Can you get vegan collagen?

Animal vs. Plant Collagen: 4 Reasons Why Vegan 'Collagen' Does Not Stack Up

Collagen is one of the most popular nutritional supplements thanks to its amazing and unique health benefits - but how does vegan collagen compare? And is it even possible to get vegan collagen in the first place?

What is Collagen and Why Is Everyone Taking It?

Collagen is a structural protein which is known to have a multitude of health benefits. It is found naturally in animal-based foods, but many of these are missing from the modern western diet.

Animal products such as bones, skin, tendons and bone marrow are all naturally rich in collagen - but most of us do not eat these often enough, if at all to get the true benefits of collagen.

So, collagen supplements are a popular alternative to enjoy the benefits of collagen in a convenient tablet, capsule or powder format. Even for carnivores who enjoy meat as part of their Keto or Paleo lifestyle, collagen supplements can be a great way to boost collagen intake for optimal health and wellness.

Vegan Collagen Supplements

The popularity of collagen supplements has soared in recent years thanks to the multitude of health benefits collagen provides. Something else which is gaining a large amount of air time is the plant-based lifestyle, so it makes sense that vegans and vegetarians would seek out a source of collagen - especially as it is fundamental to our health and wellbeing.

So, as well as animal-based collagen supplements you will also find so-called plant-based collagen supplements on the market. At first glance it might seem that these are interchangeable depending on individual dietary preferences but there's just one problem - collagen currently comes from animal sources only - so vegan collagen does not actually exist!

Vegan Collagen and Plant Collagen Doesn't Exist: Here's Why

Collagen is found naturally in animals, not plants - it really is as simple as that! Collagen is derived from the skin, tendons, bones and connective tissue of animals.There are no natural vegan sources of collagen and so it is impossible to have a vegan or plant-based collagen supplement.

It is for that reason that reason that vegan collagen supplements are actually described as collagen 'boosters' or 'builders' - meaning they don't provide collagen as a complete molecule, but rather contain other nutrients which can help to boost collagen formation yourself - just like normal food and arguably, very deceiving. 

 

Collagen Boosters: What are they and how do they compare to the real thing?

Most 'vegan collagen' products are in fact collagen 'boosters', also known as collagen 'builders'. This means that they contain nutrients which boost the synthesis of collagen in the body, the same ones which you can also get from normal food.

Nutrients such as Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Vitamin C and amino acids from protein are all supportive of collagen formation. They supply the building blocks from which collagen is made - hence the name 'builders'!

But there are many reasons why collagen boosters do not stack up with natural collagen supplements. Let's explore.

4 Reasons Why Vegan Collagen Boosters are Not Comparable to Animal Collagen Supplements

Collagen boosters and collagen builders promise to provide the same amazing benefits as naturally occurring collagen - but can that be true? There are many reasons why collagen boosters and builders cannot stack up to animal-based collagen, here are just a few.

1. Plant-based protein is not a 'complete' protein

Plants can be good sources of protein and some plants even contain protein in amounts comparable or exceeding to animals. However, they are not what is known is a 'complete source' of protein or as bioavailable.

That means that they do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. In other words, you would need to combine 2 or more sources of plant protein to get the same mix of amino acids found naturally in animal protein.

Same goes for 'plant collagen' - as it is derived from plants, any protein it contains will not be nutritionally complete. This means that it is less bioavailable and less efficient for the body to synthesise its own protein from.

2. Synthesis of collagen from nutrients is far less efficient than consuming collagen in its readymade form

Studies have shown that synthesis of collagen using its precursor nutrients faces a number of biological barriers compared with absorbing collagen from its natural source.

When 'vegan collagen builders' are consumed, the body uses Vitamin C, protein and minerals to produce pro-collagen. As more pro-collagen molecules are produced they then knit together to become fibrils. Finally, when these fibrils begin to connect together they form collagen molecules.

This lengthy process is no comparison to that of hydrolysed collagen peptides, which have already been broken down into short-chain amino acids so that they are highly bioavailable and very efficiently made into collagen molecules.

3. Nutrients found in collagen boosters can be found naturally in food, which could save your hard earned cash

Collagen boosters and builders tend to contain protein and Vitamin C, as well as other nutrients which may help to promote collagen synthesis. As nutrients go, these are 2 which most of us get enough of from our normal diet.

Whilst the modern diet lacks natural animal sources of collagen, most of us do eat protein and some amino acids in some form and together with Vitamin C the body can break these amino acids down to create collagen.

Therefore, unlike animal collagen supplements which provide the benefit of more efficient collagen synthesis, vegan collagen boosters and builders offer nothing which goes beyond that of the usual food sources of these nutrients/vitamins.

In other words, you could save your hard earned cash rather than buying a plant based "booster". 

4. Collagen boosters and builders often come alongside artificial ingredients, bulking agents and fillers

Like all supplements, plant collagen capsules or powders also often open the door to heaps of hidden nasties.

You'll often find things like fillers, binders and chemicals in vegan collagen supplements. That is because the nutrients they provide do not naturally coexist in the same plant-based source, so must be combined and packed into a tablet , capsule or blend somehow.

This is in comparison to hydrolysed collagen, which is extracted from the original source of collagen and contains 100% collagen peptides - nothing else.

In fact, some of the nutrients provided in collagen builders and boosters may even be artificial, such as the synthetic form of Vitamin C - which is far less bioavailable compared with food derived Vitamin C.

The Verdict: Can Collagen Be Vegan?

We just love it when we can reach a straightforward yes or no for the final verdict 🙌

The answer to this question is no, collagen cannot be vegan. Whilst it is possible to obtain nutrients from plant-based food which promote the synthesis of collagen in your own body, you cannot derive collagen itself from vegan foods.

What's more, plant collagen boosters and builders are often a waste of money - when a natural, whole food diet could provide the same nutrients with a lower cost and without hidden harmful ingredients.

 References

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5657141/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3847730/
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-28492-w
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551889/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published