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The Beauty of Vegan Collagen Explained 2024: What is it? How is it different? What are the Benefits?

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Demystifying Collagen in 2024

If you are anything like us then you will have heard a lot of shouting about ‘Collagen’ lately – and even whispers of a plant-based Vegan Collagen, but why? What is all the fuss about?

In the past few years there has been a surge huge in consumer demand for collagen products, the United Kingdom’s market size for is expected to have an annual growth rate of 6.65% during a forecasted period up to 2028 (2023-2028). Some of the reasons for this growth in demand is due to the increase in awareness of the health benefits of collagen.

The average recommended consumption of collagen is between 2.5-15 grams per day. It’s benefits such as these that have played a large part in consumer demand for collagen products that can be consumed, expanding the product category from sitting primarily in the health and beauty sector to the food and beverage sector. In a global market review from 2023 the food and beverage industry had the highest market share for collagen based products.

Basically: Gone are the days of relying on creams and capsules for your collagen fix, we are firmly in the era of collagen that you can taste the benefit of. Very exciting!

So lets get into it…

What is collagen?

Often touted as a miracle cure against the signs of aging, Collagen is the most abundant type of protein that plays a major role in many structures of the body including bones, skin, muscles, and tendons. There are actually 28 known types of collagen, with type 1 collagen accounting for 90% of the collagen within the human body. Collagen primarily consists of the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, playing a crucial role in uniting the body’s cells whilst offering essential strength and contributing to skin elasticity.

Our body makes collagen on its own via connective tissue cells called fibroblasts using amino acids, vitamin c, zinc and copper, although production begins to decline from early adulthood as fibroblasts become less active. This decline in collagen production leads to signs of aging such as wrinkles and loose skin.

Why is Collagen important?

As our body’s natural collagen production begins to decline from early adult hood, our bodies are more susceptible to the signs of aging, affecting not only the appearance of our skin, but also our hair, nails and even our joint health. Studies have proven that age dependant reduction in collagen can actually be reversed through the consumption of collagen.

This happens in three stages, firstly once the collagen has been consumed your body will digest the collagen into bioactive and di–tri- peptides, which are then released into your blood stream, accumulating within the skin to form the collagen bio-matrix.

Secondly the collagen peptides that enter the skin cells to cure anti aging effects by removing ROS from cells, protecting the cell’s endogenous antioxidant defence system, and reducing oxidative damage and inflammatory responses in cells (Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition (mdpi.com).

Thirdly the protein peptides that have entered the skin cells to help promote collagen and hyaluronic acid synthesis and inhibit the production of inflammation by regulating cytokines or other signalling pathways, also preventing skin collagen degradation by inhibiting the expression of proteases such as nuclear transcription factor activating protein (Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition (mdpi.com)).

Vegan Collagen benefits for Skin

Skincare is one of the most popular reasons for the use of collagen supplements, due to skin loosing its elasticity and becoming increasingly thinner and drier dure to the loss of collagen (A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study – PMC (nih.gov)) all which leads to the appearance of wrinkles Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments – PMC (nih.gov). It’s no wonder as we continue to age, most of us are looking for that magic ingredient that can help wind the clock back a few years and give us the appearance of more youthful, glowing skin.

Woman with firm smooth skin
Collagen famously hydrates skin and improves elasticity.

The cosmetic industry has capitalised on this notion for years, and I’m sure most of you will have a list of your favourite skin care products, and whilst some of these products have been proven to improve wrinkles they are only skin deep and are not actually absorbed by your body, therefore instead of getting to the root of the issue they are actually masking it.

Vegan Collagen benefits for joints

Collagen does not just impact the appearance of aging but also has an impact on our bodies, including joint and muscle health. The amount of collagen within the skeletal system also decreases with age, leading to reductions in bone strength Osteoporosis, like skin ageing, is caused by collagen loss which is reversible – PMC (nih.gov).  This is because collagen is also found in the connective tissue in our skin, tendons, bones and cartilage, and it provides the structural to these tissues and plays an important role to the following cellular processes: Collagen: Benefits, Side Effects, and More (healthline.com)

  • Tissue repair
  • Immune response
  • Cellular communication
  • Cellular migrations, a process necessary for tissue maintenance

This connective tissue is known as fibroblasts and they help produce and maintain collagen, however as you begin to age your collagen becomes more fragmented, and these fibroblasts become impaired and the collagen production begins to slow (Collagen: Benefits, Side Effects, and More (healthline.com)).

Vegan Collagen benefits for hair and nails 

The body’s natural decline in collagen is also responsible for hair becoming duller and drier and nails to become more brittle. A study was carried out on women who had brittle nails and were exhibiting nails with surface roughness, raggedness and peeling, with the aim of the study to investigate whether oral supplementation of collagen improves the nail growth rate. From this study 12% had an increase in nail growth rate, 42% had a decrease in broken nails, 64% of participants achieved a global clinical improvement in brittle nails and 88% of participants experiences improvements 4 weeks post treatment. (Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails – PubMed (nih.gov).

Symptoms of Low Collagen

Unfortunately there is no blood or urine test you can take to measure the levels of collagen within your body, however researchers determined a way to measure it in 2018, within the human cells using chemical assay. Measurement of elastin, collagen, and total protein levels in tissues – ScienceDirect. This isn’t something easy that we can all do, however there are ways to tell when your body isn’t having enough collagen. Signs include wrinkles skin due to elastic loss and stiff joints, as collagen is also related to gut health, the lack of protein you are consuming could lead to ulcers and digestive problems. What to Do When Your Collagen Depletes (verywellhealth.com).

Woman with wrinkles and low collagen
Wrinkles are just one sign of low collagen.

Aging is  not the only cause for your collagen levels to depreciate, but a contributing factor is also diet and lifestyle. Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition (mdpi.com). Your body cannot naturally produce collagen if it doesn’t have the necessary elements, mostly amino acids and sufficient nutrients, Collagen | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, you need to give your body the ingredients it needs to allow it to create its own healthy levels of collagen.

What foods help build collagen

There are many foods that help support collagen production and are usually recommended as part of a healthy diet Collagen | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Foods naturally rich in collagen peptides mainly come from animal and fish skin, bones, tendons, muscles and other tissues.  Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition (mdpi.com) . For non vegans the most popular ways of consuming collagen is through animal bone broths, gelatine based products such as gummies What to Do When Your Collagen Depletes (verywellhealth.com), or even tinned sardines.

However, there are lots of other foods that can help to support collagen formation. By making sure you have enough protein within your diet will help support your collagen levels. There are a number of high protein foods that are believed to nurture collagen production because they contain amnio acids, which make collagen glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, these foods include, fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes and soy Collagen | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Collagen production also requires certain nutrients such as zinc, which can be found in shellfish, legumes, meats, nuts, seeds and wholegrains, as well as vitamin c which can be found in citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, bell peppers and tomatoes. There are many foods that can be consumed to help support collagen formation, whether part of either a carnivore, pescatarian or vegan diet, it’s just about knowing what ingredients are needed to best fuel your body.    

Whilst in food, collagen is naturally only found in animal flesh like meat and fish, as these contain connective tissue, however there are a variety of both animal and plant foods that contain the materials to help your body create its own collagen. Because of this most people are more familiar with traditional bovine or marine collagen products, however due to consumer demand for a more ethical and sustainable vegan alternative, it has led to a rise in vegan collagen products becoming more readily available within the market.

Is there a vegan version of Collagen?

Yes!

It has long been believed that collagen can only come from animal and fish skin, bones, tendons, muscles and other tissues,  which has meant it is not suitable as part of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Although there is no natural vegan source of collagen in the plant kingdom, scientists have cleverly found ways to produce a form of collagen from natural ingredients to help form the building blocks needed to facilitate collagen formation, ingredients such as yeasts and bacteria.

The four human genes that code for collagen are added to the genetic structure of the microbes to help produce collagen, then once the genes are in place, the yeast or bacteria then start to produce building blocks of human collagen. A digestive enzyme know as Pepsin, is then added to help structure the building blocks into collagen molecules producing the exact structure of human collagen

Another method scientists have found to be effective is to use a tobacco plant expression platform, which effectively expresses human type 1 collagen, along with three modifying enzymes that are critical to collagen maturation. Scientists have found this method of extraction of human type one collagen resembles that of native collagen.

What is the difference between animal collagen and vegan collagen?

Vegan collagen is often considered a more superior product.

It is a common misconception that vegan collagen is not as effective as animal or marine collagen however this is incorrect, it is actually considered that vegan collagen is superior as its amnio acid structure is the closest to human type 1 collagen. When the recommended serving of vegan collagen is consumed, it has shown to improve skin hydration whilst reducing wrinkles, texture, and pores in just 28 days with consistent daily use.

Another thing that most people will not be aware of is that due to the amnio acid profile and the fact vegan collagen is closest to human type 1 collagen, it absorbs four times better than animal collagen, bypassing the digestive system due to its molecule size, meaning that 1 gram of vegan collagen is the equivalent of 4 grams of bovine or marine collagen.

While the biggest benefit of having vegan collagen opposed to animal collagen is that no animals are harmed in the process, there are benefits of people that suffer from allergies. Collagen from animals comes with risk of contamination, allergic reactions and risk of poor quality and batch inconsistencies. There is also risk of the transmission of illness from animal sourced collagen, vegan collagen eliminated these risks as it is produced in a controlled environment where common allergens and other harmful substances can be removed.

Similar to bovine and marine collagen, vegan collagen can boost skin density, elasticity, texture, minimize wrinkles and pores, while enhancing hydration and radiance. As vegan collagen, mirrors the amino acid structure of human type 1 collagen, it aids the body to activate the natural collagen production process rather than digesting animal collagens which have different structures.

Bovine or marine collagen doesn’t immediately begin working as collagen in your body, it must first be broken down into amino acids and then absorbed. This doesn’t address the issue behind why your body isn’t producing collagen of its own, but rather puts a bandage on the issue.

By using plant-based ingredients rich in the correct elements, you can cut out the middleman and support the body to create its own healthy levels of collagen.

Is marine collagen vegan?

No it isn’t, marine collagen actually comes from fish skin, bones, tendons, muscles and other tissues meaning it is not suitable as part of a vegan based diet.

Types of vegan collagen products

Within the current cosmetic and food supplement industry the majority of collagen products are derived from animal collagen. However due to customer demand or more humane collagen supplements, there are more vegan collagen supplements and vegan beauty products appearing in the market, all of which have been designed to stimulate the body’s production of collagen rather than providing a direct supply of it  Is Vegan Collagen Effective & Does It Exist? | Holland & Barrett (hollandandbarrett.com). The majority of supplements come in the form of tablets or collagen powders, which are to be taken once daily.

After looking at products already on the market, there don’t really seem to be many vegan collagen snacks readily available…. Yet.

 

Collagen Powder and Capsules
Collagen is often sold in the form of Powder and Capsules

How long does it take for vegan collagen to work?

Studies have found that people saw results after just 4 week after having collagen supplements daily Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study – PubMed (nih.gov).

Protein helps to form important parts of our body tissues and organs, with a primary physiological function to help construct and repair tissues, mediate physiological functions, and supply energy.

All tissue cells in the body are constantly renewed, and only by having sufficient amount of protein can your body maintain normal tissue renewal and repair. Our skin is no exception to this rule, and the average skin renewal cycle is generally considered to be 28 days. Therefore by taking vegan collagen supplements, you are allowing your body the ingredients it needs to help facilitate collagen formation, and due to the body’s natural tissue renewal and repair are likely to start seeing results in a s little as 28 days.

Skin care benefits have the fastest period of time for seeing visible results, of course the longer you continue to take vegan collagen supplements the more benefits you are likely to gain, as taking collagen for up to one year can help with bone density support, joint health support, tendon support as well as hair and nail support How Long Does It Take For Collagen To Work? | mindbodygreen.

Conclusion

As it stands however the majority of products within the market are still heavily dominated by products containing either bovine and marine collagen, but this may simply be due to the fact that vegan collagen is still fairly new and a lot of people are still quite uneducated when it comes to understanding what vegan collagen is and the benefits that come from it.

It appears that vegan collagen is a superior product in comparison to traditional collagen due to the fact it is not only a humane process but also the fact that it is closest in its amino acid profile to human type 1 collagen. The fact that 1 gram of vegan collagen is equal to 4 grams of bovine or marine collagen is particularly astonishing, as the benefits you could receive from taking vegan supplements could be greater than the results from taking animal based collagen.

We for one at Jade and Joy are extremely excited to see what happens within the vegan collagen market and seeing what exciting new products will start appearing online and on our shelves.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this, I appreciate it is not a quick read. However I do hope that this piece has educated you on what vegan collagen is, how it is different from animal collagen and what the benefits are. Hopefully we have been able to change your mindset about vegan collagen and have left you eager to try it yourself.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this blog, and answer any questions you might have within the comment section.

PS. If you are intrigued by Vegan Collagen and are eager to try it out then it would be a really good idea to subscribe to our newsletter 👀

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