Could a collagen supplement help stop the effects of menopause on your bones and skin?
Collagen is a protein made from many amino acids, mainly non-essential ones such as glycine and proline, that make up skin, muscle, gut walls, connective tissue, joints, and bones. It requires vitamin C (from citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, bell peppers, and tomatoes) and zinc (in shellfish, legumes, meats, nuts, seeds, and whole grains) for synthesis in the human body. It is supported by Oestrogen and Testosterone, Zinc, Copper, and vitamin C production. It also contributes to the formation of synovial fluid in joints, blood vessels, helps with muscle formation and promotes wound healing. Collagen production is reduced after menopause and as we age, as we lose the ability to make and store collagen and to make muscle (our ability to take amino acids from food into the blood decreases). This contributes to the loss of skin elasticity and the formation of wrinkles as well as conditions such as osteoarthritis and cardiovascular diseases. Collagen is found in fish and animal meat (mainly the skins, tendons and cartilage and offal) and is best consumed with a diet rich in vitamin C. There is some evidence to suggest that supplementation with hydrolysed collagen (collagen broken up into small molecules that can easily be absorbed) can also help reduce the effects of menopause on collagen production, so what supplements should you take and why?
What are the different types of collagens?
There are 24 types of collagens. The main ones include:
Type 1: in skin, bones, teeth, tendon, ligaments, vascular (blood vessel) tissue and organs (such as heart)
Type 2: cartilage needed to support joints.
Type 3: in skin, muscle, and blood vessels. It helps blood to clot.
Type 4: in our skin helps wounds and scars to heal.
Type 5: in hair, skin, and eyes
Supplements are available including:
- Murine (fish) collagen: from the bones, skin, scales of fish.
- Bovine (beef) collagen: from cows’ bone, skin, flesh and cartilage
- Pig collagen: from pigs’ bone, skin, flesh and cartilage
- Chicken, turkey, and game (bird) poultry collagen: from chicken bone, skin and cartilage
It is also present in:
- Egg white (though less bioavailable than animal and fish sources as it is rich in proline but has less glycine)
- Dairy (high in proline)
Animal collagen is often high in chondroitin and glucosamine which help increase type 2 collagen formation to build cartilage for cushioning the joints. Plant sources of collagen include
- Plant (vegan collagen): soy, legumes
Plant collagen is broken down less easily in digestion due to its fibre content and taken up less easily by the blood and tissues. It therefore has less collagen forming capacity.
Hydrolysed collagen is collagen broken up into small molecules so it can be more easily digested in the gut and absorbed into the blood stream and then tissues.
What does the science say?
Evidence in a randomised controlled trial (RCT — the gold standard of evidence) by Professor Konig at the University of Freiberg, 2018, found that specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women- (1). This is supported by another RCT at the same university by Dr Jendricke in 2019 (2) which found that collagen supplementation improved body composition and muscle strength in premenopausal women. There is growing evidence in this field, however what is clear is that the type of supplement matters. Creams and supplements that are not in hydrolysed powdered form, or do not contain zinc or vitamin C (which enhances collagen formation) or other fats and proteins (which can increase the uptake of collagen into the blood from the gut), have been found to be less bioavailable.
Research has shown that the most bioaccessible form of collagen is from within the diet, in food itself- in the skin and offal of meat and fish and from bone broth and gravies, or from soy or algae. Eating your fish and meat skin not only stops food waste, but it also helps boost the collagen in your skin and helps stop wrinkles. There is also some evidence to suggest that eating collagen in fish (with complete protein and omega3) enhances the bioavailability and bioaccessibility of the collagen (3)
Which are the best collagen powder supplements on the market for menopause?
As oestrogen supports collagen formation, collagen formation decreases post menopause. Current research shows, the best supplements are those that contain type 1 collagen with no unnecessary sugars, carbs or fats which will affect blood sugar and metabolism. These are in the most bioavailable form and contain at least 5g of protein per scoop. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so helps with appetite regulation. It also helps build muscle, and muscle helps with blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and mobility, which is important as you age as your ability to make muscle diminishes (your ability to take proteins from the gut to the blood to the muscle is reduced) and so your muscle mass decreases. It also increases vitality and helps prevent blood sugar peaks and lows, which cause mood and energy lows, which affect cognitive and physical performance and increase stress (low blood sugar causes the release of cortisol, the stress hormone) and sleep.
Some brands to try
1)Bare Biology Skinful Pure Marine Collagen Powder- https://www.barebiology.com/
This collagen is made from marine codfish skin (Gadus Morhua), supporting the formation of collagen for skin, bones and joints. This product contains no added sweeteners or sugars (it has 0g carbs and is low fat).
2)Bioglan- beauty collagen powder- https://bioglan.co.uk/product/beauty-collagen-powder/
This collagen powder contains vitamin C which helps increase collagen formation. It again has no added sugar or sweeteners and completely dissolves in water.
3) Vital Proteins collagen powder- https://www.vitalproteins.co.uk/
Vital proteins sells post bovine and murine collagen (from animals and fish) and is pure collagen with no bulking agents or sweeteners of flavours and completely dissolves in water.
4) Bulk Unflavoured collagen- https://www.bulk.com/uk/collagen-vitamin-c.html
This collagen is collagen and vitamin C. No sweeteners, flavourings, fillers, or bulking agents. It is natural and unprocessed and rich in protein. It is highly bioavailable and a great product. Bulk also do the best vegan collagen supplement on the market.
5) Nutralie collagen complex- https://www.nutralie.com/collagen/
These supplements come with vitamin D (which helps bone formation and works with collagen to make bones stronger), zinc and vitamin C (which enhance collagen bioavailability) as well as hyaluronic acid, coenzyme q10, vitamin A and B12. They contain hydrolysed collagen and are easy to consume pills.
6) Kiki health- Marine Blend Powder- https://kiki-health.com/shop/collagen-marine-blend-powder/
This collagen contains vitamin C (37% recommended intake per serving) from organic camu camu berries and organic açaí cherries and hyaluronic acid. It is from 100$ sustainable, wild-caught fish and is highly bioavailable. It also contains no added sugars, bulking agents, sweeteners, preservatives or fillers.
7) British supplements- clean genuine hydrolysed marine collagen
This collagen is British-made and pure collagen. No preservatives or sweeteners or fillers. A highly recommended product.
Should you supplement?
The best forms of nutrition are from within the food matrix, however supplementation can help those deficient, such as the elderly and those pre- or post-menopause, to optimise their collagen levels for long term health and improved skin, hair and bones.
1. König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(1).
2. Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A, König D. Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(4).
3. Hankenson KD, Watkins BA, Schoenlein IA, Allen KG, Turek JJ. Omega-3 fatty acids enhance ligament fibroblast collagen formation in association with changes in interleukin-6 production. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000;223(1):88–95.