While collagen is a protein naturally found in your body’s tissues, hair, skin, bones and nails, it’s also a popular dietary supplement. But collagen is not vegan or vegetarian. With the growing interest in plant-based products, many people may be wondering whether collagen supplements can fit in a vegan lifestyle.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in a mammal’s body, and is responsible for a number of essential functions. It helps provide structural support, allows for elasticity and is integral in maintaining bone and joint health.
Since vegan collagen is not currently available, there are some individual plant-derived nutrients you can add to your routine that may have similar benefits.
While collagen is naturally produced in your body, the amount, quality and stores of collagen decline with age, beginning at 25. This is a primary reason why collagen supplements can be so helpful as you age. They can improve appearance and integrity of the skin, hair and nails, and may help reduce joint pain.
Most supplemental collagen is derived from animal sources like fish or beef, and although a vegan collagen is possible, there are no vegan collagen products currently available on the market.
Vegan collagen can be made using yeast and bacteria that have been genetically modified. The bacteria P. pastoris has been found to be particularly effective in making high-quality vegan collagen products.
Making vegan collagen requires adding four human genes that code for collagen to the bacterial or yeast genetics, as well as the digestive enzyme pepsin. This allows for genetic modification to occur, or for the bacteria or yeast to start creating the foundations of human collagen. The process results in the production of collagen molecules that have the same structure as human collagen.
Many people would prefer vegan collagen simply because it’s a great alternative to animal-derived products, meaning that no animals are harmed in its production. However, non-vegans may also enjoy vegan collagen as it might pose a lower risk of allergic reactions.
Since vegan collagen is not currently available, there are some individual plant-derived nutrients you can add to your routine that may have similar benefits. These are sometimes called “collagen boosters,” meaning that they are designed to help your body produce more collagen naturally.
For example, micronutrients like Vitamin C and zinc, as well as the amino acids proline, lysine and glycine, may be helpful for this purpose. You can often find these as supplements, but they are also found in vegan foods like tofu, tempeh, kidney and black beans, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and cashews.
The herb Labisia pumila has also been studied for its potential to promote collagen synthesis, and is often sold as an extract or as part of a collagen-boosting supplement.
The bottom line is that vegan collagen is not currently available, but this is changing as vegan products gain in popularity.
Research shows that regular collagen supplementation is required to maintain its anti-aging benefits.