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Bovine Collagen: Can It Live Up To The Hype?

Have you heard about bovine collagen? Collagen is in a lot of people’s vocabulary these days, as well as in their supplements, smoothies, and coffee.

Collagen is a form of protein that is necessary for holding the body together. It has a great number of health benefits, including anti-aging and hydration of the skin, treating joint pain, gut health, tissue repair, and muscle recovery. The trend is sweeping across the country and people are choosing bovine collagen supplements to achieve results.

But what can bovine collagen really do? Will taking a collagen protein powder improve the look of your skin or the quality of your sleep?

Let’s find out.


What is bovine collagen?

Collagen is a protein that is abundant in the human body. It is found in skin, muscles, ligaments, and bones. It is a vital, major component of our bodies that helps to connect tissues. It’s even found in our stomach lining, joints, hair, and nails.

Collagen repairs, rather than just building muscle tissue, like other proteins. As we age, our bodies tend to produce smaller amounts of collagen, causing deterioration and wrinkling of the skin.

People experience a collagen deficiency due to a diet lacking in antioxidants or collagen-promoting foods. Regaining collagen should be important to our overall health, and bovine collagen is a great start. (1) In general, collagen production decreases as we age, which is one reason for understanding your collagen intake is important for older adults.

Bovine collagen is a natural protein found in the tissue of cows. Much like the collagen that our bodies house, bovine collagen connects the tissue, cartilage, bones, and hides of cows.

Other common collagen sources used in dietary supplements include marine collagen (fish collagen), chicken collagen, and egg collagen.

It is not common for Western diets to incorporate every part of an animal. But we are actually doing ourselves a disservice by not eating the “less desirable” cuts of meat. Bovine collagen supplements allow for nothing to go to waste and our bodies to reap the benefits.


How is bovine collagen made?

The process looks a little like this: (2)

  • The cattle are harvested for meat
  • Its hide, bones, and connective tissue are separated
  • Collagen protein is extracted from each source
  • Hydrolysis occurs to ensure that the proteins are broken down and made easier to absorb (this results in the finished product of collagen peptides)

Bovine collagen can be produced as non-hydrolyzed gelatin and collagen hydrolysate. Hydrolyzed collagen (or collagen peptides) have been broken down with enzymes in the presence of water to provide a super easy way for you to absorb them. Peptides easily dissolve in liquids, whether hot or cold and are easier to digest.

Collagen that has not been hydrolyzed may cause bloating, and when put in liquids, causes them to gel. Hydrolyzed collagen is drastically more convenient and beneficial to use on a daily basis.


woman moisturizing leg

6 Benefits of Bovine Collagen

Collagen, specifically bovine collagen, holds so many health benefits for the human body. The protein is essential in skin, joint, gut, muscle and tissue health. Though its popularity has just recently sparked, maintaining a healthy level of collagen in your body allows it to function at its prime.


1. Skin

You may have noticed that collagen is a trendy ingredient for the skin care industry lately. Collagen — even taken internally — can improve skin health. It strengthens, improves skin elasticity, and improves skin moisture. Unfortunately, a lack of collagen can result in the appearance of aged, wrinkled, and dry skin.

A form of collagen is favored in many skin care products because it helps maintain youthful skin, reduce wrinkles, and puffiness. Collagen supplements are able to encourage the body to produce collagen on its own, resulting in glowing, strong skin. Cellulite, which forms due to a lack of connective tissue, can also be combated with collagen. (3)

In a 2015 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, the efficacy of collagen peptides on cellulite was investigated on a group of 105 women aged 24-50 years with moderate cellulite. The results demonstrated that long-term therapy of collagen peptides leads to an improvement of cellulite.

The study states, “The results obtained in this study demonstrated that oral supplementation with specific BCP (bioactive collagen peptides) over a period of 6 months led to a clear improvement of the skin appearance in women suffering from moderate cellulite. In addition, the data showed the marked potential of BCP to improve the skin morphology of cellulite-affected areas, providing new evidence of BCP’s beneficial effects and postulating a new therapeutic strategy for cellulite treatment.” (45)

There are a lot of collagen products out there for skin care, including powders and creams used to bring the skin back to life by increasing collagen levels. And as it turns out, there is science to back them up.

A 2009 human trial in aging women found that topical cream containing collagen peptides successfully decreased fine lines and wrinkles with no side effects other than occasional skin irritation. (6)


2. Joints

It is no surprise that a bovine collagen supplement can be beneficial for your joint health because collagen itself connects tissues all throughout the body. There is evidence that suggests that collagen can treat bone and joint diseases like arthritis and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, or OA, causes the cartilage in joints to become stiff and there is a significant loss in flexibility.

With OA, there is potential for joint damage as the cartilage wears away over time. Studies have shown that collagen can treat the pain symptoms associated with joint diseases. Collagen has anti-inflammatory properties that can assist in lowering swelling and therefore improving joint pain. It is important to note that collagen peptides absorb easier than other forms of collagen, giving individuals the best chance at supporting joint health.

Four trials tested collagen against a placebo, while one was tested against methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. These trials each involved between 60 and 500 participants with rheumatoid arthritis. Findings of this study concluded that the use of Type II collagen resulted in fewer swollen joints and tenderness in one of the trials. Groups tested with methotrexate showed the greatest improvement, however, both groups improved in the Type II collagen trial. (78)


3. Gut Health

In the same way that collagen can rebuild tissue, it can rebuild the stomach lining and contribute to gut health. Collagen is already a component of the cells that line your gut, so it is pretty compatible with your body’s make up. Collagen contains the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins) necessary for healthy digestion, including glycine and glutamine, two of which are beneficial for promoting digestion.

Glutamine is used as a fuel source for the intestines. It is possible that in some cases, symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) can occur due to a glutamine deficiency. Increasing the intake of this amino acid may help to reduce symptoms in the gut.

These amino acids can heal the stomach lining and prevent ulcers in the gut, as well as preventing inflammation and helping to heal leaky gut syndrome. Collagen can aid in regulating stomach acid secretion by preventing a large amount of gastric juices in the stomach, avoiding heartburn, stomach ulcers, and more. (9)

Collagen is not consumed in healthy amounts today as it was in the past. While our ancestors would use the whole animal, they would consume rich and nourishing foods, as collagen is present in bones and cartilage. A supplement of collagen can help to restore your gut to its natural order. (10)


4. Muscle Growth and Recovery

Beef collagen can help to rebuild muscle mass and repair tissue. As a protein found in cows, bovine collagen is a very high protein material, which can be very beneficial when it comes to muscle recovery. In fact, this protein is necessary for proper muscle function and strength. Consuming bovine collagen combined with a consistent workout schedule can help to support muscles and allow you to recover quickly from physical activity.

When you work out regularly, you may want to consider collagen supplements. Taking collagen can help to reduce injury to ligaments and tendons. Over-exercising or taking part in high-intensity workouts can strain the muscles and tissues in your body. Collagen can help with this by keeping connective tissues elastic and able to expand.

It is also possible that collagen can help repair muscle mass. One study shows that individuals with sarcopenia, a syndrome characterized by loss of skeletal muscle, experienced an increase of muscle mass after taking collagen supplements. (11)


5. Tissue Repair 

Another of the benefits of collagen is tissue repair. Collagen’s restorative properties encourage new cells to form. The dermis is the middle layer of the skin in which collagen helps form new cells and can also replace or restore dead skin cells.

Collagen is often used in injection form as a skin filler. Skin fillers can help to fill in depressions on the skin and cosmetically remove unwanted lines or wrinkles from the face. Collagen can also be used on scar tissue, improving the appearance of scars.

Bovine collagen has also been known to help heal wounds. It does so by attracting new skin cells around the wound where new tissue growth will occur. This boosts tissue growth around the wound so natural growth can occur. Collagen dressings for wounds help with this process and are derived from animal sources such as bovine (cattle), equine (horse) and porcine (pig).

Collagen dressings can be used for bed sores, burns, chronic wounds, and more. These types of dressings are especially helpful with wounds that are unable to respond to other treatment, necrotic wounds, or wounds that expel bodily fluids.

One in vitro laboratory study’s data concluded that collagen dressings can benefit the wound healing process at a biochemical level, stating, “Considerable evidence has indicated that collagen-based dressings may be capable of stimulating healing by manipulating wound biochemistry.” (1213)


6. Sleep 

Have you felt exhausted lately? If you experience many restless nights, bovine collagen can help! This type of collagen promotes healthy, deep sleep. The glycine in collagen allows the body to slip into restorative sleep. Research has shown that glycine has a direct effect on neurotransmitters, acting as a natural sleep aid. Data also supports that sleep improves and individuals experience deeper sleep when glycine is consumed before bed.

A 2007 study of the effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime in human volunteers experiencing unsatisfactory sleep states that:

“Glycine lessened daytime sleepiness and improved performance of memory recognition tasks. Thus, a bolus ingestion of glycine before bedtime seems to produce subjective and objective improvement of the sleep quality in a different way than traditional hypnotic drugs such as benzodiazepines.” (14)

Taking collagen supplements may help to even out spikes in blood sugar or reduce core body temperature, factors related to achieving better sleep.  (15)


Types of Bovine Collagen 

Collagen comes in many types, and three of those types make up most of the collagen in the human body: Type I, Type II, and Type III.

Collagen Type II makes up the proteins in the cartilage and joints.  Types I and III are key to many tissues in the body, including bones, gums, eyes, blood vessels, and skin. They strengthen skin, enhance hydration and assists in decreasing wrinkles. Additionally, these types of collagen serve similar purposes, as they both help to maintain bones, muscles, tendons, and organs and gut health.

Bovine collagen supplements are typically made up of Types I and III collagen, which have a high percentage of amino acids. Amino acids are great for your health, and can be beneficial in building collagen, tendons, and ligaments. Some of the amino acids present in bovine collagen are glycine and proline. Glycine is a component of protein that helps build healthy DNA, while proline aids in producing collagen and can help to heal cartilage. (16)



Best Ways to Use Collagen 

Bone Broth

One of the most common forms of bovine collagen supplements is bone broth. Bone broth is made from meaty bones kept at a slow simmer for several hours. This tasty liquid is a natural source of collagen and it is not new to the world. It was consumed by people for thousands of years, dating back to hunter-gatherer times.

Bone broth can be derived from grass-fed cattle or chicken and therefore has the collagen from the animals from which it was made. It can be made in the form of a liquid broth, but there are also bone broth collagen powders available on the market. These powders can be added to warm beverages, soups and more as they are easily dissolvable. Bone broth benefits and supports healthy digestion, joints, skin, hair, nails, and immune system.


Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides

We have talked about collagen peptides, but let’s review.

Bodies cannot effectively absorb collagen in its original state, so the process of hydrolysis breaks down these larger molecules into smaller ones. These smaller units are called collagen “peptides.”

Collagen peptides are packed full of amino acids and are typically in powder form. This powder dissolves in hot and cold water, and is typically odorless and tasteless and can be mixed in with beverages. Taking collagen in this form is an easy way to get the supplement you need.

When shopping for collagen, you may encounter labels that say “hydrolyzed collagen” along with “collagen peptides.” Remember, there is actually no distinction between the two and that they have both gone through the hydrolysis process and are can be absorbed when consumed.

You may also come across capsules of hydrolyzed collagen peptides and collagen powder. Whichever you choose, consider that collagen capsules do include gelatin as an ingredient. (17)


Topical Cream 

There is some discrepancy on whether or not collagen in a topical cream form actually works. Collagen makes up about 70 to 80 percent of our skin, and when we have healthy levels of it, the dermis is at its best, glowing and able to retain moisture.

Several collagen-based beauty products claim to reduce signs of aging and increase levels of collagen in the skin. There is little data on whether products like this work; however, there is more data in favor of collagen supplements taken by mouth.

Though evidence is sparse, there are facial creams with bovine collagen that have been known to help reduce acne of the face or topical creams that can be used to reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids.


Best Bovine Collagen Recipes  

Incorporating more collagen into your diet may help your digestive system, joints, skin, and more.

There are a lot of options for adding collagen to the diet. For instance, eating foods that add or preserve collagen or taking collagen powder as a supplement can achieve this. Some foods that promote collagen are bone broth, pumpkin, berries, and dark leafy greens. At home, you can add all of these ingredients to a smoothie to boost your collagen levels and give you some energy in the morning.

Several companies sell collagen powder with whey protein in powder form. This powder can be mixed in with liquids like water, juice, or tea or stirred into coffee for a great protein boost.

Collagen peptides don’t have to just be taken in liquid form. A delicious way to up your collagen intake can be to bake it into your favorite treats. A hot trend right now is protein pancakes. These cakes can be baked with collagen peptides by mixing your favorite collagen powder into the batter. The same tactic can be used with protein bars, or you can buy some at the store with hydrolyzed collagen.


How to Pick a Bovine Collagen Supplement

A great bovine collagen powder should have:

  • Type I collagen
  • Type III collagen
  • A high-quality, grass-fed collagen source
  • Between 7-10 grams of collagen

Depending on your individual needs, you may want to find a product that combines collagen with whey for a bigger protein count.

While many collagen powders are flavored, beware of those with more than a gram or two of sugar. Flavors should be made out of all-natural ingredients and fillers should be avoided.

Click here to learn more about finding the right collagen supplement for you.

Do collagen supplements have side effects?

Fortunately, there are little to no side effects associated with collagen use. Although collagen manufacturers aren’t permitted by the FDA to say much about collagen’s skin-improving benefits, major organizations like these recognize it as safe for consumption.

If you experience rash or digestive upset after taking collagen, take a break from this supplement and speak to your doctor.


In Summary 

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in skin, muscles, ligaments, and bones. It’s vital to our health, connecting skin and tissue.
  • Bovine collagen is derived from cattle and comes to us through a process called hydrolysis, forming collagen peptides.
  • Collagen can improve overall skin health by strengthening and hydrating.
  • Joints can benefit from bovine collagen, including those who suffer from joint pain, stiffness, or arthritis.
  • Amino acids in bovine collagen can contribute to the improvement of gut health and treating leaky gut, stomach ulcers, etc.
  • Collagen is also helpful in repairing tissue, healing wounds, and even promoting healthy sleep.
  • Collagen can be taken in supplements of many forms, including hydrolyzed peptides, bone broth, and topical creams. Recipes for protein smoothies and baked goods are an easy and tasty way to incorporate collagen into your diet.

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