It's been a while since the world went crazy for a supplement that actually works but collagen seems to be creating a huge global buzz right now and, whilst we have all probably learned the hard way that there are no "miracle" cures on this planet, more and more stories are emerging of people experiencing almost miraculous results with collagen. So……. what is collagen and why has it become the world's favourite supplement?

Collagen is not a single substance but rather a family of naturally occurring proteins found in animals, especially in the flesh and connective tissues of mammals. It is a protein family made up of chains of amino acids formed in a triple helix configuration (think DNA but with 3 strands instead of 2!). It is this triple helix structure which builds the strong but flexible fibres that form the structure of our bodies. It is the most abundant protein found in hair, bones, tendons, ligaments, eyes, discs and organs and gives our skin and joints strength and elasticity. It also holds all of our cells and tissues together and ensures the integrity, elasticity and regeneration of skin, cartilage and bones. It represents almost 30% of all human protein content.

Collagen production peaks around the age of 20, slowing down as we age. This reduction causes the gradual deterioration of collagen fibres which results in our skin becoming dehydrated and thinner and causes wrinkles to appear. It also leads to the loss of bone and cartilage plus increased pain, discomfort and inflammation in our joints. Our collagen contains 8 of the 9 essential amino acids the body needs and has 18 amino acids in total. These include glycine, which is an immuno-nutrient that helps the body create DNA and promotes more restorative sleep; proline which assists the body to produce its own collagen; glutamine which reduces inflammation of the gut and arginine which helps improve athletic performance.

Collagen is made by breaking down animal products (typically from cows, fish, pigs or chicken) into gelatine and then breaking this down even further using a process called hydrolysis. This process of hydrolysis involves demineralisation; extraction of collagen to gelatine; enzymatic hydrolysis to obtain hydrolysed collagen; ion exchange; filtration; evaporation; sterilisation and finally drying resulting in an end product known as hydrolysed collagen or collagen hydrolysate. In collagen hydrolysate, the weight and the size of the collagen molecules have been deliberately decreased. This not only means that the hydrolysed collagen will dissolve easily in cold or hot water and not form a gel like gelatin does, but that it is very easy for the body to digest. The easier the collagen is to digest, then the more the body can use it. This is called bio-availability. Because the quality of the manufacturing hydrolysis process will determine the size and weight of the collagen, not all collagen is created equally. Inferior production methods will result in a collagen powder which has bigger molecules, and this results in products that have unpleasant tastes and smells and do not dissolve effectively. All of these factors, as well as the molecular weight of the product, will determine a good collagen supplement from bad in terms of use, efficacy and quality. Only the highest quality collagen from the state-of-the-art manufacturers will be free from contaminants, micro-organisms, heavy metals, anti-biotics, preservatives, pesticides and other contaminants, and will have the regulatory certification to prove such.

Collagen hydrolysate is the purest and most bio-available form of protein in the world. Unlike eating meat or fish, collagen powder requires very little digestion because the hydrolysis process has already broken down the proteins into smaller molecules called protein peptides. In addition, there are none of the downsides that you get with eating meat/fish, like gut fermentation or ingesting nasty by-products, and unlike protein from whey or dairy products, collagen actually heals the gut whereas whey wrecks the gut and, unlike pea and hemp protein, collagen contains all of the amino acids (except for tryptophan). Now, because proteins are the building blocks of our body, consuming collagen means you are consuming the most bio-available source of protein giving your body the building blocks it needs to heal, grow, renew and repair. It’s a bit like having a builder – give him bricks and he will build you a house! So, give your body collagen and your body will build you a “house”.

The "science" states that the effects of collagen within the body typically take at least 8-12 weeks, so how come many people are reporting results faster? Well, the body is much smarter than science and it will breakdown the collagen protein peptides into each of the amino acids and then use these amino acids for whatever it decides is necessary. Your body may use them for skin, eyes, nails, hair, muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, joints, gut, brain and inflammation or whatever else the body requires in that moment. So, when taking collagen, whilst we may want to see a decrease in wrinkles or a reduction in pain or stronger nails or faster growing hair, we may not get that exact result. It is important to bear this in mind when talking collagen. If you don’t see results, it's unlikely that the collagen is not working, but more likely that the benefits are happening on the inside rather than the out. All that said, many people are reporting improvements in pain within days; growth of hair and nails within a week and some people are reporting hair re-growth within a month. Many people are reporting faster healing from injuries, enhanced performance in sports, a reduction in sensitivities to food or food allergies, improvement in mobility and better sleep and mental alertness. None of this has been backed by science because it’s all still so new, but hey - if it works, it works right? And it cannot be denied that it is working for hundreds of thousands of people globally. So, maybe science has missed a trick? It wouldn't be the first time, afterall!

We are all made of protein so all of our bodies need protein, but there may be certain situations where the body cannot use the protein effectively or an individual may react to such a pure form of protein. Sometimes, for genetic and lifestyle reasons, people cannot break down protein very well, even small protein peptides. In this instance, they may have to consider taking the enzyme Protease or healing the body first with other protocols such as meat stock, pro-biotics and fermented foods. At other times, people may just simply have an allergic reaction to the collagen and experience mild reactions such as cramping or itchy skin. Collagen is a protein and protein comes from food so, in the same way that some people cannot eat wheat or peanuts, some people may react to beef, fish, pork or chicken collagen. Once again, it is not necessarily an issue with the collagen supplement, but rather a matter of that person's own personal physiology being unable to assimilate the collagen proteins effectively. If you experience a reaction, you may want switch types of collagen (eg from bovine to marine) or you may want to take an enzyme. However, if you have any concerns, then just stop using the product and you should find any symptoms will go away. However, if you have any concerns then always consult your Doctor.

Collagen is one of those products where you typically get what you pay for, so a higher price is normally indicative of a higher quality, but this is not always the case. With collagen in such demand, some unethical retailers are inflating prices unnecessarily. The single, most important factor is the quality of collagen. As mentioned, the technology behind the hydrolysis process will determine the quality and efficacy of the end product. This is why when you open cheaper or inferior brands of collagen, they may smell very beefy or fishy and have very strong, often unbearable tastes. In terms of pricing, collagen powders are the most cost effective. They are also the most flexible and natural form to take. Be wary of capsules as these will only contain a fraction of the collagen dose of powder and often contain nasties. Capsules tend to work out the most expensive, giving you least collagen for the highest price. Collagen shots and liquids may contain more collagen than capsules, but rarely do they have the same doses as powder. They also tend to be ready made and enhanced with flavourings and sweeteners, most of which are chemically processed. Being pre-mixed, they will also dictate the taste, which is great if you like it, but not if you don't! Shots are also more expensive than powder and tend to only come in a 1-2 week supply. Therefore, collagen powders offer the best value for money at typically 70p-£1 per dose, compared to around £10 per equivalent dose in capsules. Liquid shots are often double if not triple the price of powder for an equivalent dose. Make sure you work out how much collagen is in each dose and calculate the price of each dose to be sure you are getting the best value.

Typically, 95% of the supplements available contain either bovine collagen from cows or marine collagen from fish. Whilst some retailers may try and convince you that one is better than the other, or that you need to take a specific “Type” of collagen, there are actually no differences, especially if you are using high quality powder. Firstly, “Type” of collagen is irrelevant because the body breaks all “Types” of collagen down into their respective amino acids and uses these amino acids accordingly, regardless of which “Type” they came from. Secondly, science has shown that whilst the amino acid structures are very slightly different across collagen sources, this does not alter the bio-availability. Amino acid profiles may also be very slightly different but only in terms of the quantity of each amino acid. For example, bovine and marine collagen both have the 18 amino acids but marine typically contains more alanine, arginine and aspartic acid whilst bovine typically contains more glycine, hydroxyproline and proline. It really is swings and roundabouts though, and a high enough dose will eliminate the net effect of any differences. The two deciding factors are really just suitability and budget. So, in terms of suitability, if someone has a fish allergy then marine collagen would obviously not work for them, and if someone is sensitive to beef products then the bovine collagen would not work for them. In terms of budget, the marine collagen raw material is more than double the price of bovine collagen, so the end product will be more expensive.

As you now know, collagen is a protein and protein forms 30% of us humans. That makes protein, and therefore collagen, a staple rather than a supplement. So, the secret to success with collagen is consistency and persistency. Take a full dose (at least 10 grams per day) every day, building up slowly at first to allow the body time to adjust to the purity of the protein. If you buy a high-quality collagen, then you can simply add this to any hot or cold food or drinks to suit your taste. Try in warm lemon water, tea, coffee, smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, soup, curry, bolognese, casseroles, dressings or baking. There's pretty much no recipe that you can't add it to whether sweet or savoury. Just play around with quantities and get creative and make sure you have plenty of Vitamin C in your diet, as this is a co-factor in the production of collagen within the body.

If you think about how collagen is produced as above, it takes millions of cows to produce collagen. This process therefore involves hundreds, if not thousands of farmers, raising these millions of cows across huge countries. There is currently absolutely no control or proof of whether every farmer has fed every cow nothing but grass for every day of the year. Standard farming practice around the world is to supplement cattle feed in the winter, often with grains. In addition, there is no local or global certifying body or independent authority that governs grass-fed (unlike The Soil Association govern organic farming in the UK). Finally, there are not enough grass-fed cattle farms around the world to supply the huge global demand for collagen. So, any manufacturer claiming grass-fed is actually making false claims. It doesn't mean that their collagen won't work or is poor quality, but simply that their ethics and intentions are questionable. But it's not all bad news if you are worried about grain feed….. if the factory where the collagen is produced has state-of-the-art equipment, then the collagen will be so efficiently hydrolysed that any traces of any kind of feed given to the cattle will have been totally removed from the process.

Collagen is a protein from food and so, like beef or fish or chicken, it will generally have no contra-indications, unless you have a health condition or take medication which requires an avoidance of protein. That said, always consult your GP or medical adviser if you have any medical concerns or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Edible Health is a UK based business owned by just the two of us – CORINNA & SIMON. We established Edible Health in 2016 because, through our own health challenges, we discovered the incredible healing powers of collagen and wanted to find a way to spread the word and help others. We are an ex-corporate, “mature” (whilst very young at heart) couple who want to bring “Old School” values into the online “New School” world. We stand by our mantra “PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS" and believe in a professional yet personal work ethic. We are not “in it to make a quick buck” and every customer matters to us. We are real people who really care, offering real products that really work. We answer all questions, reviews and emails personally and offer a 100% money back guarantee. If you’re not happy, then we’re not happy!

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