I'll start with the bad news: there is no source of vegetarian collagen. Every collagen supplement you see on the shelf came from a living organism. Although somewhere in the future, someone will probably grow legitimate collagen in a laboratory, it is not available today or in the foreseeable future.
Some good news: vegetarians and vegetarians probably need less food collagen than the meat eater or the average meat eater because one of the main reasons why omnivores need collagen is to balance all the muscle flesh that we eat. When we metabolize methionine, an amino acid that is abundant in meat, we burn glycine, an amino acid that is abundant in collagen. If you do not eat muscle meat, you do not need more glycine to balance your diet, but it's still a dietary necessity.
Collagen is not just about "balancing meat consumption". It is the best source of a conditionally essential amino acid called glycine. We only have 3 grams of glycine a day. It is far from enough. The human body needs at least 10 grams a day for basic metabolic processes. We are therefore considering an average daily deficit of 7 grams which we must compensate for with a balanced diet. And in pathological states that disrupt glycine synthesis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, more is needed.
What about marine collagen?
Okay, but most vegetarians can not consume a product made from a cuddly cow or a clever pig. What about marine collagen – collagen derived from fish bones, scales and skin?
Twenty or so years ago, vegetarians often ate fish. A number of them still exist in the wild, people who, for one reason or another, avoid eating terrestrial animals (including birds) but consume regularly marine animals. If it's sticking to your ethic, marine collagen is a legitimate source of collagen for vegetarians. The constituent amino acids are almost identical to the amino acids of mammalian collagen with very similar proportions and properties.
It is highly bioavailable. Collagen peptides often appear intact in the body and ready to perform their magic, just like bovine or porcine collagen. In fact, if you interview many marine collagen suppliers, it is even more bioavailable than mammalian collagen because of its low molecular weight.
I am not sure, however, that this is correct.
According to some sources, marine collagen is in the form of smaller particles and is therefore more bioavailable than mammalian collagen, but I have not seen solid evidence.
This document mentions the increase in bioavailability in the form of a bullet, almost as a hypothesis or public notoriety.
This analysis revealed low molecular weights in collagen derived from fish waste. Mammalian collagen generally has higher molecular weights, which seems to be correct.
However, a very recent document on collagen for marine environments, which advocates the use of marine collagen in wound repair, oral supplementation and other medical applications, does not mention the increase in bioavailability. It may be a bit more bioavailable – the lower the molecular weight, the more so – but I do not think the effect is very significant. Mammalian collagen is extremely bioavailable (most effective studies use collagen from cows or pigs), even though it is heavier by a few tens of kilodaltons.
But even though marine collagen is not particularly superior to mammalian collagen, it is also beneficial .
For Skin Health: Fish collagen improves hydration, elasticity and wrinkles in humans who eat it. And even.
For metabolism: Fish collagen enhances glucose and lipid metabolism in type 2 diabetics. Sensitivity of HDL and insulin increases, triglycerides and LDL decrease.
And although fish collagen has not been studied in the treatment of joint pain, if it looked like something similar to other types of collagen, it would also help.
What are strict vegetarian dishes?
What if you absolutely do not want to eat marine-source collagen? Is there anything you can do as a vegetarian to compensate for this?
Make your own
You can create your own facsimile of collagen by making a mixture of amino acids. Glycine, proline and arginine do not cover all the amino acids present in collagen, but they are widely available and attack the main ones.
Yet eating the amino acids that make up collagen separately does not have the same effect on collagen tissue as eating them together in a collagen matrix. One of the reasons is that the collagen matrix can survive more or less intact digestion, which gives it different biological properties and effects.
In one study, rats with osteoporosis ate a hydrolyzate of collagen that scientists had marked with a radioactive signature to allow them to track its course in the body. It survived the intact digestive tract, introduced it into the blood and accumulated in the kidneys. By day 14, the bones of the rat's thigh had become stronger and denser, with more organic matter and less water content.
Another study found similar results, this time for knee cartilage. Mice that ate a radioactive hydrolyzate of collagen exhibited increased radioactivity in the knee joint.
In both cases, the collagen remained more or less intact. A mixture of the isolated amino acids would not be. The fact is that collagen is more than glycine. When you feed on collagen from pork skin, chicken feet, and cartilage, many different collagen peptides appear in the blood. None of these come from isolated glycine.
That does not mean it's useless. Pure glycine can be a useful adjunct, used in several studies to improve several markers of sleep quality. Just do not expect to have the same effect as full-blown collagen.
Get enough Vitamin C
Acute scurvy, caused by an absolute deficiency of vitamin C, triggers the dissolution of your connective tissue throughout the body. The teeth fall and are no longer blocked by the gums. Injuries do not heal, your body is unable to deposit new collagen.
Vegetarians generally have no problem getting enough vitamin C.
Get adequate copper
Copper is a cofactor necessary for the production of collagen. Studies show that it is possible to control collagen production simply by supplying or retaining copper.
The best vegetarian source of copper is probably dark chocolate, the darkest and the bitterest for the best.
Get an adequate lysine
Lysine is another amino acid necessary for the production of collagen.
The best sources of lysine are in meat of all kinds, but vegetarian options include hard cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, as well as eggs.
The true vegetarian collagen does not exist. Strict vegetarians will balk. But if you can move a little away from the rules and realize that making marine collagen from fins, scales and bones is much cheaper than just throwing it in the trash and watching benefits with an objective eye, you will be pleasantly surprised. Even if you do not end up using marine collagen, you have at least a few tools to get many benefits with quick shortcuts and optimizing your own collagen production.
Have you ever tried marine collagen? If you are a vegetarian, would you consider it?
Thank you for reading, everyone. Take care of yourself and be fine.
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