Can Collagen Be Vegan, or is There a Vegan Alternative to Collagen?

Can collagen be vegan, or is there a vegan alternative to collagen?

Our bodies produce collagen, a protein most abundant in connective tissues such as joints and skin. It works like a “glue” that holds structures together.

Unfortunately, with age, collagen production in the body declines, so many people take nutritional supplements to add collagen or replace the missing one.

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Since collagen is only of animal origin, it is not a good choice for vegans. We call these products animal-based collagen supplements.

If there is no vegan collagen, how do vegans get collagen?

Vegan collagen builders are also available on the market. These alternative products do not contain collagen, but other ingredients that naturally stimulate collagen production in the body.

We will talk about these differences in this article.

Is There a Vegan Way to Boost Collagen?

By understanding how our body produces collagen, we can distinguish between vegan and non-vegan collagen in a dietary supplement.

The body makes collagen on its own, but it does so by combining vitamin C, zinc, copper, and especially amino acids, which we get from food rich in proteins. High-protein vegan foods include legumes, quinoa, tofu, nuts, seeds, etc.

These are nutrients we can get from food or nutritional supplements that support our body’s natural collagen production.

In addition to amino acids and vitamin C, vegan collagen powder can also contain plant-based glucosamine (a component of tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and mucous membranes), plant-derived chondroitin (present in the synovial joint membranes and joints), hyaluronic acid, and MSM (natural organic sulfur).

What is the Difference Between Collagen and Vegan Collagen?

When it comes to the battle of vegan collagen vs animal collagen you need to know I am talking about animal collagen vs vegan collagen builders since there is no vegan collagen.

Collagen comes from the ground-up hooves, hides, skin, connective tissues, bones, and joints of animals, especially cattle, horses, pigs, fish, and rabbits. It is the collagen that animals naturally have in their bodies, mostly in bone broth.

Food supplements with this type of collagen are supposed to add this substance to the body. However, we cannot call vegan collagen “collagen” because plants do not contain it.

In recent years, there has been a revolution in making vegan collagen. In laboratories, they use genetic engineering to produce vegan collagen. The purpose is that this modified collagen would imitate the activity of animal collagen in the body. However, this type of collagen is still under development. Currently, these dietary supplements are costly.

To summarize, collagen comes from animals, and vegan collagen is a product of genetic engineering but is still developing. That is why vegans use collagen boosters to stimulate the body to produce collagen.

These vegan collagen boosters are often called vegan collagen, which is not to be mistaken for genetically engineered vegan collagen.

At the moment, only plant-based collagen boosters are available on the market. They contain vitamins, amino acids, and minerals – the ingredients our bodies need to produce more collagen.

Collagen in nails, bones, hair, skin, joints and connective tissue

Is Vegan Collagen as Good as Animal Collagen?

We cannot compare animal and vegan collagen since animal collagen contains a substance that is an integral part of the connective tissues of animals. In contrast, vegan collagen consists of various components stimulating collagen production in the body.

On the other hand, there is no scientific evidence that supplementing animal collagen increases collagen levels in the body.

In general, we get everything we need from food. It is the most natural process in our bodies. To prevent premature collagen breakdown and stimulate the production of new collagen in the body, we don’t need to add animal collagen to a food supplement. There is an excellent way to achieve this without animal exploitation.

We must eat food rich in amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, and other nutrients. There is a reason animal collagen also contains amino acids, as collagen needs them for binding in the body.

Even animal collagen without added amino acids is not as effective. Absorption is not optimal, and we need to know how much collagen is absorbed in the body or where it is required.

By eating vegan food that stimulates collagen production, we ensure that the body will perform this task more efficiently and naturally.

Is Vegan Collagen Real Collagen?

Vegan collagen is not real collagen, known as animal-based collagen, that is supposed to replace the collagen we have lost. Unfortunately, there are no plant-based or vegan collagen sources, as collagen comes from animals, particularly their cartilage, bones, and skin.

There are as many as 16 different types of animal collagen. Collagen types I, II, and III are abundant in animal bodies. These collagen types are also typically added to food supplements because they are better absorbed and used in the body. Otherwise, you can find marine (from fish) and bovine collagen (from cows) in food supplements.

What is Vegan Collagen Made From?

Vegan collagen in the food supplement contains a mixture of collagen-building ingredients. If you are looking for vegan collagen, make sure that the product includes the following elements:

  • Proteins/amino acids
    There are many sources of plant proteins that break down into amino acids. Include more legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet. Amino acids essential for collagen production are proline, glycine, and l-glutamine. You can also opt for vegan amino acids in a dietary supplement.
  • Antioxidants
    Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights against free radicals and thus helps prevent collagen breakdown. Collagen breaks down with age due to damage caused by free radicals.

Suppose you take vitamin C in a supplement. It should derive from acerola berries, Camu Camu, or rosehip fruits. You can also get vitamin C from food (blueberries, kiwis, broccoli, bell peppers, etc.). Carotenoids, such as vitamin A, which supports collagen regeneration, are also vital nutrients with antioxidant activity.

  • Minerals
    Among the most vital minerals are zinc and copper. These trace minerals speed up the process of healing, which is essential for building and repairing collagen. In addition, zinc and copper contribute to collagen formation by stimulating its production.
  • Plant extracts
    Food supplements can contain synthetically obtained vitamins and minerals or concentrated extracts from plants, rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. For example, sea buckthorn is rich in natural vitamin C. Spirulina algae contain plenty of amino acids. Brown seaweed is abundant in minerals. Some mushrooms contain substances that act like hyaluronic acid in the body (there is no such thing as vegan hyaluronic acid). And the bamboo extract has a lot of silica or silicon dioxide, etc.
Collagen composition
Collagen composition

Is Vegan Collagen Effective – Do Vegan Collagen Supplements Work?

So far, scientists have done a lot of research. Still, according to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), we cannot make health claims for collagen supplements.

EFSA conducted research with animal collagen, which delivered results related to various factors. Therefore, we cannot say that animal collagen does its job. The same goes for vegan collagen.

However, we know the following facts.

The body produces collagen from protein peptides and vitamin C. Neither of these has to be animal ingredients.

Is it worth taking vegan collagen? Yes, it is.

There are substances in vegan collagen that are well-researched and scientifically supported in their roles in collagen production and prevention of collagen breakdown.

For example, vitamin C contributes to collagen synthesis, and amino acids are the building blocks of almost all tissues in the body. Therefore, if they build tissues, they also build collagen, the most represented protein in the body.

Scientists also reached reliable conclusions about minerals such as zinc and copper. But, unfortunately, plant extracts should be researched more.

Furthermore, antioxidants prevent collagen degradation since their production depends on cellular processes. Collagen production gradually decreases as a result of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress ages our cells, ages our bodies, and is also responsible that our bodies cannot make enough collagen.

Nutrient-depleted diet, excessive exposure to UV sun rays, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, etc., create free radicals and oxidative stress. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle is the most critical factor in overall health and maintaining the body’s collagen status.

Does Vegan Collagen Work For Skin?

Collagen acts as a glue in the skin and holds the structures together. When collagen gradually breaks down, it shows on the skin with wrinkles and sagging skin. At 40, the body decomposes more collagen than it can make.

Vegan collagen can support the skin. Amino acids synthesize new collagen and restore collagen synthesis in sun-damaged skin.

Sun-damaged skin is also one of the reasons why vegans look old.

Vitamin C contributes to the synthesis of collagen. Yet, it is also a component in the skin, found on the inner (dermis) and outer layers of skin (epidermis).

The mineral zinc contributes to good-looking skin as it accelerates the healing of wounds and skin damage. Silica from bamboo also works well for the skin as it delivers moisture to the deeper skin layers. All these ingredients influence the production of collagen.

Skin aging and collagen levels
Collagen in skin aging

Does Vegan Collagen Help Hair Growth?

Hair follicles do not have much collagen. Instead, hair consists primarily of the protein keratin, which forms from other amino acids. Animal collagen, thus, has no particular effect on hair growth. In contrast, vegan collagen, which contains amino acids, contributes to hair growth.

B complex vitamins, zinc, selenium, and silicon dioxide are also vital for healthy hair growth. In addition, you can get minerals from food. In the nutritional supplements, you will find minerals in their natural form in green and brown seaweed, which is also rich in iodine and other minerals.

Does Vegan Collagen Help Joints?

Collagen is a natural substance found in cartilage and joints. It is responsible for the supply of synovial fluid, which lubricates the cartilage, allowing more effortless movement and less rigidity.

Suppose you would like to take vegan collagen for joint health. In that case, the formula in the food supplement has to contain amino acids that support the muscles around the joints and bear their weight. These are vegan glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, essential components of joints and ligaments, and MSM, the natural dietary form of sulfur.

MSM participates in the production of collagen, elastin, and cartilage and restores the structures of articular cartilage.

The supplement should also contain vitamin C, which increases the bioavailability and absorption of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM.

The mineral calcium, available in a food supplement, benefits for joint health. Choose a synthetic form of calcium, as natural calcium from eggshells and seashells, is not vegan.

Is Vegan Collagen Safe?

Since collagen comes from animal parts, these sources are always less safe than ingredients obtained in a laboratory subject to stricter control and manufacturing standards or from plant extracts.

Food companies often purchase collagen as a by-product from factory farms. Manufacturers must provide documents indicating the source of the ingredients, which allows for transparency in the supply chain.

However, these documents could be more consistent, as most animal collagen comes from China. China does not have ISO and other quality standards close to US and European standards. Therefore, animal collagen may be questionable, if not potentially harmful.

The ingredients’ quality and production standards determine the safety of vegan collagen boosters. Check if the company has certificates for quality standards, that the product is certified vegan, and does not contain additives such as colorants, fragrances, binders, etc.

Vitamins and minerals should be in a bioavailable and active form for optimal absorption and use in the body. Amino acids can also be of animal origin, so check if they are vegan-certified.

Vitamins and minerals should be in a bioavailable and active form for optimal absorption and use in the body. Amino acids can also be of animal origin, so check if they are vegan certified.

Vegan ingredients are safer to use than collagen obtained from animals. Pay attention to the doses and contraindications with other medicines or supplements you are already taking.

Vitamin C is safe to use, as the body excretes it with urine if there is too much of it. So it doesn’t build up in your body. Amino acids are also safe because they are naturally protein metabolites in food.

What is the Best Vegan Collagen?

With age, the production of collagen reduces naturally. This process is irreversible, but it can be delayed. Due to free radicals, collagen in the body decreases. Therefore, it is vital to optimize your diet and include a lot of protein, fruit, and vegetables rich in vitamin C and minerals. Some vitamins and minerals also act as antioxidants, which is particularly critical in combatting the harmful effects of free radicals.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle keeps your body healthy and produces lots of collagen. But, of course you can also use food supplements. Vegan collagen boosters should contain a range of plant-based ingredients that help build and prevent the breakdown of collagen in the body.

The best vegan collagen includes a combination of various ingredients mentioned above. Simply put, it contains free-form amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other substances.

Conclusion

There is no vegan collagen. Collagen comes only from animals. But animal-based collagen supplements are only one of the ways to maintain collagen levels in the body.

Vegans have to use collagen boosters which help the body produce collagen. These collagen boosters are generally safe and contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that stimulate collagen production.

If you don’t want to participate in animal exploitation and are worried about your collagen levels, taking a vegan booster is an excellent way to help your body produce collagen.

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Gregory Knox
Gregory Knox

I'm Gregory, a father and animal lover. Nutritionist and ex vegan store owner. Dedicated to thorough research on everything related to vegan nutrition.