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Here’s What You Need to Know About Vegan Collagen
By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
You've probably heard the buzz around collagen supplements and your skin by now. But is the hype really that promising? After all, research has pointed to both the benefits and downsides of collagen supplements — and for many beauty-conscious folk, collagen isn't vegan.
That's because collagen, a protein found mostly in hair, skin, nails, bones and ligaments, comes mostly from animal sources, such as beef or fish.
But science has discovered a way to make vegan collagen. We're here to answer exactly how that works and how it competes.
How Can Collagen Be Vegan?
Instead of being sourced from animals, collagen can now be made by using genetically modified yeast and bacteria.
Researchers have found that the bacteria P. pastoris, in particular, is the most effective and commonly used for genetically engineering high-quality collagen.
To produce collagen, four human genes that code for collagen are added to the genetic structure of the microbes. Once the genes are in place, the yeast or bacteria then start to produce building blocks of human collagen.
Pepsin, a digestive enzyme, is added to help structure the building blocks into collagen molecules with the exact structure of human collagen.
Once this process is complete, you have yourself vegan collagen!
Benefits of Vegan Collagen
The ability to make inexpensive, safe collagen sourced from microbes instead of animals has many promising applications for human health.
1. Potential Lower Cost for Consumers
Using yeast or bacteria to produce collagen is cost effective and highly scalable in a lab environment. While it hasn't rolled out as a mass-produced product yet, this has potential to lower the cost of collagen for all consumers and make it widely available for various uses from medical treatments to supplements.
2. Lower Risk of Allergies
While the biggest benefit is that no animals are harmed, there are other pros to vegan collagen, especially for folks who may have allergies.
For example, there's some concern over the risk of transmission of illness through animal-sourced collagen. Collagen via microbes would eliminate this potential issue because it's produced in a controlled environment where common allergens or other harmful substances can be removed.
3. Higher Safety Profile for Products
The lab-controlled setting gives manufacturers the ability to improve the safety profile. If the source is easily traceable, it makes it a safer product for all consumers.
4. More and Cheaper Availability for Medical Procedures
There are many potential medical benefits to this technology, as collagen is used for much more than just dietary supplements.
The ability to genetically engineer collagen safely and effectively may be beneficial for many medical procedures. Collagen is commonly used:
- in dermatology for sutures
- to stimulate skin and tissue growth
- to promote wound healing
It can also serve as a vehicle for drug delivery, or for certain tumor treatments.
5. Beauty Benefits for Vegans
The majority of collagen supplements on the market are animal-based, which means people who live an environmentally-friendly or vegan-friendly lifestyle can't access these products.
With vegan options available, they can now take collagen to potentially help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stimulate their body to produce more collagen naturally as well as support joint and digestive health.
But, science is still building around these products and applications, so at this time, most of the promises around supplements can still be considered hype.
If Vegan Collagen Isn’t Easily Accessible, You Can Turn to These Alternatives
Currently, actual vegan collagen is hard to come by. Most companies sell "collagen boosters" as supplements.
These boosters contain various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc that the body needs to make collagen.
Some may also include plant extracts and herbs that are also found to help stimulate collagen production.
You can add these vitamins and minerals through your diet, instead of a supplement, to help you meet your amino acids needs. The most abundant amino acids in collagen are glycine, lysine, and proline.
Plant-based foods high in all three amino acids include:
- soy products: tempeh, tofu, and soy protein
- black beans
- kidney beans
- many other legumes
- seeds: especially pumpkin, squash, sunflower, and chia
- nuts: pistachio, peanut, and cashew
Another way to get the benefits of collagen as a vegan is to take individual amino acid supplements. These are what many vegan-friendly companies sell instead of pure collagen supplements.
Vegan Collagen Options
- myKind Organics Plant Collagen Builder by Garden of Life, includes: biotin, silica, antioxidants, and several vitamins and minerals. Price: $27.19
- Reserveage Vegan Plant-based Collagen Builder, includes: vitamin C, amino acids, and white tea extract. Price: $39.99
- Genius Liquid Collagen by Algenist, face cream that contains vegan collagen and microalgae. Price; $115
True vegan collagen is still a ways coming, but like the Impossible burger, we have a feeling it's going to roll out in stores near us, faster than we think.
Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo, LDN, RD.Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Sierra Searcy
This week, progressive Democrats and youth advocates are launching a nationwide tour to win support for the Green New Deal. Though popular, the ambitious plan to tackle climate change has struggled to earn the endorsement of centrist Democrats in Rust Belt states like Michigan, the second stop on the tour.
Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd. The official theme of Earth Day 2019 is 'Protect Our Species.' In honor of Earth Day, EcoWatch has kicked off a second photo contest. Show us what 'Protect Our Species' means to you. Maybe there's a tree you've always loved, or perhaps it's a photo of the bird you adore that always visits your yard. We're excited to see what species means a lot to you. Capture a moment and send it our way!
It's heartening, in the midst of the human-caused sixth mass extinction, to find good wildlife recovery news. As plant and animal species disappear faster than they have for millions of years, Russia's Siberian, or Amur, tigers are making a comeback. After falling to a low of just a few dozen in the mid-20th century, the tigers now number around 500, with close to 100 cubs — thanks to conservation measures that include habitat restoration and an illegal hunting crackdown.
By Jordan Davidson
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By Jeremy Lent
Facing oncoming climate disaster, some argue for "Deep Adaptation" — that we must prepare for inevitable collapse. However, this orientation is dangerously flawed. It threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy by diluting the efforts toward positive change. What we really need right now is Deep Transformation. There is still time to act: we must acknowledge this moral imperative.
By Julia Conley
The equipment was towed across millions of miles of ocean for six decades by marine scientists, meant to collect plankton — but its journeys have also given researchers a treasure trove of data on plastic pollution.
The continuous plankton reporter (CPR) was first deployed in 1931 to analyze the presence of plankton near the surface of the world's oceans. In recent decades, however, its travels have increasingly been disrupted by entanglements with plastic, according to a study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday.