The Collagen Myth: Why Collagen Doesn't Work
Why Collagen Supplements Don't Work
Note: we first published this post in 2018, and it is even more relevant now than it was then. Walk into any natural foods store and, often, the first thing you'll see is a wall of collagen products. Before you spend your money on them (again), please read on.
At least once a year I feel compelled to write an article like this.
That’s because every year the beauty industry releases some new fantasy to sell, which, predictably, takes off like wildfire.
Suddenly everyone in the business is manufacturing a version of the industry’s “fantasy du jour” with a promise that it is the key to unlocking the youthful beauty we all desire. Usually, the most scientifically provable results these “miracle products” show is an ability to lighten peoples’ wallets.
This year, the fantasy product is collagen. From bone broth, to capsules, to creams and powders, it is marketed as the latest panacea, and is as ubiquitous as probiotics. (Don’t get me wrong, probiotics are great, but do we really need them in orange juice and chips?)
What is Collagen?
The etymology of "collagen" comes from the Greek word “kolla” (glue) and the French word, “gene” (to produce). This is wholly appropriate, since collagen is the most prevalent protein found in the human body, and is, in fact, the scaffolding that holds our bodies together.
When we’re young, collagen is what makes our skin look plump, smooth, and wrinkle-free. It cushions our joints, aids digestion, builds muscle, and burns fat. It contributes significantly to all the trademark qualities of youth, vitality, and glowing health.
As we age, our collagen production naturally decreases, and our skin begins to show an increase in wrinkles, cellulite, and sagging. We begin to feel pain in our joints. We begin to have trouble with our digestion.
No wonder we are susceptible to the suggestion that collagen supplements are the answer to our woes!
What Decreases Collagen Production?
While aging is the most obvious culprit in the decrease of our natural collagen production, there are many lifestyle choices that majorly accelerate it. The most obvious factors are easy to identify. They include repeated over-exposure to UV rays, smoking, and overly-acidic diets. Yet, there is one more factor you might not know about (you should probably sit down for this).
It’s sugar consumption.
That’s right. The sugar in your diet is prematurely aging your skin.
Right about now you might be saying to yourself, “Oh I never eat sugar.” Yet, unless you are following a keto diet, you are probably eating much more sugar than you think. That’s because there is, literally, sugar in almost everything we eat.
I’m not just talking about the hidden sugar in processed foods (though this is a great topic for a different article), but carbs and most other starches eventually convert to sugar in the body. (Not to mention all the sugar in fruits, honey, agave, and other sweeteners we are so accustomed to using.)
I recommend you start tracking how much sugar is in your daily diet. It will probably blow your mind.
But back to my point: a high-sugar diet increases the rate of glycation, a process in which blood sugars attach to proteins to form new molecules called “advanced glycation end products,” or “AGEs.” AGEs damage nearby proteins and can render your naturally occurring collagen supply dry, brittle, and weak.
Collagen Supplements Don’t Work, and Here's Why
Is it possible to re-supply our bodies with collagen by simply taking a pill? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Not because there aren’t plenty of collagen supplements out there, but because those supplements don’t work.
There are two types of collagen supplements on the market these days. If you want my advice, don’t bother with either of them. You can increase your own collagen supply naturally, and in a way that will have other health benefits, too. We’ll discuss this at the end. In the meantime, here are the two types of supplements and why they don’t work:
Topically Applied Collagen – This comes in the form of skin creams. Collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed transdermally. Marketers will tell you that they’ve found a way to shrink collagen molecules, but even if this were true, your body can’t absorb them whole. (More on this, below.)
Edible Collagen – Walk into a health food store, and you will see an array of collagen pills, powders, and bone broths for sale. In fact, your body can’t absorb that collagen whole, either. Like most vitamin supplements, collagen supplements simply run right through digestive organs and end up, mostly unscathed, in our septic systems and sewers. Moreover, many of the collagen supplements that are on the market contain ingredients such as maltodextrin, artificial flavors, sugars, non-organic oils, and other artificial ingredients that are best avoided.
How to Boost Your Collagen Quotient For Real
Your body produces collagen naturally when it receives a combination of protein-rich foods, Vitamin C, and minerals such as zinc and copper. Instead of wasting your time on supplements that won’t work, invest in organic, nutrient-dense foods, such as citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and greens — and mineral-rich foods, such as tofu, tempeh, nuts, whole grains, and beans. There are many alkalizing plants, which are also very high in protein. Discover them for yourself in this list.
The bottom line is this: If you want to remain looking and feeling younger longer:
- Eat more plants.
- Shade yourself from the sun.
- Cut down on sugar.
- Move your body. Sweat.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Get outside.
- Love more.
- Resist spending your hard-earned cash on stuff that doesn’t really work!
The fountain of youth is an ocean of knowledge.
- Joshua Scott Onysko
Founder & CEO, Pangea Organics
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