You may have heard incredible things about collagen. Take enough of this miracle drug and the laws of physics will no longer apply to you. Virility will be unbound, your IQ will skyrocket and ancient wisdom previously a stranger to you, will now be your boon companion. Collagen, in a nutshell, will make a supersonic man out of you. You will feel better than Tim Shieff after four weeks as a vegan or Tim Shieff after three ounces of salmon or Tim Shieff after a mouthful of piss.
On the face of this, this seems implausible. What single substance could have this effect? Your scepticism may be well-founded but what power has it up against the endorsement of important celebrity Kourtney Kardashian, 90s cucklette Jennifer Anustown, Freaks and Geeks misfit Jizzy Phillips, Tinseltown hit-and-run queen Halle Dingleberry or Dubai shill Hate Dudson?
Most of us have a vague memory of shitty B-listers getting shitty collagen injections for their shitty faces in the shitty 80s but now there are drinks, supplements and chewables spewing out of influencers’ Instagram accounts like semi-digested meals spewing from those same influencers’ mouths every time they consume more than 100 calories. Paleo bros wolf it down as readily as the bone broth they drink like a witch’s potion before all travelling to the gym together in their Fred Flintstone car like little bitches. What is going on?
What is collagen?
Think of collagen as the sticky glue that holds our body together. It is the main component of the connective tissue in humans and animals, a major building block in tendons, ligaments, muscles, hair, nails, skin and bone. It is composed of amino acids that form a triple helix, creating a long collagen fibril. Its unique shape makes it perfect for structural support – that’s why collagen scaffolds are used in tissue engineering for skin grafts, tendon, cartilage and ligament repair. Our bodies steadily lose their ability to store collagen as they get older, declining from about the age of 25. That drop-off is particularly a problem for women after menopause.1
Omnis have it in abundance though, right?
Blood, that’s exactly what I said. Those heathens will eat a bucket of shit a day if it says “pasture-raised free range” on it and are not known to be fussy at whose table they sit. Pig lips and cow anus? Why the hell not? Their entire existence is a Bush Tucker Trial. They may be morbidly obese, walking carcinogen factories, one flight of steps away from a fatal coronary but they have, in their time on earth, ingested every possible substance, good or bad.
It turns out that this may no longer be entirely correct. Back in the day, organ meats like liver and kidneys were a staple of the working class diet. They were, after all, cheap and nutritious, even if they did taste like the Marlboro Man had just come in your mouth. Popular offal such as cow stomach (tripe), oxtails and pig tails were all rich in connective tissue protein.2 Over time though, the industrialised killing machine that is factory farming perfected and streamlined its chain of destruction, forcing meat prices down. Nowadays, the man in the street scorns animals’ digestive tracts, preferring mainly to chow down on their muscles. So perhaps even bloodmouths could do with supplementing.
Where do the supplements come from?
Most commonly, the collagen in supplements comes from those reliable stalwarts cow hides, chicken sternums and fish bones. The raw collagen has to be extracted and made absorbable by a process called hydrolysis that breaks the collagen down into the easily digestible peptides that give us hydrolysed collagen (also known as collagen hydrolysate). To take the example of cow hides, hair and residual fat is first removed by a thorough soaking and cleaning.3 Then, they are soaked again in hot water to release the hides’ collagen. A two-stage drying process follows before milling then perfects the finished powdered product. Those meat industrial complex boys sure put a good desecrating on that dead animal and no mistake.
What are the benefits?
Irons out wrinkles
Okay, I get it. The industrialised animal apocalypse grinds on unabated, a global pandemic rages and we teeter on the brink of ecological catastrophe like a girlfriend of Leonardo DiCapreteen teeters on the brink of being dumped on her 21st birthday. A crinkly face during our mandated one smile a month may not be high on our list of priorities. I’m right there with you, bubba but humans gon’ hume. With the anti-ageing niche worth $215 billion, this is clearly important to quite a few people. And let’s not pretend that beauty is some kind of uniquely modern concern. Chinese women have spoken of the benefits of collagen for centuries. Ingesting donkey hide as a beauty treatment has been traced back to the first century BC, over there. A vulgar man would make some crack about bat buffets here or perhaps something on the role of Chinese wet markets in COVID-19. Count your blessings you got me. Cosmetology truly is the best -ology we have.
As for the science, there is significant research demonstrating reduction in skin wrinkles after oral intake of collagen.4 Who doesn’t like the sound of that? Wouldn’t a nice smoother face be something, without going full Madonna?
Peps up your cardiovascular system
We all know that rasclaat bloodmouths have no heart in the figurative sense. That’s as clear as wokescold psychopath Jameela Jamil having an arm’s-length relationship with the truth. What they may not know is that their corpse-eating habits can cause problems with their literal tickers. Eating a vegan diet can reduce, even reverse5 cardiovascular disease so maybe give it a shot, pork pieclops? But being the filthy schweinhunds they are, they will likely ignore that and reach for the collagen stolen from the dead bodies of murdered animals. Studies show LDL-cholesterol significantly reduced by collagen tripeptides, after all. Peppa Pig can rest in peace knowing that she did not die in vain and that her mashed-up carcass was used to keep a human alive a few years longer so they could kill a few dozen more of her porcine brethren.
Boosts gut health
As you will know if you delved into The Savage’s deep dive on former vegans, problems with gut health can send a poor influencer insane. It’s all very well looking like a god on The Gram but if you spend half your day shitting like a crippled goose, praying for death as brown napalm blasts from your tailpipe, leaving your bathroom with the kind of stink that can peel paint, you’ll start to wonder if those beach selfies are really worth the bother. The good news is that amino acids in collagen work to strengthen the intestinal wall,6 and the presence of glycine in collagen seems to have a positive effect on the regulation of stomach acid,7 important for gut health. I could at this point argue for a balanced, well-planned, whole foods diet for your digestive tract but if you need to hear that then it’s likely already too late.
Makes a bro swole
Lifting brahs know what I’m talking about. You could be a subhuman manlet, a freak manmore or just a regular juicing Chad but when it comes to the walking metaphor for capitalist excess they call bodybuilding, it really is all about the gains. What does this have to do with collagen? Well, it seems that supplementing with collagen improves protein growth in skeletal muscles after resistance training.8 If you’re genuinely serious about meeting the Stacey of your dreams, collagen-maxxing is a minimum requirement.
And it’s not just young Muscle Marys who need to aware themselves. Older brahs can improve their mass too, as research shows improved muscle strength in elderly men who supplement with collagen peptides while resistance training.9
Strengthens your joints
If your joints are as buggered as a new inmate in an episode of Oz, you will be delighted to know that there is at least some scientific evidence that collagen supplements are beneficial in improving joint health in disorders such as osteoarthritis, including a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study10 over six months. Like it is in the gut wall, collagen is an important component of cartilage, Type II collagen being one of the main proteins in cartilage, which covers and protects bones at the joints, providing shock absorption and smooth movement.11
Collagen doesn’t sound very vegan, man?
Indeed it does not but like love, entrepreneurs and consumers of bathtub crank, vegans will always find a way. Given that our body produces it naturally, it follows that certain plants, foods and nutrients will aid collagen production. Aloe Vera has been found to increase collagen synthesis,12 whether it’s taken orally or applied topically. Then, you may want to load up on hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to promote collagen production.13 That’s why you’ll often find it in vegan collagen boosters. It’ll often be used in conjunction with vitamin C which has been demonstrated to increase type I collagen synthesis.14 Of course, vitamin C supplements are an option for you but honestly, if you can’t get the recommended daily amount of 65-90 milligrams of vitamin C a day you need from broccoli, cauliflower, kale, orange juice, peppers, sweet potato, strawberries or tomatoes then frankly I worry about you.
If we want to really get deep into the weeds, then it’s good to ensure you are not deficient in any of the amino acids in collagen, the most abundant being glycine, lysine and proline. Foods rich in all three amino acids include cashews, pistachios and peanuts; soy products like tofu and tempeh; seeds, particularly chia, pumpkin, squash and sunflower; and black beans and kidney beans. That may be a little trickier so we’ll forgive you if you take any of the many vegan amino acid supplements available.
Didn’t I hear somebody was making vegan collagen?
You heard right. San Leandro start-up Geltor are indeed looking to launch their range of edible plant-based collagen in 2020. Co-founders Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov met at the molecular biology department at Princeton and quickly bonded over a shared love of hacky sack, mocking God and defying the laws of nature with their sick plan to create life from scratch. In their lab of shame, Lorestani and Ouzounov alchemise the base elements of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, converting them into collagen through a technique called microbial fermentation which usually takes place in the animal gut, as God intended. In a demented reversal of His Divine Order, they splice DNA into the microbes’ existing sequences to effectively ORDER them to produce collagen.
As you will know if you read our lab-grown meat piece, these biotech Frankensteins are not playing with their godless in-vitro research. Their depravity knows no bounds, even extending to 3D printing long-extinct mastodon protein then eating it. As anyone with even the most basic knowledge of disaster movies knows, you never go full Jurassic Park.
It was Victor Frankenstein himself who said “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” and it is likely that Lorestani and Ouzounov thought something very similar as their twisted plot unravelled. It will indeed be a humbling moment when you lie dying, impaled on ivory tusks and your last vision is your village being flattened by marauding mastodons as a sabretooth tiger mounts your wife. Still and all, I suppose the game-changing benefits for the ecology, animal welfare and our cardiovascular systems could argue otherwise. If you wanted to be a massive dick about it.
What if it’s all balls?
All this is very dudey and hip of course but you’re reading Plant Based Savage. Your boy doesn’t just roll over because of some PubMed synopses you pulled out of your arse. A sceptical note will be sounded, goddamn it, as surely as walking sicknote Jameela Jamil will invent a new illness by the end of the year. As I would hope is obvious, the hyperbole common in the health and beauty niche should be taken with a pinch of get-tae-fuck. Collagen dickriders face the problem that the totality of evidence doesn’t quite add up to the ringing endorsement they would like it to. It’s all “may help” this and “could boost” that. As with the work of Professor Piehead, more research is needed.
Some experts go further. Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto says ‘Taking [animal-based] collagen supplements or multivitamins for skin are likely to be of little benefit and there is little robust, reliable and reproducible clinical data which show their benefit in boosting collagen.’15 There’s also the evergreen issue that the data that supports collagen supplements is invariably funded by the industry that supplies them. Turkeys voting for VeganFest shock.
Pixie Turner, a registered nutritionist who beats wellness influencers unconscious with a straight bat at PixieNutrition, agrees. “There is a complete lack of evidence suggesting collagen supplements can improve skin,” she says. Founder of Reality Meets Science, Dr Tom Rifai, points out mere ingestion of the amino acid building blocks of collagen is no guarantee they will be used to build it. “The raw science is that it won’t be collagen when it’s absorbed. Your body won’t have a clue that you ate collagen because it will be individual amino acids when it’s absorbed in your body.” Dr Rifai recommends a different approach – cutting out lifestyle habits that lead to collagen breakdown. “Cigarette smoking, excess alcohol, and excess sun are the drivers of the issue when it comes to [having low levels of] collagen, not inadequate protein intake,” he says, effectively echoing Don Logan’s dermatological critique of Ray Winstone‘s Gal in Sexy Beast.
So what have we learned about collagen? It’s one of those things that you only miss once it’s gone, like when your eyes start bleeding, your gums peel back and the socket of your femur drives into your spinal column, leaving you in agonising pain for several minutes before your fatally compromised heart gives out and you die like a little bitch. Perhaps you have a steady gut, enjoy optimal joint health and your skin looks pretty banging for your age. Maybe you don’t give a rat’s ass that you look like a dehydrated Samuel Beckett. It’s quite plausible that you believed the local amateur photographer who took your picture on your birthday and said your face had character. If by character you mean Game of Thrones Stone Men character then yeah, fair comment, you’re right. If by character you mean your calamitous crumpled face is somehow acceptable then you are very far from right. You and your shit face are a disgrace.
On the real though, eat well and take it easy. Collagen supplements and boosters may help, I don’t know.
See the above. PEACE.
- What is collagen, and why do people use it? Medical News Today
- Offal is unbeatable: UK doctors push health and environmental benefits of organ meats – Food Navigator
- What is Collagen Made of? The Whole Story From Source to Supplement – Natural Force
- Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis – ResearchGate
- A Way to Reverse CAD? – National Library of Medicine
- Collagen Peptides Ameliorate Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Dysfunction in Immunostimulatory Caco-2 Cell Monolayers via Enhancing Tight Junctions – National Library of Medicine
- Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review – National Library of Medicine
- Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men – National Library of Medicine
- Collagen Peptide Supplementation in Combination With Resistance Training Improves Body Composition and Increases Muscle Strength in Elderly Sarcopenic Men: A Randomised Controlled Trial – National Library of Medicine
- Collagen Hydrolysate for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Disorders: A Review of the Literature – National Library of Medicine
- What is Cartilage? – News Medical
- ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW – National Library of Medicine
- Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin – National Library of Medicine
- Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review – National Library of Medicine
- Do collagen supplements work, and is there a vegan version? – Metro