Collagen vs. Gelatin
There is currently lot of hype in the media about collagen and gelatin, with new products popping up almost daily on health food store and beauty clinic shelves. So, what exactly are they? How are they different from each other? And what are their health benefits? Let me explain.
Collagen is a protein that we all have LOTS of in our bodies and it is used as a structural protein for our skin,capillaries, hair, gastrointestinal tract, bones, cartilage, joints and more. The most common form of collagen found in the powders, pills and internal beauty products, is collagen hydrolysate that consists of many free amino acids (as the bonds between the amino acids have been destroyed) which are able to be digested and absorbed into the body quickly. Things like smoking, stress, lots of sun exposure, ageing and having a highly processed diet, can all drastically reduce our natural collagen production. So as you can see sometimes we may need to boost our collagen levels. In order to produce collagen we need amino acids from protein sources, vitamins such as vitamin C and minerals such as copper and zinc. If we get adequate supplies of these nutrients in our diet then collagen supplementation is not necessary. If however you are simply not getting enough protein or amino acids in your diet taking collagen may go some way to helping new collagen formation in the body. You could of course just make sure you are getting the right nutrients naturally via your diet from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry and legumes.
Commercial collagen comes from animal sources, including fish (often called marine collagen), beef and chicken. It can be mixed into any foods such as juices, smoothies, soups and even coffee as it will not form a gel like gelatin and has no flavour.
Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling collagen.When collagen breaks down, it becomes a gel called gelatin. This process is called partial hydrolysis. This gel is then dried to turn it into a powder product, and when you mix it with liquid again it will turn back into a gel. This is the main difference between collagen and gelatin! This gelling property of gelatin means that is can be used as a setting agent in marshmallows or jelly or thickener is soups and stews.
It is important to always choose a high-quality collagen or gelatin product as some of them can come from animals that were pumped with antibiotics and others chemicals. Make sure to buy grass-fed or organic products and avoid ones that contain added sugars, preservatives or other nasty additives. A great way to get collagen and gelatin into your diet is through bone broths (make sure to use good-quality bones that are grass-fed or organic). You can also add gelatin to chicken broth (a good option if you are squeamish about using chicken feet as this is where most of the collagen is).
So, what exactly are collagen and gelatin used for? Here are some of the reported health benefits:
Improving hair quality
Increasing the elasticity of the skin
Nail strength and growth
Reducing joint pain
Helping to build lean muscle
Reducing intestinal permeability
Improving digestive health