What is Vegan Collagen & What are Its Benefits and Alternatives?

Collagen is one of the most abundantly found proteins in the human body. It is one of the major components of the connective tissues that make up most of the body parts, including your skin, your muscles, ligaments, and even your tendons. Collagen plays many important roles in the body, such as providing your skin with structure and also strengthens your bones. Owing to the many health benefits of collagen, supplements of this protein have become very popular. However, is there any truth to all this hype? After all, many studies have shown that there are both advantages and drawbacks to taking collagen supplements, not to mention that collagen is not vegan.

However, science has now discovered a way to make vegan collagen. Read on to find out everything you need to know about vegan collage – from how it’s made to how it works.

What is Vegan Collagen?

What is Vegan Collagen?

Collagen is known to have many health benefits.(1) However, for many of the fashion-conscious people out there, it is essential to know that collagen is not vegan. This is because collagen is a protein that is found mostly in your nails, skin, hair, bones, and ligaments and is mostly found in animal sources, such as fish or beef.

However, experts have now found a way to make vegan collagen. Now, instead of being sourced from animals, collagen can be manufactured with the use of genetically modified yeast and bacteria.

Researchers have discovered that the bacteria P. pastoris is one of the most effective and frequently used types of bacteria for genetically engineering collagen of high quality.(2)

For producing collagen, the four genes in humans that code for collagen are combined with the genetic structure of these microbes. Once the genes are put in place, the bacteria or the yeast that is being used, then begin to manufacture the building blocks of human collagen while remaining vegan.

Pepsin, which is a digestive enzyme, is also added to this process for helping structure the building blocks properly into collagen molecules. This ensures that the exact composition of human collagen is achieved.

At the end of the process, you successfully produce vegan collagen.

What are the Benefits of Vegan Collagen?

When you have inexpensive and safe collagen that is sourced from microbes rather than from animals, there are many promising benefits and applications for human health. Some of these benefits include:

Vegan Collagen Costs Less

Using bacteria or yeast for producing vegan collagen means that it is a more cost-effective as well as a highly scalable option in laboratory settings. While vegan collagen has not yet been rolled out as a mass-produced product, but there is definitely potential that vegan collagen will lower the cost of normal collagen supplements as well for all consumers. It is also going to make it more widely available for different uses ranging from supplements to medical treatments.

Lowers the Risk of Allergies

Perhaps the biggest benefit of vegan collagen is that no animals are harmed during production. At the same time, there is another huge advantage to vegan collage for those who suffer from allergies.

For example, with collagen that is sourced from animals, there have been some concerns about the risk of transmission of diseases.(3) Collagen produced through microbes is going to eliminate this issue of disease transmission because it is manufactured within a controlled environment. In a controlled environment, harmful substances and common allergens are removed, and it is a sterile environment.

Improved Safety of the Product

Vegan collagen is typically associated with having a greater safety profile. Since it is produced in a laboratory-controlled environment, it gives manufacturers the ability to control the safety profile of the product and therefore, improve on it. If the production source if easily traceable in any product, then it makes it a safer product for everyone through the supply chain right down to the consumers.

Cheaper Medical procedures

Vegan collagen is known to have many potential medical applications and benefits. Unlike what most people think, there are many more uses of collagen apart from just being used as dietary supplements.

This technology to genetically engineer vegan collagen in a safe and effective way is likely to be beneficial for many other medical procedures as well. After all, collagen is also commonly used for the following:

  • For promoting faster wound healing
  • For stimulating tissue and skin growth
  • In the field of dermatology for sutures

Collagen can also serve as a potential vehicle for drug delivery within the body, or even for certain types of tumor treatments.

Beauty Benefits for Vegans

The market is majorly full of only animal-based collagen, which means that people who follow a vegan-friendly lifestyle or those who live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle are unable to consume these products.

Now that vegan collagen options are available, they can opt for taking collagen to help decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and also for stimulating the body for producing more collagen naturally.(4) Vegan collagen can also help support and boost your digestive and joint health.(5)

However, the science around vegan collagen is still being worked upon, and most of the promises around these collagen supplements are still considered to be hype. Further research is also required to prove these benefits of vegan collagen.

Alternatives to Vegan Collagen

Since vegan collagen is yet to become easily accessible, most companies are still selling collagen boosters as supplements. These collagen boosters are known to contain several types of vitamins and minerals, including zinc and vitamin C that your body requires to manufacture collagen naturally.

Some of these collagen boosters may also include herbs and plant extracts that have been found to help boost the production of collagen.(6)

Instead of a collagen supplement, you can also add vitamins and minerals in your diet to help you get the amount of amino acids that your body needs. The most abundant amino acids that are present in collagen are lysine, proline, and glycine.

Some plant-based foods that are high in all these three amino acids are as follows:

  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Soy products such as tofu, soy protein, and tempeh
  • Nuts such as peanut, pistachio, and cashew
  • Seeds including squash, pumpkin, chia, and sunflower
  • Many other Legumes

Another excellent way of getting the benefits of collagen if you are a vegan is to take the above-mentioned amino acid supplement individually.

Conclusion

There is a lot of time for vegan collagen to become mainstream and available in the stores. Collagen is associated with many health benefits, and it is also considered to be relatively safe and without risks. Collagen supplements are known to improve your skin healthy by reducing dryness and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They may also help you prevent bone loss, relieve joint pain, and also increase muscle mass. So until vegan collagen supplements become commonly available, you always have the option of going with regular collagen supplements.

References:  

  1. Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, S., Matsudaira, P., Baltimore, D. and Darnell, J. (2019). Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/ [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].
  2. Báez, J., Olsen, D. and Polarek, J.W., 2005. Recombinant microbial systems for the production of human collagen and gelatin. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 69(3), pp.245-252.
  3. Yang, C., Hillas, P.J., Báez, J.A., Nokelainen, M., Balan, J., Tang, J., Spiro, R. and Polarek, J.W., 2004. The application of recombinant human collagen in tissue engineering. BioDrugs, 18(2), pp.103-119.
  4. Borumand, M. and Sibilla, S., 2015. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), p.47.
  5. Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N. and Venkateswarathirukumara, S., 2015. A double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), pp.702-707.
  6. Chua, L.S., Lee, S.Y., Abdullah, N. and Sarmidi, M.R., 2012. Review on Labisia pumila (Kacip Fatimah): bioactive phytochemicals and skin collagen synthesis promoting herb. Fitoterapia, 83(8), pp.1322-1335.

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