What Is Collagen and Why Is Everyone Eating It?
Perhaps you’ve noticed your favorite social media influencer pouring a powdery white substance into their morning smoothie while waxing poetic on the benefits of collagen as a supplement. Huh? You may have thought. I thought collagen was something my mom wants in her eye cream. Technically, you’re not wrong. Collagen is the main structural component of connective tissues, and it occurs naturally in human (and other animal) bodies. Recently, however, it’s been growing in popularity as a superfood of sorts, a supplement favored by the wellness set.
Remember the bone broth craze of not so long ago? Folks traded in their morning smoothie or granola bar for a breakfast of seasoned beef stock, drank out of to-go cups like lattes. Bone broth’s main attraction (besides its low sugar content) was its high concentration of collagen. Collagen, which is packed with protein, has been found in some small-scale studies to improve skin's elasticity. Though there is not substantial scientific evidence, proponents of taking collagen as supplement have found it to improve gut health, increase hair growth, and build bone and joint tissues. Bone broth may not be quite as trendy as it was two years ago, but using collagen as a supplement is definitely growing in popularity.
Typically sourced from beef, fish, and chicken, when chemically broken down, collagen forms amino acid chains called peptides. Vital Proteins, a popular producer of collagen products, extracts their collagen from bovine hides by treating them with water, a process known as hydrolyzation. According to Vital Proteins, “the hides are first cleaned and soaked in hot water to remove the fat. They are then soaked in an alkaline or acid solution to facilitate the release of collagen. After, the hides are cooked in water with a temperature that fluctuates up to 190 degrees, to extract the collagen from the hides.”
Once it’s completely hydrolyzed, food-grade collagen basically looks like granulated sugar. The tasteless powder can be added to anything from water to coffee to oatmeal and beyond.
As with any supplement, if you’re considering adding collagen to your diet, it’s best to consult a health professional. At this point, collagen is really only proven to be a good source of protein, and you could always just have a yogurt instead.