What’s Behind the Collagen Craze?

Learn what collagen, one of today’s most popular nutritional supplements, can do for your skin, bone, joint, and gut health.

| September/October 2018

  • Collagen breakdown in our bodies speeds up as we age, but consuming collagen as a supplement may help offset this decline.
    Photo by Adobe/©andreusK
  • Collagen supplements may help slow the progression of osteoarthritis, decrease joint pain, and improve mobility.
    Photo by Adobe/PhotographicDelight
  • Virtually tasteless, collagen powder can be easily mixed into meals, smoothies, coffee, or tea.
    Photo by Getty/Orthosie

I still remember my junior-high science teacher explaining that cartilage is the rubbery material at the end of a chicken drumstick. She said that this gristle is good for us and that we should eat it. The idea grossed me out at the time. Fast-forward a few decades, and people are now going out of their way to consume pills and powders of collagen — a major component of cartilage — as well as cartilage-rich bone broth.

Collagen is a protein that’s part of our bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, arteries, veins, teeth, skin, hair, and nails. Throughout our lives, it’s broken down and replaced. As we get older, its breakdown speeds up, but consuming collagen may help offset some of that.

A growing number of studies suggest collagen supplements may help reduce joint pain, increase bone strength, and improve gut health. Perhaps collagen’s most popular benefit is for beauty — it helps fight wrinkles and strengthen hair. If you haven’t tried collagen products yet, there are many reasons to take a look.

Collagen Comes of Age

Collagen supplements may feel trendy, but a few pioneering scientists were researching them more than half a century ago. This includes the late John F. Prudden, a surgeon known as “the father of cartilage therapy.” Much of Prudden’s work is summarized in Nourishing Broth, coauthored by Kaayla T. Daniel. “The cartilage Dr. Prudden used was taken from the tracheas of young, healthy calves,” Daniel says. “He found it had powerful and consistently positive effects on wound healing, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and many cancers.”

Today, scientists commonly conduct studies on the individual components of cartilage: collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid. However, Daniel notes that Prudden felt the “whole food” cartilage was the most powerful (see Homemade Bone Broth Recipe).

How Collagen Works

Scientists are still figuring out exactly how consuming collagen benefits the collagen already in your body. Some dismissed the idea that eating collagen could affect a person’s health compared with other sources of protein; they assumed collagen was broken down into amino acids during digestion. However, newer research has shown that some collagen enters your bloodstream as di- and tripeptides, and may act as signaling molecules to build up collagen-containing tissues in your body.

8/7/2018 9:58:29 AM

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