Collagen Hydrolysate: A gelatin supplement
Who needs Botox when you’ve got bone broth? (Ha ha, real food joke.) Homemade bone broth, as many real-foodies know, provides a rich source of collagen, a component that adds luminosity and plumpness to the skin.
Both collagen hydrolysate and gelatin comes from cooking the bones, hides and hooves from animals. Dietary sources of quality gelatin have all but disappeared from the modern diet, although past generations widely consumed gelatin-rich broths, soups, headcheese, calves foot jelly, sauces and aspics. These sources of gelatin not only tasted delicious, it boosted the nutritional profile of the meal.
What is collagen hydrolysate?
Collagen hydrolysate is a dietary supplement. It is essentially gelatin and carries all the benefits of gelatin, however it is processed in a way that it dissolve into hot and cold liquids without gelling and is more quickly absorbed by the body.
According to Catherine Crow, who interviewed Bob Busscher, the president of Great Lakes, this processing starts by separating the collagen from grass-fed beef hides. Then, the liquid is evaporated from the collagen it is hydrolyzed. During this hydrolyzing step, it is stored at a higher temperature to “reduce the molecular weight cleaving the amino acid bonds.” Finally, it is dried into a powder.
To my knowledge, Great Lakes carries the only grass-fed collagen hydrolysateand this is the only collagen supplement that I take. Remember, Great Lakes green can = grassfed collagen hydrolysate, found here, and Great Lakes red can = grassfed gelatin, found here (Great Lakes also carries a pork gelatin here in a red can).
Collagen hydrolysate vs. gelatin
Collagen hydrolysate and gelatin both start from the same ingredient: collagen from beef (or pork, for the non-kosher gelatin option) hides. As a result, these two products share the same amino acid profiles. The primary difference is that collagen hydrolysate is more easily assimilable due to the hydrolyzing step and it does not gel. On the other hand, gelatin can be used to make jello and puddings.
When I use the term “gelatin” and “collagen hydrolysate,” remember that these are basically interchangeable in regards to the health properties.
Collagen hydrolysate and gelatin help balance hormones
Of the amino acids in collagen hydrolysate and gelatin, 35% is glycine and 21% is proline and hydroproline. Also important, collagen hydrolysate/gelatin completely lacks the amino acid tryptophan. The high percentage of glycine and proline, as well as the lack of tryptophan, help balance the ingestion of large amounts of tryptophan and cysteine present in muscle meats. The equilibrium of amino acids play a large role in metabolic rate, thyroid function and hormone production.
Dr. Ray Peat, a hormonal researcher in the field of nutrition and metabolism, describes why muscle meats when consumed without gelatin can increase stress hormones and decrease thyroid hormones
Gelatin is a protein which contains no tryptophan, and only small amounts of cysteine, methionine, and histidine. Using gelatin as a major dietary protein is an easy way to restrict the amino acids that are associated with many of the problems of aging.[…]
When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.
[…]If a person eats a large serving of meat, it’s probably helpful to have 5 or 10 grams of gelatin at approximately the same time, so that the amino acids enter the blood stream in balance. (Read more)
Note: a level tablespoon of collagen hydrolysate provides 7 grams of gelatin.
The point here, of course, is that amino acids consumed out of balance are not conducive to health. Does that make tryptophan bad? No. Does is make serotonin bad? Nope. Does it make cortisol bad? No again. The trouble arises when these elements are out of proportions.
By helping to balance the tryptophan, gelatin supports healthy thyroid function and reduces the metabolic stress of increased cortisol. Thyroid and metabolism go hand-in-hand, so gelatin may actually increase metabolism by improving thyroid function.
Ray Peat also explains the anti-stress properties of the glycine found in gelatin:
A generous supply of glycine/gelatin, against a balanced background of amino acids, has a great variety of antistress actions. Glycine is recognized as an “inhibitory” neurotransmitter, and promotes natural sleep. Used as a supplement, it has helped to promote recovery from strokes and seizures, and to improve learning and memory. But in every type of cell, it apparently has the same kind of quieting, protective antistress action. (Read more)
Improve digestion with gelatin and collagen hydrolysate
Dr. Pottenger, another researcher who offered extremely valuable research in the field of nutrition, praised bone broth because it provides a source of hydrophilic colloids in the form of gelatin. Raw foods tend to be hydrophilic – water-loving – and blend with digestive juices for efficient digestion.
Cooking food, however, often creates hydrophobic colloids and can repel digestive juice in the stomach. Because collagen hydrolysate/gelatin remains hydrophilic even when heated, it aids digestion of cooked food.
Further, the glycine in gelatin stimulates stomach acid production and thereby improves digestion and nutrient assimilation. Low stomach acid is a chronic problem that leads to a cascade of symptoms in the entire body, so increasing stomach acid often alleviates a host of issues. (Source – Weston Price Foundation’s Broth is Beautiful article)
Because poor digestion underlies all hormonal imbalances, improving stomach acidify and nutrient assimilation supports the roots of hormone balance.
How to take collagen hydrolysate and gelatin
Ideally, consume a source of gelatin with each meal. This could be a cup of homemade bone broth, some homemade jello bites or a tablespoon of collagen hydrolysate stirred into a smoothie or beverage.
Great Lakes recommends taking two heaping tablespoons of collagen hydrolysate per day. I take 1 tablespoon in my morning smoothie and 1 tablespoon before bed. Because it is pure protein, I believe it should be balanced with carbohydrate and fat when you consume it. For my bedtime routine, I enjoy a tablespoon of collagen hydrolysate mixed into warm coconut milk (1/3 cup) sweetened with honey and a pinch of nutmeg. Delicious!