Collagen peptides— what they are and what are their benefits— are all the talk in the nutrition and supplement world. But, first, a clarification: hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides are the same thing.
Collagen, which we discussed in detail in part I of our collagen series, keeps hair, skin, bones, ligaments and tendons healthy and strong. As people age, their collagen levels decline, causing skin aging, joint pain and greying hair. Because of how vital collagen is to the body’s strength, flexibility, appearance and performance, lots of people want to know how they can restore their collagen levels and boost collagen production. This is where commercial collagen products come in, many of which contain collagen peptides.
But what exactly are collagen peptides and how can they help improve collagen levels in the body? Read on to find out more.
A review of collagen
As we described in part I of our collagen series, “What is Collagen?” collagen is made up of long chains of amino acids and acts as the structure for many of the tissues in the human body. Collagen is produced by different cells throughout the body. Cells use specific amino acids to build collagen helix structures which strengthen various parts of your body.
Many people experience declining collagen levels as they grow older, causing a number of negative effects. Decreased collagen is closely related to different aspects of the aging process including the development of wrinkles and sagging skin and the increased likelihood of developing degenerative joint problems.
The challenge of collagen supplements
Despite the body’s ability to produce and synthesize collagen internally, it is more difficult for the body to utilize collagen that comes from external sources. While many products have been developed that promise to boost collagen production and restore collagen to the skin and other tissue, few formulations are actually effective.
That’s because collagen chains are too long to be effectively absorbed topically through creams and lotions, and too complex to be fully absorbed by the digestive tract when ingested. To effectively boost collagen levels, smaller chains of amino acids are necessary to promote absorption.
Enter: collagen peptides (also known as hydrolyzed collagen).
Why are collagen peptide supplements/hydrolyzed collagen effective?
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are designed to replicate the basic components of a protein molecule with different properties that promote absorption. Collagen peptides are composed of the same things as naturally-occurring collagen, including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine, but they are much shorter than the full-length collagen molecules having been broken down through a process called hydrolysis (hence, the other name, hydrolyzed collagen). Because collagen peptides are shorter chains of amino acids, they are more readily absorbed by the body.
Once collagen peptides are absorbed into the bloodstream, they travel to different parts of the body where tissue cells build the peptides into full collagen helices.
The key to the effectiveness of collagen peptides is the fact that they spur the growth of full collagen molecules. When collagen peptides are absorbed into the body, they send signals to cells to synthesize new collagen molecules.
Unlike other kinds of collagen supplements, collagen peptides are bioavailable and highly soluble. Numerous studies have highlighted the positive effects that collagen peptide supplements can have on the body. While further research is still being conducted to fully understand the scope of collagen effects, findings demonstrate a connection between collagen peptide supplements and joint and bone health, muscle strength and healthy skin.
Getting the most out of collagen peptides
Using collagen peptides is simple and straightforward. Collagen peptide supplements can easily be mixed into hot or cold drinks or taken in pill form. If you decide to start taking collagen peptide supplements, it’s crucial that you do plenty of research. You want to use a product that’s going to give you the best results possible, so make sure you take the time to vet the product before you buy. Read reviews from customers, ask a dietician or doctor for recommendations and spring for a high-quality supplement to get the results you want.
Even though collagen has the potential to improve many aspects of your health, it isn’t a magic fix. Collagen peptides are not meant to be taken once—they should be incorporated into your daily routine on a permanent basis if you really want them to make a difference in your body. They key to finding success with collagen supplements is to be patient and consistent. You might not notice major results right away, but after several months you may start to see some big improvements in your body.
Keep your expectations realistic
As with every supplement, you want to make sure you keep in mind your unique health conditions and consider how it will impact you specifically. When you take collagen peptide supplements, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. You can’t expect for all of your symptoms of joint pain to disappear or for signs of aging to be erased. Collagen is simply one aspect of a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle that can contribute to holistic health if it’s incorporated into your life the right way.
Wondering how else you can boost collagen production? Stay tuned for part III of our collagen series.