Plant-based collagen vs. Animal collagen: What’s the difference?

If you worry about the health of your skin, chances are you’ve heard about the health properties of collagen. You might even take collagen capsules, apply it to your skin in creams and lotions, or drink it in a variety of beverages. 

But did you know that most collagens are animal based? It’s true. The main types of animal-based collagen are taken from marine and bovine sources, and according to some brands, this is the only way you can get collagen for your body. 

Well, that’s just not true, and quite a few of the claims about animal-based collagen aren’t as great as they might seem. Here are some of the facts and fictions about animal and plant-based collagens.

FACT: Collagen is a key structural protein. 

It supports the structure of all our cells and is a huge component in preventing premature ageing, maintaining the health and structure of our bones, joints and gut, and helps to keep our hair skin and nails in tip top condition. It’s also important for tendon function, tissue repair and reducing the loss of bone density, particularly in women. 

FACT: Collagen production slows down in our twenties. 

Collagen production in the body slows by about 1% per year when we enter our twenties. 

Not only is there a natural decline in collagen production as we get older, there are other factors which can change our body’s ability to produce high quality collagen. Exposure to air pollution, UV rays, and cigarette smoke are amongst some of the factors which can negatively affect collagen supplements, due to compounds called free radicals. This is why collagen supplements are recommended to support collagen production in the body (Knuutinen et al., 2002).

FICTION: Animal collagen is the most efficient way of taking collagen.

When we ingest collagen from animals, our body doesn’t instantly convert this into absorbable collagen. In fact, it’s not even destined to become collagen - it might get made into a different kind of protein! This is because animal collagen has to be broken down by the body into its original amino acids before it can be rebuilt into something else (Choi et al., 2019).

The reason that it needs to be broken down? Marine and bovine collagen aren’t the same as human collagen. Think of it this way - you wouldn’t expect a fish eye to work in a human body, as they are fundamentally different in terms of make up, and that’s the same with collagen. 

The similarity between human and animal collagen lies with the amino acids which make up the strings of protein, and this is where plant-based collagen builders have a better rate of efficiency than animal-based ones. Plant-based collagen builders are designed to ensure that the building blocks of collagen are presented in such a way as to create collagen in the body. 

FICTION: Animal collagen is sustainable.

First things first, when we say ‘marine’ and ‘bovine’, what we actually mean is the scales, skin, hooves, connective tissue, fins, and all the really gross bits from cows and fish. These are then boiled at really high temperatures until gelatin is formed, then treated even further until collagen peptides are formed. Collagen peptides are not the same as the collagen formed in the human body - the chains of amino acids are shorter to promote bioavailability (León-López et al., 2019).

Animal-based tissues which are used for collagen are often the byproducts of factory farming, which has a devastating impact on the environment, contributes to overfishing and the destruction of marine landscapes, and is responsible for high amounts of emissions. That’s without even considering the stress and torment faced by the animals themselves during their short lives. 

Add into this that heating and treating these animal tissues to create collagen uses high amounts of energy, and the process of creating animal-based collagen becomes even less sustainable and energy efficient (León-López et al., 2019).

FICTION: Animal collagen is ‘natural’.

Actually, animal collagen is more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants. Farmed animals ingest pesticides and herbicides through their feed, are injected with hormones and antibiotics, and subjected to other chemicals over the course of their lives. These contaminants are generally stored in the body parts of the animal typically used in the creation of collagen supplements (Clean Label Project, n.d.).

FACT: You don’t have to eat collagen. You can build it. 

Plant-based collagen builders don’t contain any collagen. They include only plant-based ingredients that support ongoing collagen production. By providing the various amino acids that your body needs to create its own collagen, plant-based collagen builders help to stimulate collagen synthesis. This is the process by which collagen is created in the body. By supporting and promoting collagen synthesis, collagen builders can improve the body’s natural ability to create our own collagen, and target key areas of the body where collagen is needed, such as joints and connective tissues, which animal-based collagens may not be able to achieve (Wu, Cronin and Crane, 2022). 

They typically contain all of the other nutrients your body needs to assist in the production of collagen, such as Vitamin C, zinc, and silica. These substances also help to protect the collagen in your body from exposure to free radicals and oxidative damage (DePhillipo et al., 2018). These can be lacking in animal-based products, meaning that they cannot produce similar results to plant-based collagen builders. 

FACT: Vivo Life’s plant-based collagen builder contains everything you need to build top quality collagen!

You might think that all plant-based collagen builders would be the same, but some are definitely superior to others in terms of quality. Not only does our Plant-based Collagen Builder have a superior amino acid profile to typical animal-based collagens, it’s also third party tested for herbicides, heavy metals and other pollutants which might be present in some plant-based brands.

It has 25g of protein per serving, scientifically proven to support collagen production, as well as promoting the health of our hair, skin, and nails. 

To ensure an even more luxurious product, we have included 240mg of ultra-pure hyaluronic acid per serving to deliver changes you can really see and feel, along with all the nutrients you need to build top quality collagen. It also contains 600mg of Bamboo Extract Silica, giving your skin a helping hand with retaining moisture.

Sources:

León-López, A., Morales-Peñaloza, A., Martínez-Juárez, V.M., Vargas-Torres, A., Zeugolis, D.I. and Aguirre-Álvarez, G. (2019). Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications. Molecules, 24(22), p.4031. doi:10.3390/molecules24224031. 

Knuutinen, A., Kokkonen, N., Risteli, J., Vähäkangas, K., Kallioinen, M., Salo, T., Sorsa, T. and Oikarinen, A. (2002). Smoking affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin. The British Journal of Dermatology, [online] 146(4), pp.588–594. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04694.x.

DePhillipo, N.N., Aman, Z.S., Kennedy, M.I., Begley, J.P., Moatshe, G. and LaPrade, R.F. (2018). Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, [online] 6(10), p.232596711880454. doi:10.1177/2325967118804544.

www.organicconsumers.org. (n.d.). Consumer Beware: These Popular Collagen Supplements Contain Heavy Metals. [online] Available at: https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/consumer-beware-these-popular-collagen-supplements-contain-heavy-metals

Clean Label Project. (n.d.). Collagen White Paper. [online] Available at: https://cleanlabelproject.org/collagen-white-paper/

Choi, F.D., Sung, C.T., Juhasz, M.L.W. and Mesinkovsk, N.A. (2019). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD, [online] 18(1), pp.9–16. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/.

Wu, M. and Crane, J.S. (2019). Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/.