Collagen vs. Gelatin: Health Benefits & Differences
People often refer to collagen and gelatin interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. They do come from the same sources such as skin, tissue, and bones, and they are both proteins with health benefits. However, they also have specific properties.
Similarities Between Collagen & Gelatin
Collagen and gelatin have identical amino acid profiles since they both come from tendons, ligaments, and tough cuts of meat.
They both have proline, glucosamine and glycosaminoglycans, important for joint health and cartilage growth. Both have glycine, a natural anti-inflammatory which reduces joint pain, builds collagen, and promotes intestinal health. Both are almost tasteless and odorless.
Differences Between Collagen & Gelatin
Collagen and gelatin behave differently in food and in your body.
Gelatin is cooked, dried collagen in powdered form. It congeals when mixed with water, so it works well in recipes such as puddings and Jell-O. However, it does not absorb quickly, and it is hard to digest.
Gelatin has a unique amino acid profile including 30% glycine. It may assist patients with leaky gut syndrome or related autoimmune conditions or allergies, because it can coat and soothe the gut lining.
Gelatin may also help patients with blood sugar imbalances, as it reduces the glucose response. It may also improve digestion and nutrient absorption, since it stimulates gastric acid. However, practitioners tend to recommend collagen more often, because it is easy to digest.
Your body has more collagen in its skin, bones, and connective tissue than any other protein. It helps preserve the elasticity in your skin, and it is the primary building block for nails, hair, teeth, and bones. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, important in prevention of diseases such as arthritis.
When you reach about 25 years of age, your body produces less of it. You may also lack collagen due to nutritional deficits, hormonal changes, poor lifestyle, and environmental stresses.
Raw tendons, ligaments, and tough cuts of meat high in connective tissues have collagen, but we are not like our ancestors. We usually don’t eat raw meat, and some people don’t eat meat at all. Since these animal parts are very fibrous, we cook them to make them digestible.
Hydrolyzing (cooking in water) breaks collagen proteins into smaller chains and frees amino acids. It becomes easy to digest and readily absorbs into the bloodstream, plus it mixes well in hot or cold liquids.
Manufacturers may refer hydrolyzed collagen as collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen peptides, collagen hydrolysate, and hydrolyzed gelatin, just to name a few.
6 Benefits of Hydrolyzed Collagen
Practitioners often recommend hydrolyzed collagen for the following 6 benefits:
Digestive Aid – collagen can help patients soothe and repair their digestive tract. It heals the stomach’s mucous lining, increases protein absorption, and bolsters stomach acid production.
Improves Skin Health – collagen helps skins cells retain their structure and stay elastic. It also promotes regeneration of skin cells, so it an excellent anti-aging product. Clinical studies shows collagen’s amino acids, alanine, proline, and hydroxyproline promote youthful skin, improve smoothness, moisture balance, and suppleness, and can alleviate the signs of deep wrinkles.
Topical creams and powders with collagen usually have large molecules that do not absorb into your skin. Hydrolyzed collagen is a more effective choice.
Weight Loss – collagen is very high in protein, which makes you feel full. Studies show collagen protein outperforms whey and soy by as much as 40%. If you’re trying to lose weight, collagen proteins can help you reduce your food intake.
Bone & Joint Health – collagen’s rich amino acids such as glycine and proline are excellent for patients with joint pain or osteoarthritis. They reduce inflammation and speed the healing process for quicker recovery. Supplementing collagen also stimulates osteoblasts, responsible for bone formation and increasing bone density.
Improved Athletic Performance – hydrolyzed collagen’s recuperative powers and ability to reduce inflammation is especially beneficial for athletes. It can reduce the risk of injuries to tendons, ligaments, and muscles and glycine and arginine can also restore muscle mass.
Improved Sleep Quality – glycine affects your brain’s neurotransmitters and can improve sleep quality. It also reduces daytime sleepiness and may improve your memory.
Top 3 Ways To Increase Collagen Intake
Clearly, collagen plays many important roles in the body. You can increase your intake in the following ways:
Consume bone broth – bone broth is simple to make. Basically, you simmer animal bones, skin, tendons, or ligaments with vegetables, vinegar, herbs and spices for a long time. This releases collagen, vitamins, and minerals.
You can substitute bone broth in any recipe that calls for broth. Avoid store-bought broth – it is often high in sodium, artificial flavors, and preservatives such as monosodium glutamate.
Eat well – a well-rounded diet which relies heavily on foods heavy in amino acids can promote collagen growth. These include animal products such as poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy. Other nutrients such as vitamin C in oranges, strawberries, peppers, and broccoli, vitamin A in plants, copper in nuts, and anthocyanidins found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries also support collagen production.
Collagen supplements – collagen protein powder is also a simple way to increase your intake. Rely on products sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals to avoid hormones and pesticides. They do not affect the taste of your food, so add them to soups, baked goods, or smoothies. Some are marine-sourced and suitable for vegetarians.
Forming & Using Collagen
I mentioned you need other nutrients and vitamins to activate and absorb collagen. Consequently, self-supplementation rarely achieves the results patients seek. A skilled practitioner looks at your overall health, performs tests to determine your needs, and recommends what’s best for you.
Instead of randomly supplementing, try a targeted approach for improved results and less unnecessary products.