Animal or plant based collagen?  

It's a beautiful morning, and the sun is shining. You've meditated, gone to pilates, and you're now just out of the shower. The next step is to rub crushed animal bones and ligaments on your face and drop them in your smoothy. Sorry, what?

Collagen skincare, powders and other products are everywhere. It's not surprising. They're big sellers because of the proposed benefits to your skin and overall health. But, no matter how slick collagen skincare and collagen powders are marketed, there's no hiding what's in them, animal parts: crushed bones, hides, connective tissue, fish and ligaments. All melted down using toxic chemicals. These animal parts are the wash-ups from the animal farming industry, and I'm pretty sure these animals weren't planning on ending up as skincare or being added to a smoothie. 

Animal welfare is just one of the many issues associated with these products. If you're focused on results then the most important thing you should know is that, they are nowhere near as effective as their plant-based counterparts. 

Let's begin with the obvious, animal-based sources of collagen are not sustainable. No matter how the meat industry frames it, animal farming at its current scale is destroying our planet. Whether it's the Amazon being cut down to make room for animal crops or grazing, to land worldwide dedicated to animal farming that could be converted back to its natural state, to draw down carbon and increase biodiversity. The methane gases which pollute our atmosphere to our overfished oceans. Mass animal agriculture is a disaster for our planet and the animals themselves.   

If pulverised animal parts don't gross you out, consider that most collagen powders are highly processed and riddled with chemicals, antibiotics, toxins, and synthetic ingredients. Most collagen products are produced using hexane, a petroleum-based chemical that is toxic and not only pollutes your body and the environment it can lead to other health problems. This heat used to make collagen products damages the nutrients, so they're not even bioavailable, meaning, they deliver no benefit to your body. 

Let's run over the shopping list of other issues with animal collagen

They're not sustainable.

They're not a complete protein.

They're not a balanced protein.

They're not chemical-free - contains harmful chemicals, including pesticides/herbicides and antibiotics)It doesn't have any additional vitamins or minerals. It doesn't promote your collagen production and may contain unnecessary ingredients, including emulsifiers, dyes, or 'natural' or artificial flavours.

We hear endlessly that animal collagen is superior to plant based, but this is a total myth. The amino acids they contain are not balanced like those in other plant-based sources. A complete protein is required to form muscle, transport nutrients, and build and repair tissue. To be considered a complete protein, the food needs to contain all nine essential amino acids which animal collagen does not. Even though animal collagen contains a different spectrum of amino acids, it's missing the amino acid Tryptophan and so not considered a complete protein. And, despite the misinformation out there, plants contain all nine essential amino acids.

We hear endlessly that animal collagen is superior to plant based, but this is a total myth. The amino acids they contain are not balanced like those in other plant-based sources. A complete protein is required to form muscle, transport nutrients, and build and repair tissue. To be considered a complete protein, the food needs to contain all nine essential amino acids which animal collagen does not. Even though animal collagen contains a different spectrum of amino acids, it's missing the amino acid Tryptophan and so not considered a complete protein. And, despite the misinformation out there, plants contain all nine essential amino acids.

Collagen is the glue that holds you together and provides your skin with its structure, strengthening hair, nails and bones while ensuring your joints move smoothly

As we move through life and past the age 29, we lose collagen naturally. Not surprisingly, it's also accelerated by a poor diet, alcohol and smoking. Sadly, collagen doesn't like to party. It's less 90s party and more new agey, green juice vibes. 

First, let's look at what collagen is made of - three amino acids comprise collagen: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.  These 3 amino acids are synthesised with Vitamin C to produce collagen. Your body doesn't naturally produce vitamin C, it is derived from your food. 

Zinc is also a cofactor in the production of collagen. It plays a vital role in collagen synthesis. It is essential to cell repair and helps protect collagen in the body from damage. Zinc deficiency can reduce the amount of collagen produced.

Copper is also an essential mineral in collagen production and is also required for the formation of red blood cells, bone, and connective tissue. Copper activates an enzyme (lysyl oxidase) required for collagen maturation, which helps form the fibres that support your tissues.

So, how to upregulate your body's collagen production? 

With plants, herbs, mushrooms and algae! Getting plenty of Vitamin C, Zinc, Copper, and amino acids- lysine, proline and hydroxyproline are the necessary nutrients involved in collagen synthesis in your body. You can get abundant amounts of all of these from plant based sources. 

Plant based collagen products are designed to up-regulate your body's collagen production. In contrast, animal based collagen operates on the theory of adding animal's collagen to your body. An analogy is that one plugs a hole in a bucket so it retains water while the other, keeps adding water to a bucket with a hole. We'll let you reflect on which is more effective.

Herbs and foods that supercharge your collagen production plus come with many other benefits. 

Horsetail  -  is rich in naturally occurring calcium, magnesium, potassium, and bioavailable silica. Silica is an essential trace mineral that restores weak connective tissues in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons, and collagen.

Nettle - contains a high amount of calcium, silica, and sulfur, making it an excellent source to help boost collagen receptors. Nettle is also a multivitamin. It contains calcium, carotene, magnesium, vitamin A, B + K, potassium, and protein.

Gynostemma - Containing over 80 different saponins compared to the 28 found in ginseng. Gynostemma is a natural antioxidant and a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains two essential antioxidants: glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

Shiitake Mushroom - Powerful antioxidant compounds in Shitake Mushrooms provide an excellent defence against free radicals and oxidative stress throughout the body, especially the skin. They promote a healthy glow to the skin and minimise wrinkles. They're full of zinc, selenium, manganese, folate and vitamins B1, B5, B6 and D12.

Algae - is one of the best forms of collagen on the planet. Algae supports protects, and increases collagen. Algae has all of these essential nutrients in it naturally. It contains more protein than collagen powder and up to 430% more essential amino acids. Not only does algae contain the three nutrients needed for collagen production, algae further contains all the amino acids that make it a complete protein required for collagen production.

A recent study showed that Spirulina might increase growth factors in dermal fibroblast cells, which are responsible for creating collagen. Spirulina is also already an amino acid so it's easily and readily absorbed by your body, while meat needs to be broken down into amino acids.

Interesting side note - what do you think is the most protein rich food in the world? Nope, not read meat. I understand why you'd think that with all the marketing around meat and protein. It's Spirulina. Spirulina contains 52 grams of protein per 100 grams while red meat contains 36 grams of protein per 100 grams.  

So crushed bone smoothies or skincare are not needed or the best source of collagen. All these small choices you can make daily not only are better for your skin and body but the planet. Each small choice is also a choice for stewardship of this earth and a step into the power of our responsibility for all the creatures on it. 

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