintain elasticity in the gut, which facilities the movement of food through our bowels. This improves nutrient absorption.
Re-set with Rebecca - read about how collagen helped Rebecca's gut issues.
8. Can help with weight loss
Maintaining a healthy body weight can be a struggle for many of us and only gets more difficult as we age. There have been studies showing the benefits of taking collagen to assist people who are trying to lose weight. In a study measuring hunger hormones, researchers discovered that taking gelatin (derived from collagen) increased the satiety hormone which enabled the subjects to keep following their weight loss diets by reducing their hunger. 
Because protein makes us feel full, many people consume protein powders for weight loss. However, many protein powders contain unnatural additives and fillers, and many contain whey protein which is derived from dairy. Dairy is well known for causing digestive issues and leaky gut because of the protein it contains called casein. In addition, cows are often given growth hormones, anti-biotics and steroids and are fed a diet of grains and food that may contain allergens and pesticides.
Collagen protein powder is not only free from dairy, sweeteners and additives, but a high quality, premium collagen powder is also free from all these nasties. Collagen is therefore a very pure, clean and easy to absorb protein which can help keep hunger at bay and also provide our bodies with the essential building blocks it needs to heal, repair, grow and renew.
How to add collagen protein into your diet
Several foods contain collagen including animal foods like chicken skin, pork skin, beef, fish, meat stock and bone broth. But hydrolysed collagen protein powder has a higher absorption rate than these foods. With food, the body has to release digestive enzymes to breakdown the collagen protein into amino acids and peptides. However, the collagen in supplements has already been broken down (hydrolysed), and so this makes it much easier for the body to use the collagen protein, meaning that it is absorbed far more effectively and efficiently.