Drinking Collagen? What does science say?

Drinking Collagen? What does science say?

“Ingesting” (drinking collagen, eating, pill form) collagen has become quite popular recently, but some skeptics and even scientistssay that it is not worth the effort since collagen is broken down in your stomach.

But is this the whole story?

I took a renewed look at drinking collagen for minimizing fine lines and what not because I am approaching a milestone birthday…( pssst, don’t tell anyone, but I will be 40 in July).

What I found surprised me a bit. Before I get into that, I want to clarify a few phrases I found in my research so that when I am talking about them later, we will all be on the same page.

Vocab Time:

collagen hydrolysate: According to Wikipedia, this substance with the serious name is also known as hydrolyzed collagen, which is derived from collagen. It comes from the same thing gelatin does, it is just broken down further, from collagen fibrils, into smaller peptides. Hmmm…this is interesting because some people say that the stomach breaks down collagen too. More on this in a minute.

hydroxyproline and proline: These two amino acids are found in collagen, gelatin and in hydrolyzed collagen. They both play a large part in providing collagen stability. Hydroxyproline is made from proline, but it has an hydroxyl group attached. All this hydroxylation magic happens inside the cell, the endoplasmic reticulum, for all of you who remember the cell organs from Biology class. The process of hydroxylation uses vitamin C. A deficiency in vitamin C leads to a deficiency in hydroxyproline, which weakens collagen and actually causes scurvy. Ewww. I plan to talk about the importance of vitamin C in a separate article, so for now, let’s get back on topic.

Cell Proliferation: Cell growth and division. Cell provision has a bad rap because tumors are the cause of out of control cell proliferation. But as we age, our cells slow down the process of reproducing themselves, so in this context, cell proliferation may be a positive action.

Hyaluronic acid (aka Hyaluronan): This molecule, or, more technically,  nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan, is a large component of the ECM (Extra Cellular Matrix). It is actually a salt, not an acid, so it is now commonly referred to as hyaluronan. It is a very large molecule and is critical for cell growth. It makes up a large part of our skin. The average person has 15 grams of Hyaluronic acid in their body, and your body uses and replaces as much as 5 grams per day. (As a side note, be careful with HA supplements, the dose is

It is a very large molecule and is critical for cell growth. It makes up a large part of our skin. The average person has 15 grams of Hyaluronic acid in their body, and your body uses and replaces as much as 5 grams per day. (As a side note, be careful with HA supplements, the dose is tiny, certainly do not ingest 5 grams)

As far as healing, cell proliferation and skin repair go, hyaluronic acid holds water and creates the space cells need to grow, which is why is is so critical to cell division in the skin. It also acts as a filler or plumper in the ECM. Hyaluron is beneficial for maintaining a youthful appearance because it promotes cell growth, increasing collagen and holds moisture in the skin.

Extra Cellular Matrix (ECM) The Extra Cellular Matrix is found everywhere in the body, including the skin. It is a film, sheet, or matrix, made of many types protein molecules, that is on the outside of every cell, between different tissue types, separating organs. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the ECM. Collagen gives support and structure to cells from by supporting cells from the outside. Hyaluron is formed on the inside of the cell and the cell secretes hyaluronan during biosynthesis when the cell is dividing for repair. Hyaluron is excreted from the cell into the ECM to provide hydration and space for the cell to divide.

So, back to our question, Can drinking Gelatin improve your skin and remove wrinkles?

This study from the Journal of Dermatology, Japan, 2009, is focused on proline and hydroxyproline derived from Collagen. The study states on page 7:

“Our results also suggest that oral ingestion of collagen hydrolysate may lead to more viscous and elastic skin resulting in improvement of skin appearance.”

The abstract on page 1 also says

“Orally ingested collagen undergoes degradation to small di- or tripeptides, which are detected in circulating blood 2 h after ingestion.”

OK, Stop. Hold the phone. So this study is saying that scientists had test subjects drink collagen and discovered that the collagen was broken down into smaller peptides, including hydroxyproline and proline, by the stomach.

Wow, ok. The researchers then tested the blood of the study participants and found that the peptides could be detected 2 hours later.

This study also says that ingesting collagen increased cell proliferation (cell mitosis)  by a factor of 1.5 and production of hyaluronic acid by a factor of 3.8.  So, one and a half times the normal cell growth and 2 and

So, one and a half times the normal cell growth and nearly 4 times the production of hyaluronic acid, after ingesting collagen.

The body counters the effect pretty quickly, so this effect lasts only a short time, from a few hours to a few days, depending on the peptide.

…and I found a few other studies.

One study on man and animals   looked at their pee after they ingested collagen.   This study says the collagen breaks down into peptides, one significant peptide being hydroxyproline. The study looked at the pee of men, rats, hamsters, and monkeys after they ingested gelatin and found that they indeed peed out higher levels of peptide-bound proline, hydroxyproline, aspartic acid, glycine and alanine and of free hydroxylysine.

But wait, is this what we are after?

It’s great that we can find elevated levels of peptides in our body after ingestion of collagen, but what are we really after? Some of us are looking for joint pain relief, some want a healthier gut. In my case, I wanted to see an improvement in my skin so that’s what I was on the lookout for.

Can ingesting or drinking collagen lead to a reduction in wrinkles and more youthful skin?

This study says that oral ingestion of 2.5 grams of Collagen hydrolysate every day for 8 weeks significantly improved skin elasticity. The effect was more pronounced in postmenopausal women, and the elasticity declined back to its original level after the study participants stopped drinking the collagen.

This study showed a significant decrease in periorbital (around the eye) wrinkles, of 11 percent. Heck, I will take an 11 percent reduction in eye wrinkles, please.

While collagen can not completely erase wrinkles and return the complexion I had at 20, it seems clear to me that it has its benefits.  Personally, I am not ready to give up on drinking collagen just yet!

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you want more articles like this one, go ahead and subscribe and I will send them your way.

Thanks for reading!

Katie Lyn

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