Collagen powder supplements can help prevent injuries, build muscle mass, and support gut health, however, they can be problematic for those who follow a vegan diet because they’re derived from animal sources.
As the demand for vegan-friendly products continues to skyrocket, we’re now seeing vegan collagen dietary supplements that promise to be better than animal collagen appear.
But is there really such a thing?
In this article, we’ll explore what vegan collagen is, its effectiveness, and discuss how it compares to animal-based collagen products.
- Collagen supplements are made from animals, leaving vegans with few options.
- Vegan collagen products sold on the market today do not contain collagen. Instead, they contain ingredients to help boost the body’s own collagen production.
- Animal-based collagen is superior to plant-based collagen boosters because it provides a direct source of collagen. Vegans looking to get a collagen boost can do so by optimizing their diet.
DO VEGAN COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTS EXIST?
In short, no.
Despite many so-called vegan supplements on the market, vegan collagen supplements sold today do not directly provide collagen. This is because natural vegan sources of collagen do not exist.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is responsible for providing structure to our skin. It’s a major component of nails, hair, skin, muscle, and ligaments.
In our diet, collagen is found in high quantities in animal flesh, bone broth, and fish with the skin on.
As such, collagen supplements are not vegan friendly because they’re made from animal products like meat, fish, and eggs.
ANIMAL-BASED VS PLANT BASED COLLAGEN
Several years ago, when collagen supplements first became popular, only animal-based collagen was available. Today, you may notice plant-based collagen also being sold.
So, what’s the difference, and which one is more effective?
Let’s take a deeper dive into animal-based vs. plant-based collagen supplements to see how they stack up.
Animal-based collagen supplements, also known as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, are made using animal tissues.
One of the most common sources of collagen is from cows, which is known as bovine collagen. It’s sourced from the tendon, hide, and bone of cows.
Most collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen, which is broken down into small, easy-to-digest pieces. These supplements are also easy to dissolve in hot or cold liquids and can be added to food.
Numerous studies support the health benefits of animal-based collagen.
Scientific evidence suggests that collagen supplements can:
- Increase muscle mass
- Improve joint pain and flexibility
- Improve skin elasticity
- Increase collagen density in the dermis
- Improve gut health
While it’s more common to see collagen from animal sources, we are now seeing many different plant-based collagen types pop up.
When people see the term “vegan collagen supplement,” most automatically assume it is natural collagen sourced from plants.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
As we’ve discussed, collagen can only be sourced from animals. Vegan collagen powder cannot deliver a direct source of collagen. It can only aid in the production of collagen within the body.
With that said, scientists are in the early stages of developing true vegan collagen supplements that mimic animal collagen.
Instead of extracting collagen molecules from animal sources, the amino acids and collagen peptides that stimulate collagen production are grown in a laboratory.
During this process, genetically modified yeast and bacteria sources are used. Human genes and an enzyme called pepsin (a digestive enzyme) are also added to help formulate a structure that mimics human collagen.
Because it’s in the early stages of development, vegan collagen is very difficult to find. These supplements are also very expensive.
Moreover, we lack scientific studies to confirm the effectiveness of true vegan collagen.
However, when your body is adequately nourished, it can naturally produce its own collagen. In response to the increasing demand for more vegan-friendly supplements, products called “collagen boosters” are rising in popularity.
WHAT ARE COLLAGEN BOOSTERS?
Vegan collagen-boosting supplements, also called collagen builders, are usually made with a blend of amino acids, herbs, and vitamins to help boost the body’s natural collagen production.
Despite being marketed as vegan collagen, they do not actually contain collagen, which can be misleading.
Ingredients found in vegan collagen boosters may include:
- Amino acids
- Pea protein
- Antioxidants such as vitamin C and zinc
Although these ingredients can certainly positively impact your body, they will not likely be as effective as collagen peptides derived from animals.
This is because — regardless of the great collagen-boosting ingredients — your body can only produce so much collagen.
Many factors such as age and metabolism directly impact how much collagen your body can actually produce.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT BOOST COLLAGEN PRODUCTION
The best way to boost collagen in the body is by ingesting collagen itself. At this time, there is no solid scientific evidence that collagen boosters can increase the amount of collagen a person makes.
However, collagen boosters may be beneficial for those who follow a vegan diet or can not tolerate animal collagen supplements.
For example, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our skin against damage. It also helps the body produce collagen.
Silica, a trace mineral, works as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and helps to form the building blocks of collagen. Most collagen boosters include silica sourced from organic bamboo extract.
Hyaluronic acid supplements are frequently used to boost collagen production. Hyaluronic acid is a type of carbohydrate found in the joints, skin, and eyes. It’s responsible for keeping tissues hydrated and providing lubrication. Similar to collagen, levels decline as we age.
Some studies suggest that hyaluronic acid can help boost collagen production in the body and increase skin moisture.
FOODS THAT BOOST YOUR BODY'S NATURAL COLLAGEN PRODUCTION
As of right now, true vegan collagen is very hard to come by. Plus, it’s not guaranteed to work. Instead of buying collagen-boosting supplements, you can add foods into your diet to help support your body’s natural collagen production.
Collagen is made up of 19 amino acids but is the highest in the amino acids lysine, proline, and glycine.
Vegan foods high in these amino acids include:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Peanuts, cashews, and pistachios
- Soy protein
You’ll also want to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables.
Foods high in silica include green beans, oats, bananas, leafy greens, and whole grains.
Collagen is an abundant protein in animals and humans. As we get older, levels in the body slow down, leading to wrinkles, joint pain, and hair loss. Because collagen is naturally found in animals, it can be difficult for those who follow a vegan diet to consume collagen.
At this time, genuine vegan collagen supplements are in the early stages of development and are extremely difficult to come by. Collagen boosters that contain ingredients to promote collagen production exist but are not backed by science.
The best way to increase collagen in the body is by directly consuming a clean source of collagen peptides.
For vegans, the best way to increase collagen production is by following a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and other important nutrients.