Plant-Based vs Animal Collagen — What’s the Difference?
With the rise of veganism one thing is certain:
Looking for plant-based alternatives to anything is no longer a fad — it’s a much-needed alternative.
From plant-based protein to plant-based burgers, people finally have options. But they also want to ensure that plant-based products offer the same nutritional benefits as animal products.
Fortunately, advances in science, coupled with deeper research into plant-based alternatives, are showing us that plant-based collagen exists. What’s more, it can even square off against its contender, animal collagen.
In this article, you’ll learn the differences between plant-based vs animal collagen so you can make an informed decision for your body’s needs.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein molecule in the human body. It’s actually the most abundant protein, making up more than one-third of the body’s protein production. This makes sense, considering it’s also the “structural” protein that holds the body together.
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Even though collagen occurs throughout the body, holding cells together, it is most abundant in bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. This explains why a drop in collagen as we age is linked to “sagging” or dry skin, joint issues, and muscle inflammation.
The power of collagen is not just in its abundance, though. It’s also in the protein’s unique structure.
Collagen is hard and insoluble. Its molecules band together to form long, thin structures called “fibrils.” These fibrils are insanely strong. They support cell structures and anchor them together. In fact, certain types of collagen fibrils are stronger than steel.
Chew on that!
Despite its strength, collagen is also highly flexible. It pairs well with elastin, which is what gives skin its natural “bounce” and elasticity. It helps trigger the reactions required for the skin to replace and restore dead cells.
Collagen also acts as a sheath for certain organs, such as the kidney. Joint cartilage also relies on the tensile strength of collagen. That’s why its decline in the body is related to issues like osteoporosis and arthritis.
The great news is that your body naturally produces collagen by breaking down the amino acids from dietary sources of protein. That’s why the number one way to get more collagen is to, quite literally, eat it.
Collagen-rich food sources include:
- Protein-rich foods. That includes chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
- A variety of fresh products like leafy greens, carrots, cilantro, broccoli, asparagus, etc.
- Antioxidants from berries and fruits. This is key for protecting your collagen from the breakdown that occurs because of oxidative stress.
There’s one more thing you should know, especially if you decide to boost your collagen levels through supplementation:
Collagen is “resorbable.” It can be broken down, converted, and then absorbed once again into your body. That makes collagen the perfect supplement candidate.
In a way, collagen is completely bioavailable! You’ll get 100% of collagen when using it as a supplement.
What Causes Collagen to Drop?
So far, what we know about collagen is that its levels start to naturally decrease once an individual hits their late-20s to early-30s.
However, there’s a lot you can do to speed up or slow down this process. Factors like environmental toxins, your hygiene habits, and more, affect the production of collagen in your body — how much gets produced and how consistent these levels remain.
Consider the following five factors that can decrease collagen production over time and ask yourself: Are any of these currently an issue in your life? If so, it’s in your best interest to take steps to reduce or totally eliminate these factors.
From lung cancer to early aging, there’s nothing beneficial about smoking. In fact, it’s a habit that causes serious damage and disruption in your body, leading to multiple issues.
When it comes to your collagen and elastin supply, this is doubly true. The chemicals in tobacco cigarettes not only degrade your collagen and elastin production but also constrict your blood vessels. It’s a major reason why smoking puts more people at risk for cardiovascular disease than simply hereditary or genetic factors.
With constricted blood vessels, the nutrients (and oxygen) you need don’t go where they need to be. This could be a significant reason for brittle hair and nails.
2) Exposure to UV Light/Rays
The science of skin damage is not limited to the beauty industry. In other words, it’s not just about reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also fights off another serious danger to your skin: damage from UV radiation.
UV rays completely break down the bonds between collagen and elastin molecules, causing your skin to age faster and leaving the cells under the dermal layer exposed to further radiation that could trigger skin cancer.
So, it’s in your best interest to preserve the skin’s protective molecules, elastin and collagen, both externally, through SPF protection, and internally, through collagen supplementation.
3) Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is another issue closely related to skin damage caused by UV rays. Your skin is essentially connective tissue and the extracellular matrix is rich with collagen.
When it’s exposed to reactive oxygen species from environmental toxins, pollution, and UV rays, collagen fibrils fragment and break down, leading to harmful changes within the cells of the skin.
4) Inflammation Related to Chronic or Autoimmune Diseases
While chronic or autoimmune diseases may be a lifelong journey for many of us, collagen plays a significant role in how we experience these issues.
Here’s the thing:
Studies show that chronic inflammation in the body limits the production of collagen types in human connective tissue. You need more than just adequate amounts of collagen - you also need diverse types of collagen for your body to function well.
However, because of this central connection between inflammation and collagen, you can use collagen supplementation to target inflammation in the body.
Collagen molecules bind themselves to therapeutic antibodies in medication intended for people who have chronic inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis.
So, if you use other ways to reduce inflammation naturally, such as using turmeric, collagen will naturally enhance the therapeutic effects of said inflammation-fighters.
5) Excessive Intake of Refined Sugar
Like smoking, excessive refined sugar intake is just as bad news for your body. The production process of refined sugars creates glycosylation end-products, also known as AGEs.
When proteins are exposed to AGEs, they become glycated, leading to disruptions in the repair process of skin tissue, and production of elastin & collagen.
Of course, the number one way to increase collagen is through diet and/or supplementation. Besides amino acids, your body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, so make sure to incorporate citrus fruits, such as oranges, and sources like kiwi.
It should come as no surprise that collagen production also depends on you maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Not getting enough sleep and exercise also negatively affects your body’s collagen levels.
Vegan Collagen Builders vs Animal-Based Collagen Supplements
Besides their dietary intake, many people choose to take collagen-building supplements. Initially, there were only animal-based collagen supplements available. However, nowadays, you can find plant-based collagen builders that are completely vegan.
So, what’s the difference between these vegan, plant-based collagen supplements and animal collagen?
At first glance, plant-based collagen builders versus animal collagen seem to come down to one difference:
One form of collagen is plant-based and the other comes from marine or bovine sources, right?
Well, yes, but that’s far from the only difference. Each type of collagen supplement provides a different effect, which might influence which one you choose for your health.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is Animal Collagen?
Animal collagen is extracted from cartilage, bone, and other pieces of meat with connective tissue. These scraps are then boiled down at a high temperature, producing a sticky substance called gelatin.
Further processing breaks gelatin down into collagen peptides.
There are multiple “issues” to consider, both with the process of creating animal collagen and the end product:
- When we ingest collagen protein from animals, our body doesn’t instantly convert this into absorbable collagen.
- Simply taking animal collagen to replace dropping collagen levels in our body is not effective.
- Animal collagen is also much more likely to be contaminated with pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, insecticides, and parabens because these get stored in animals’ bones, muscles, and connective tissue. A test of 28 labels also revealed heavy metals such as lead and cadmium within bone broth as well.
Now, that doesn’t mean that collagen peptides can’t help your body. However, the source of collagen — and the type of collagen you use — matters.
Let’s discover the effects of plant-based collagen to see why that is.
What is Plant or Vegan Collagen?
The key to understanding plant-based collagen supplements is that the ingredients within these formulas are builders. They effectively help your body’s natural processes build collagen from scratch to a greater degree. That’s important because your body naturally creates enzymes called collagenase.
This natural enzyme and process is responsible for cleaning up collagen that has degraded in the body, allowing protein synthesis to create new collagen fibrils.
However, in individuals at risk for joint or bone-related diseases, collagenase can negatively affect the cycle of normal collagen turnover. In other words, having a way to support your body’s natural collagen production becomes more crucial than ever. .
The ingredients in plant-based collagen builders are not made from collagen at all. They simply possess all the right ingredients to trigger your body’s collagen production.
Neat, isn’t it?
Now, we call this “plant-based” collagen because it comes from natural plants, herbs, and sources that include the vital “building blocks” that aid in the formation of collagen:
- Silica, from sources like green beans, brown rice, bamboo, and more
- Vitamin C, from sources like cilantro, lemon fruit, etc.
- Rice peptides
- Hyaluronic acid
- Vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene
Because there’s no production or extraction of “collagen” from these vegan collagen sources, plant-based collagen is far safer and more effective than animal collagen.
Wait — What is Vegan Collagen?
“Vegan” collagen is indeed a separate, if currently limited, category of collagen. It harnesses genetically engineered microorganisms, such as yeast and other bacteria, as a host for the production of human-friendly collagen and gelatin.
Right now, it’s not available to everyone, and researchers are still in the process of perfecting it as a safe and consumer-ready product.
You should know, however, that plant-based collagen sources count as vegan collagen supplements because there are no meat, dairy products, or byproducts involved.
It’s worth noting that, while these are viable options that could be available in the future, those who want to stay away from genetic modifications in the production process should continue to rely on safe, non-GMO, plant-based collagen builders instead.
Vegan vs Animal-Based Collagen Builds - Recap
If you’re trying to figure out which collagen source is a better fit for you, keep these differences in mind:
- Plant-based collagen sources only give your body the necessary vital components, such as amino acids, vitamins, and other essential minerals, for collagen production.
- Animal collagen, on the other hand, is made directly from hooves, bones, cartilage, and other connective parts of an animal.
- Plant-based collagen builders don’t have any collagen.
- Animal collagen is collagen, which is broken down into collagen peptides.
- Vegan or plant-based collagen builders include only plant-based ingredients that support ongoing collagen production.
- Animal collagen is more likely to be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins.
Try Happy Healthy Hippie Collagen Builder
Many people turn to plant-based collagen because they’re vegan or vegetarian. They want to ensure their dietary preferences extend to their supplements as well — and they’re often unsure if plants can really be a “source” of collagen.
Well, now you know better. The difference between plant-based collagen builders and animal-based collagen is that these plants don’t have collagen — nor do they need to.
This means that the plant-based collagen builder you choose will come down to the ingredients you’re looking for.
For example, some people want to combine inflammation-fighting herbs and roots with collagen-building plants. So they’ll opt for a formulation that includes turmeric.
Others may want to combine plant protein sources together with their collagen intake. So they’ll look for sources that contain hemp and pumpkin seeds, as well as peas for plant-based protein.
The key is to parse the ingredients carefully. What you don’t want is any artificial sweeteners or excess ingredients with no positive contribution or function.
If you’re looking for a plant-based collagen supplement that reliably delivers clean, curated, and highly potent collagen builders, Happy Healthy Hippie’s Vegan Collagen Builder may be just right for you.
Our formulation includes all the essential components your body needs to keep collagen levels consistent: vitamin C, vitamin A, silica, hyaluronic acid, and 35 herbs, fruits, and vegetables that support collagen, keratin, and elastin.
With no animal by-products whatsoever, Vegan Collagen Builder offers a clean way to promote glowing skin, strong nails, and healthy hair.
Besides proven ingredients like broccoli, pumpkin seeds, carrot root, collard greens, blueberry, apple, calendula, cilantro, and so many more, Vegan Collagen Builder also contains L-lysine.
This essential protein-building block promotes faster wound healing because it’s so important in collagen formation for tissue repair.
With all these benefits, we’re confident when we say Vegan Collagen Builder does it all — and then some. Go ahead and give it a try for yourself!