How do vegan collagen supplements stack up?

Collagen supplements are on trend, but are they all hype or a key to eternal youth? We spoke with a leading dietitian and nutritionist to sort fact from fiction.

Collagen supplements have well and truly entered the mainstream as a method to potentially counteract collagen depletion as we age.

Studies have found collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity and hydration, and have shown promising results for wound healing and anti-ageing.

“The research supporting collagen supplementation is encouraging,” dietitian Chloe McLeod says.  

“However, it’s important to remember that if your diet is poor and has exposure to other factors – like alcohol or cigarette smoke – the supplements won’t have the opportunity to work as effectively.”

How do collagen supplements work?

Collagen is naturally found in our skin, ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues.

As we age, our collagen production slows down, which can impact our skin, bones and joints.

“Collagen supplements can provide a great benefit to supporting the health of our skin, as well as fighting signs of ageing,” Chloe says.

Collagen supplements come in powder, capsule and edible gummy formulations, all of which claim similar results.

Chloe says the supplement’s effectiveness comes down to the type of collagen, with marine collagen showing the most promising results.

“They are not all created equal – while the research is still in relatively early days, marine collagen that has been extensively hydrolysed shows the best benefit.”

As its name suggests, marine collagen is derived from seafood, specifically fish skin.

Is vegan collagen as effective?

Collagen is a major component of connective tissue in animals, so the vast majority of supplements are not vegan.

Vegan collagen supplements are created using either an artificial form of collagen or from yeast, which works by supporting collagen production.

“Many supplements on the market are actually vegan products that support collagen production, rather than a lab-made version of vegan collagen,” Chloe says.

Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of vegan collagen.

But because it can only support collagen production rather than contribute collagen, Chloe says marine collagen is the more effective option.

“Marine collagen has extensive, ongoing research supporting its role in promoting the health of our skin,” she says.

But for those following a plant-based diet, vegan collagen may be worth a try.

Three things to know before trying a collagen supplement

Nutritionist Lyndi Cohen says there are a few things to consider before starting collagen supplements.

Ongoing costs

The first is that if you commit to taking collagen, it needs to be a long-term relationship.

“To continue seeing the benefits, you need to take it continuously and this may get expensive,” Lyndi says.

Consider other ways to boost collagen

For a nutritional boost, adjust your diet to incorporate collagen-rich foods and dishes.

A popular choice is bone broth. Made from chicken, cow or even fish bones, the dish is high in nutrition and minerals that are beneficial to our joints and digestive system.

Other foods believed to help increase collagen production include chicken, fish, eggs, berries and citrus fruits

Research products well

It’s important to only use approved collagen supplements listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Lyndi also advises checking that manufacturers’ claims about their products are based on scientific evidence.

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.