Collagen Week, Yo! Part 1: All About Collagen


This isn’t this blog’s first foray into collagen: I’ve written before about the wonders of this … ingredient? Superfood? Meat By-Product? Molecular structure? I don’t know what to call it, but if you aren’t supplementing with it yet, one way or the other, you might want to consider it. It’s thought to increase skin’s moisture level and even relax wrinkles (and promising studies have been published showing it boosts your body’s collagen-making ability, which decreases with age). 

Collagen: Where Does It Come From (and Why Should I Care)?

OK, if you’re considering supplementing with collagen (or already are, but are interested in more info on it), you really should be asking where it’s coming from (I won’t go into gritty details … I don’t want to know those, and you probably don’t, either). But in general terms, it is an animal (or fish) by-product and comes from either piscine (fish), bovine (cow), pork or poultry (chicken) sources. If you’re purchasing in Japan and aren’t fluent in Japanese (ahem, me), this can be difficult when you’re in the store aisle trying to pick from the seventy different canisters and packets. And, why you may care could be dietary restrictions due to religion or allergies, and also what you’re hoping to treat/prevent with collagen supplementation.

Why? Well, there are three types (OK, there are 16 but 80-90% of collagen is one of these three). Type I can be found in skin, hair, nails, organs, bone and ligaments. Type II is sourced from cartilage. Type III comes from fibrous proteins and connective tissues. Generally speaking, if you are addressing skin and beauty concerns, types I and III are what you’re looking for. Type II is better suited for people looking to treat/prevent joint pain and other issues.

In Japan, most supplements are sourced from piggies and fishies. These two generally contain types I and III collagen and therefore good choices for your skin. Pig-sourced collagen is most similar to what the human body makes, and it also contains double the amount of compound that the body uses to make its own collagen. Fish-sourced collagen is very soluble in low temperatures (so you can mix it easily into more than just hot foods and drinks), is thought to be easier to digest and be less allergenic. Chicken-sourced collagen is the least common in Japan, but is good for users treating joint pain as it’s high in type II.

The suuuuuuper popular (especially elsewhere in Asia) offering from Meiji.

Finally, most supplements in the U.S. and Canada are sourced from cows (and specifically, I believe, from bovine hides). Like pig-sourced collagen, this is a more inexpensive source than fish or chicken (and a very plentiful source in North America). They are becoming more ubiquitous beyond just Vital Proteins (the original paleo star child) … Vitacost and even Sephora are getting in on the collagen supplement game now. However … you will pay through the nose, for now at least (I would expect as the market expands and gets more competitive that prices will decrease). I haven’t seen any evidence (yet) showing beef-sourced collagen to be superior to the three sources typically sold in Japan. And, many of the products currently sold in North America either don’t show how much collagen is actually in them, or contain amounts that the Japanese market anyway (a far more experienced and researched market, at least in my opinion) would deem incorrect.

Another popular choice in Japan. This lovely lady also has everyone’s favorite, probiotics.
How Much Should I Be Aiming For Each Day?

That’s a good question. Generally speaking, 5,000-10,000 mg per day is the recommended amount. Too low? You may not be making much of a difference. Too much? Well, it’s water soluble so it won’t poison you; your body will just flush it out, which wastes your money and puts an added load on your poor little liver which has to do the filtering.

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Does it matter what time of day you take it, or with what? Not that I’ve seen. You of course can also make your own by cooking up bone broth.

The upside to supplementation (despite not having to source and cook bones for hours) is you have a reliable number to work with, aka, you know how much collagen you are ingesting each day. This may (or may not) be interesting to you.

So … now that you know lots more about these supplements in general, later this week we will be getting into product specifics … which products on the shelves of your local store contain what, what they look like, and what kind of price tag  you can expect. We’ll also touch briefly on the different “extras” that each brand brings to the table. In the jam-packed market of Japanese collagen supplements, each product will contain different added ingredients to try and differentiate that product to the consumer.

Do you currently take a collagen supplement? If you do, why? I’d love to hear from you!

Heads up, yo! The following links are affiliate links; you don’t pay anything extra if you decide to purchase through the link, but I receive a small commission.

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