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It turns out that collagen was not, as many predicted it would be, just a passing trend; and continues to be a major buzzword throughout the professional beauty industry. We spoke to Fiona Tuck, one of our resident experts on all things nutrition, gut health and ‘internal beauty’ about everything you need to know when it comes to collagen supplements.

So how do collagen supplements work within the body, and how can they help stimulate our own natural collagen production? The concept has been rife with debate even after several years in the spotlight, and there is still a lot of new research happening in this field. Thankfully, one of Fiona’s greatest assets is her driving desire to stay up to date with the latest scientific research and using clinical data to inform any new product developments she makes. Fiona starts by explaining the difference between hydrolyzed collagen supplements (most commonly bovine or marine-derived) and ‘native collagen’ such as that contained in bone broth. 

“So what we call native collagen, it’s an unhydrolyzed form; the body has to digest it and break it down into amino acids. Then those amino acids are used with other nutrients in the body for whatever we need it for. And so when we eat collagen, and it’s actually quite hard to get collagen in the diet, you can get a little from eggs, you might get collagen from bone broth, but then the quality of the collagen and the amount of collagen in the bone broth really depends on what was used in the bone broth, how long that was cooked, what part of the animal was used…so there are lots of different factors. So in a way, it’s an unreliable source of collagen.”

Fiona goes on to explain the differences in supplements. “Most collagen (supplements) are hydrolyzed collagen, which means that it has been broken down via an enzyme process into very tiny amino acid fragments, which we call peptides. So you just want to check that hydrolyzed collagen means that this collagen has been hydrolyzed by enzymes into these tiny little peptides, which are then able to be directly absorbed, we don’t have to break them down.”

“These peptides have been shown by clinical studies that they can be absorbed via the intestinal mucosa via what we call the transporter PepT1 which basically by the small intestine we’re absorbing these peptides, they go straight into the bloodstream, and have been shown to be able to mimic the fibroblast-like growth factor that stimulates the fibroblasts for collagen production. Think of them more like little stimulants that are talking or communicating with the fibroblasts cell to say ‘hey, come on, we need to make more collagen!’ 

“Now obviously you’ve got the amino acids in collagen peptides, which have been broken down but you’re getting all of the amino acids that are required for healthy collagen production. And the difference with collagen as opposed to amino acids via the diet is that you’re also getting the hydroxyproline which you don’t really get through the diet. We make hydroxyproline in the body, but when we’re getting it via collagen peptides but also getting that the hydroxyproline ready-made if you like. 

Fiona tells us there are other exciting knock-on effects that come with stimulating the fibroblast cells via these collagen peptides – as some of you may have already guessed! “Because we are stimulating the fibroblasts cells the collagen peptides have been shown to be able to also stimulate hyaluronic acid production and elastin production. And, not only are they able to stimulate the fibroblast cells, but what they’re also doing is inhibiting the MMPs, which are the enzymes that break down collagen. 

According to the latest clinical trials, Fiona says the gold standard is looking like marine collagen, which seems to be producing better results for skin improvement when compared to bovine. It’s speculated that this can be put down to marine collagen’s superior bioavailability.

As per Fiona’s advice, we encourage all practitioners to do their own independent research when it comes to selecting products to recommend and stock within your clinics, particularly around such emerging sectors of the industry. But as an area that has shown growing mainstream interest over the past 2-3 years and playing a large role in the increasingly prevalent gut-skin link, we’re predicting to see more and more from this fascinating collagen supplement space in the years to come.

To continue hearing from Fiona about collagen supplementation internally and externally, head to our podcast or youtube channel.