Forever young and beautiful – for most a dream coming true. The reality is mainly related to one of the most valuable amino acids that our body can produce itself: collagen. Most collagen products rely on synthetically produced peptides or collagen that was obtained from animal’s bone cartilage. What are the options for consuming plant based collagen? And most importantly, how effective are plant based collagen supplements?
Let’s clarify – what is collagen?
Collagen is a natural protein found in skin, hair, nails, connective tissue, muscles, bones, and joints. In summary, collagen is a main protein which is found in almost all cells of the body. A protein is the substance that keeps the cells together. It is therefore particularly important that the body always has enough of the amino acid available to be able to perform the regeneration processes to the full extent. Premature signs of aging, especially on the outside, but also in the tissue, joint pain, and bones, are largely due to a lack of collagen.
Where does collagen come from?
Through bio-protein synthesis, the body is to a certain extent able to synthesize collagen from other proteins and to make it for itself. It is important to keep in mind that the amount of protein supplied is not equal to the amount absorbed in collagen. Only a fraction of it will be absorbed. How much the body can convert depends on many factors.
The main source of collagen is either collagen in powder form, which is supplied through dietary supplements, or animal sources. It is not possible for collagen to be vegan without the help of science.
So there is no plant based collagen?
Well, not really. At least there is no collagen available to the general public at the moment. Some scientific methods are being used to try to make vegan or plant based collagen. These methods use genetically modified yeast and bacteria that can produce a structure similar to collagen. It also uses four human genes that are encoded by microbes to make collagen. A digestive enzyme, pepsin, must then be added so that this type of collagen is also digestible by humans. Without this enzyme, the newly lab-produced collagen would not be absorbed by the body. Thus, from a chemical point of view, vegan or and animal collagen do not differ, except in their production.
Where does the term plant-based collagen come from?
Plant-based collagen sources are understood to be those that provide the right nutrients to enable the body to make its own collagen. Thus, the plant-based collagen supplement acts as a supplier of the essential minerals and vitamins without which the body could not produce collagen.
Collagen consists of various amino acids chained together. The most effective way to ingest collagen is through animal sources. However, if you want to avoid animal protein, you can do everything to ensure that protein bio-protein synthesis in the body works by itself. If you are looking for a plant-based diet, then the point is to eat as many vegetables as possible that contain vegan protein. However, protein from plants does not contain collagen. What plants can do, however, is to provide you with the right minerals and vitamins to help the body produce its own collagen.
Vitamin C as the most important source for plant based collagen
Vitamin C is the main factor the body needs to produce collagen. Therefore, a sufficient supply of vitamin C is necessary. In general, it can be said that the less vitamin C is available to the body, the less collagen can be produced. Also, the body benefits from high consumption of vitamin C because it catches free radicals and thus has an antioxidant effect. Further damage to the skin can also be prevented. You cannot take too much vitamin C. An excess of the vitamin is simply excreted. The richest sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, berries, watermelon, and kiwis. In vegetables, look for spinach, peppers, tomatoes, and cauliflower to find rich sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin E as a plant based collagen supplement
Vitamin E is the second most important factor involved in collagen synthesis. It neutralizes free radicals and protects the process. Moreover, vitamin E, just like vitamin C, is considered an antioxidant and protects the cell membranes. So less collagen can be destroyed by bad eating habits such as sugar and alcohol. Vitamin E is mainly found in vegetable oils, nuts, oatmeal, and dairy products. All seeds also contain a variety of oils with this healthy vitamin, which also keeps the cell walls in arteries and veins free.
The mineral Copper as a plant based collagen source
Copper is the mineral that, along with vitamin C, is the most important factor for collagen production. Recent studies have found that collagen production is directly related to the amount of copper available in the cells. The more copper is available, the more collagen production is stimulated. Copper activates an enzyme in the cells called lysyl, which is responsible for the maturation of collagen. As a result, collagen peptides are bound together, giving them their typical triple-helix structure. Adults need about 1.2 mg of copper a day, which is best absorbed through pecans, kidney beans, dried fruits, and mushrooms.
Zinc as a powerful plant based collagen source
Zinc is another mineral that is essential for plant based collagen production. It activates the other essential amino acids that are also involved in collagen synthesis. This activates a protein called collagenase, which allows cells to convert from another amino acid to collagen. Men need about 10 mg a day on average, while 7 milligrams of zinc is sufficient for women. These can be most easily obtained from cashews, almond dairy products, bread, and other cereals. If you consume too much zinc, this is by no means a bad thing. Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the body and is also involved in anti-inflammatory processes. Thus it protects the cell function and also the collagen in the cells so that it cannot be destroyed so easily.