Collagen supplements are by no means new. Just look at any #fitspo Instagram account and you’ll see collagen celebrated for its muscle- and joint-supporting benefits. Additionally, the beauty world has long purported ingestible collagen as the fountain of youth.
As a corporate wellness consultant, there’s one benefit of collagen that I’m most interested in: its role in supporting brain health. Given that my job is to keep America’s work force healthy, happy and firing on all cylinders, I was intrigued to learn that new research suggests collagen, specifically collagen VI, has the capacity to protect brain cells against amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins, which are widely thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Although studies are still in the early phases and it’s unclear whether or not ingestible collagen can have an impact, it’s still quite clear that collagen itself has brain-supporting benefits.
But, wait. There’s more! Roughly one third of collagen is composed of glycine, a non-essential amino acid that is key to brain health. In fact, scientists have even studied the link between glycine and schizophrenia, finding that treatment with the amino acid improved their positive, negative, cognitive and general psychiatric symptoms. Additionally, this amino acid also plays a role in cognitive performance and has been investigated as viable sleep aide, as it can help usher in a deeper, more restful sleep state, which in turn supports a better functioning brain. Still not sold? Here are five other reasons you might want to include collagen in your morning smoothie.
- It’s anti-aging. There’s been on-going debate over the last several years about the veracity of collagen’s anti-aging claims. However, the latest research is looking more promising. An extensive double-blind, placebo-controlled study from 2014 found that women who ingested 2.5 grams of hydrolyzed protein daily had a 20 percent reduction in wrinkle depth in just eight weeks. What’s more, the same study found that our body’s natural pre-collagen (the precursor to collagen in our bodies) was increased by a total of 65 percent from ingesting hydrolyzed collagen.
- It improves digestive health. Collagen can be a great support for those suffering from IBS and intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome). Though studies are still few and far between, there is research to suggest that those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease have lower concentrations of collagen IV, which is vital for a healthy, functioning digestive tract. The largest benefit to ingesting collagen is its support in healing connective tissue, allowing lesions in the intestinal lining to repair.
- It can support a healthy liver. Our livers are constantly processing toxins, such as alcohol and foreign substances. As it turns out, glycine, the prominent amino acid in collagen, helps minimize the load on our livers. One study even found that glycine could help repair the liver from alcohol-induced liver damage and other forms of acute, chronic liver injury, which is great news for those of us who love a good happy hour!
- It can reduce the appearance of cellulite. It’s estimated that 90 percent of women and 10 percent of men suffer from cellulite, and American spend 12 million dollars per year on cellulite treatments. As it turns out, collagen could be the panacea we’ve all been looking for. A 2014 study over six months found that women who suffered from moderate cellulite were able achieve clear improvements in the skin’s appearance with regular oral supplementation.
- It can support cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Obviously, diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors play a major role, but including collagen in your diet daily can improve your cardiovascular health. Here’s why: The amino acid, proline, helps artery walls release the fat accumulation in the bloodstream, minimizing the fat in the arteries and reducing overall fat accumulation. It’s also correlated with the prevention of atherosclerosis, as it helps keep arteries clear of plaque build up.
So, if you’re looking for a convenient way to enhance your morning smoothie that also works double-time to support your brain and your body, look no further than collagen. With cardiovascular, anti-aging and digestive health benefits, it’s a nutritional home run.
Nationally recognized wellness expert Amina AlTai is a Nutrition and Corporate Wellness Consultant and founder of Brooklyn-based Busy Happy Healthy. With training in nutrition, fitness and meditation—and having triumphed over burnout to reclaim her own health—Amina specializes in developing meaningful lifestyle practices that enhance the whole person, not just pieces of our lives. Along with individual clients, progressive companies such as Bliss, Deloitte and HUGE have partnered with Amina for wellness coaching that breaks the mold. In addition to penning pieces for digital destinations like MindBodyGreen, Barry’s Bootcamp and Charlotte’s Book, Amina is currently in the midst of writing Busy Happy Healthy’s first book.