You can find collagen in almost everything these days, from powders and protein bars to collagen water (yum?).
So what exactly is collagen and what does it do?
Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues.
Collagen is a hard, insoluble, and fibrous protein that makes up one-third of the protein in the human body.
It gives skin strength and elasticity.
There are at least 16 different types of collagen, but 80 to 90 percent of them belong to types 1, 2, and 3. These different types have different structures and functions.
Collagen is secreted by various cells, but mainly by connective tissue cells.
It is found in the extracellular matrix. This is an intricate network of macromolecules that determines the physical properties of body tissues. A macromolecule is a molecule containing a large number of atoms.
With age, collagen weakens, leading to wrinkles and cartilage problems.
In the dermis or the middle layer of skin, collagen helps form a fibrous network of cells called fibroblasts, upon which new cells can grow. It also plays a role in replacing and restoring dead skin cells.
Some collagens act as protective coverings for delicate organs in the body, such as the kidneys.
With age, the body produces less collagen. The structural integrity of the skin declines. Wrinkles form, and joint cartilage weakens.
Women experience a dramatic reduction in collagen synthesis after menopause.
By the age of 60 years, a considerable decline in collagen production is normal.
When choosing a collagen supplement there are many important factors that must be taken into account: ethics, sourcing, quality control, processing, and the composition of the final product.
What are most collagen supplements made from?
While most people believe that collagen supplements are made from bones or other edible parts of an animal, collagen supplements are generally made from the inedible and indigestible parts of animals like the hide of cows or the scales of fish.
These parts are very cheap for companies to buy, allowing them to make a huge profit, while charging you a premium price, for materials they get for next to nothing.
How are most collagen supplements made?
For food or nutritional purpose, collagen is broken down into gelatine which can be broken down further into hydrolyzed collagen. The processes involved in processing hydrolyzed collagen are demineralization, extraction of collagen to gelatine, enzymatic hydrolysis to obtain hydrolyzed collagen, ion exchange, ultrafiltration, bleaching, evaporation, sterilization, and finally drying. (1)
This heavy processing essentially just yields a powdered blend of amino acids, far from the whole food or natural product claims that most companies make.
Without this heavy processing, it would not mix well into beverages because many of the occurring compounds are not water-soluble.
Some companies do claim to use parts from grass-fed animals, although many are derived from regular feed-lot cattle.
While grass-fed is generally better for you and the environment, a product that is so processed and only has a few isolated amino acids left is not going to provide any of the normal health benefits associated with grass-fed animal products, because all of the other compounds have been removed during the heavy processing.
Where do most collagen products come from?
There are two main sources of collagen products (a few collagen products are derived from chicken sternums, but this represents a very small part of the market).
The first is conventional feedlot cattle hides from the United States.
We all know the problems of the use of factory farms in the United States such as animal welfare, environmental issues, and human health.
Guess who the number one seller of this type of collagen in the United States is?
CLOROX, the bleach company (PSA, please remember bleach is NOT a cure for the COVID-19 and should NOT be ingested)!!!
They own the Neocell brand (As well as Rainbow Light vitamins and Natural Vitality, the makers of Natural Calm magnesium):
The second is pastured and grass-fed cattle hides from Brazil.
While grass-fed cattle is usually better for the health of the animals, the environment, and people, in this case, it is most certainly not.
In Brazil, massive amounts of the Amazon rainforest are being cut down to make room for cattle to graze. This is creating an environmental catastrophe.
Cattle ranching is responsible for almost 80% of the deforestation rates of the Amazon. (2) Many of the massive fires being set there are to make grazing land for cattle.
In addition, many acres are being cut down to grow soybeans to feed cattle.
The rainforest is far too important to all of humanity and the native peoples who live there to be cut down for short term profits. Once it is gone, we can never get it back.
Boycotting all beef products from Brazil is one of the easiest ways to help preserve the rainforest.
No matter how good the quality of a product is, if it creates profound ethical or environmental issues, is it really worth it?
Guess who now owns the number one company selling collagen products from Brazil?
Nestle, one of the worst corporations (users of child and slave labor around the world and stealer of clean drinking water) just purchased the Vital Proteins company. (3) (4) (5)
Remember Nestle already owns the following vitamin companies already:
Garden of Life
There is no reason you should have to comprise your ethics, health, or the environment to get good collagen or any other supplement for that matter.
Where does ethically sourced collagen come from?
It comes from grass-fed cows that graze on lush pastures.
These pastures exist without the need to clear cut forests to create them.
The cows are not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
The animals come from a country with strict animal welfare and environmental laws that are actually enforced. It should also have laws that ensure farmworkers are paid a fair wage and are treated well.
When looking for a country that met all of these ethical requirements, New Zealand was one of only a handful that actually met all of these ethical requirements. The other countries that met these requirements did not produce collagen raw material that we could find.
How is a true whole food collagen supplement made?
Real whole food collagen is minimally processed.
It should be made from whole, edible, animal parts - not leftover scraps, scales, and hides.
It is not acid washed, bleached, demineralized, ion-exchanged, or sterilized.
It should be tested to ensure it is free of BSE (commonly known as mad cow disease).
It should be tested to be free of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides.
It should be tested to ensure it does not contain high levels of heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and cadmium. Many collagen supplements actually have a problem with heavy metal contamination. (6)
The collagen should be traceable from the farm where the cows were raised to the processing facility, and finally to the factory where the product is bottled.
The process of making whole-food collagen is quite simple.
Protease, an enzyme, is applied to remove the non-cartilage parts of the materials, and then it is freeze-dried.
Nothing is added and nothing is taken away.
That’s it. Much much different from conventional collagen products.
It was incredibly difficult to find a collagen product that was truly whole food, as opposed to just claiming to be.
It contains all the naturally occurring compounds present in the whole food, not just a few amino acids. Some of these compounds include:
Bioactive Growth Factors: IGF-1, TGFßI & Cartilage Derived Growth Factor (CDGF)
Glycosaminoglycans | Proteoglycans
When you use heavily processed and refined collagen products you lose out on nearly all of these wonderful compounds and their benefits.
Why take the collagen equivalent of white bread and miss out on all of the benefits true whole food collagen has to offer?
Ethics and quality permeate every part of what we do at Rooted Nutrition. We truly believe that you cannot have one without the other. We will never force you to make that choice.
If we find out that one of the companies or products we sell starts doing things that affect quality or ethics we will stop selling them. We do not have loyalty to any brand or company.
We are so proud and excited to be able to offer you a whole food collagen supplement that supports your health without compromise!!