By Dr. Michael Polsinelli, DC
What is Collagen and Gelatin?
A good quality collagen (aka gelatin) supplement can be a great addition to anyone’s diet. Collagen is the main component of all connective tissue. Connective tissue ties and binds different parts of our body. Collagen is found in skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. Collagen is a main component of the dentin layer of teeth, bones, cartilage, intervertebral discs and the corneas (in the eyes). It is actually the “glue” that holds your body together.
Gelatin is partially broken-down collagen extracted from animal connective tissue.
Health Benefits of Gelatin
Gelatin has wide-ranging benefits to our health. It helps skin conditions as well as helping our skin look younger. It helps joints, cartilage, and bones. It also helps digestive problems, food allergies, and helps heal our gut. Gelatin supports muscle development. Finally, it can help with weight loss.
Bones and Joints
Bones are mostly made up of a collagen matrix with calcium crystals attached to it. Collagen provides the bones with flexibility and torsional strength. The calcium crystals provide lots of compression strength, but it is twisting motions that result in most fractures. Collagen provides the strength against these twisting forces.
Studies have shown that gelatin prevents bone collagen breakdown and actually increases bone density. Several studies have also shown that collagen proteins have significantly reduced pain in arthritic joints, including knees. Several of my patients have confirmed this.
Gelatin and a healthy gut
Gelatin seems to sooth and reduce intestinal and stomach irritation. It binds with allergens and prevents reactions in people with many food allergies. Because the gut is made up of lots of collagen, gelatin seems to help in healing of ulcers and ulcerative colitis.
Gelatin contains glycine which has an anti-inflammatory effect as well as assists in detoxification. Studies have shown that gelatin reduces inflammation and heals the intestinal mucosa.
Healthy skin and beauty
70% of the protein in skin is made from collagen. Gelatin and collagen peptides have been shown to increase hydration of the skin. They also help smooth the skin and reduce wrinkles while increasing suppleness.
The glycine in gelatin can also reduce estrogen, which may help with certain types of acne.
“The good: My dry skin seems a lot better, with just one patch on one hand of gray, cracked skin left. My hair seems to have more luster, and (unless I’m imagining things) my cracked fingernails seem to be doing better as well.” Jonathan K.
Muscle protection and development
Muscles attach to bones via tendons. Over 85% of tendons are made up of collagen. Collagen and gelatin can actually strengthen our muscles and reduce injuries. Studies have shown that gelatin can increase muscle mass in seniors and reduce the incidence of injury with athletes, and may be more beneficial than whey proteins.
Gelatin and weight loss
Studies have shown that gelatin can increase satiation and reduce caloric intake. Last year I lost 40lbs. Adding extra gelatin to bone broth has actually acted as a meal replacement for one meal a day for me. I found that the gelatin and broth soothed my stomach and kept me from needing to eat as much.
How to get gelatin and collagen
While the best way to include gelatin in your diet is bone broth, I use a powdered form in addition to broth. Look for a high quality grass fed form of gelatin. While the Knox brand will test beneficial some of the time, gelatin from the Vital Proteins brand will test beneficial for almost all of my patients.
Vital Proteins has two products:
Beef Gelatin is their gelatin product. It will only dissolve in heated liquid. It is made from grass fed beef, is Kosher, and is hormone free.
Collagen Peptides is gelatin that is further broken down. It will dissolve in cold liquids, and will not gel.
Most people initially test a preference for the Beef Gelatin. I believe they test the preference because of its gut protective qualities. The collagen peptides supposedly are better for joint and skin health. I’ll continue to test to see if preference changes as gut health improves in my patients.
A warning about gelatin
Gelatin is not a complete protein. Restricting your protein intake to just gelatin or bone broth will cause health problems. However, adding gelatin and bone broth other animal and vegetable proteins complement and aids in the digestion of these proteins.
Collagen Benefits by Vital Proteins
Gelatin, stress, longevity by Ray Peat