Collagen ~ Supporting synthesis through diet

Collagen ~ Supporting synthesis through diet

By Jacqui Gaibor

Collagen ~ Supporting synthesis through diet

Working in the field of allied health for the past 20 years, I have seen the rise and fall in popularity of many supplements and fad diets. Collagen is definitely having a moment right now and if you believe the hype, fear of looking like a haggard old prune will have you rushing to get hold of this ‘Elixer of Youth’. Collagen supplementation in 2021 is starting to look a lot like glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation in 2001. Back then, everyone over 40 was taking this supplement in an attempt to stave off arthritis and joint pain.  As a clinical nutritionist with a focus on optimising dietary intake through whole foods over supplements, lets breakdown collagen and look at the alternative options to  support collagen synthesis.

What is collagen anyway?

Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in the body and is a component of connective tissue, cartilage and membranes. Approximately a third of our total protein weight is collagen. There are approximately 28 types of collagen identified. The key amino acids that make up collagen are glycine (33%), proline and hydroxyproline, derived from lysine (22%). Functionally, collagen supports tissue and ligament strength, improves skin elasticity and plays a role in tissue development. Unfortunately, as we age our body produces less collagen and of a lower quality.

What are Collagen supplements?

There are literally thousands of different collagen supplements on the market. Ingredient wise, the three most common forms are hydrolyzed collagen, gelatin or raw. Collagen supplements are typically sourced from by-products of the agriculture industry ~ chicken, cow, fish or pig parts, particularly skin, scales and bone.

How does collagen supplementation work?

When you ingest a collagen supplement, the product is broken down during digestion into individual amino acids which are then absorbed by your body to support tissue structure and repair. Consequently, it could be suggested that any protein supplement, whether it be whey protein, soy protein or pea protein, would contain the amino acids found in a collagen supplement, in addition to a wider range of amino acids to support tissue repair.

What about food sources to support collagen synthesis?

As collagen is composed of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline (which is derived from lysine), to enhance and support collagen synthesis, it makes sense to include foods high in these amino acids regularly into your diet. In addition, we need vitamin C, copper, zinc and manganese to support collagen synthesis.

Where do I find these?

Proline – Most protein sources, egg whites, wheat germ, beans, fish, pork, soy bean, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus.

Glycine – Most protein sources, beans, brewer’s yeast, eggs, nuts.

Lysine – Most protein sources, chicken, dairy products, fish, legumes, lentils, oat flakes, soy bean.

Vitamin C – Citrus, red pepper, pineapple, rosehips, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, blackcurrant, broccoli, parsley.

Copper – Wholegrain cereals, chocolate, almonds, beans, broccoli, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, wholegrain cereals

Manganese – Almonds, avocadoes, beans, broccoli, carrots, coconut, kelp, legumes, oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wholegrains

Zinc – Egg yolks, tempeh, oysters, yeast, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, beef.


If you are following a vegan diet and consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods including fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds, then your diet will be providing you with those amino acids and micro-nutrients. If you feel your dietary intake is inadequate, look for a good quality vegan protein supplement to support your nutritional intake of key amino acids. For vegetarians who consume some dairy, eggs or fish/shellfish, the key essential amino acids and micro-nutrients necessary to support collagen production will be available from your diet.

Just as importantly, keep the diet healthy and watch excessive sugar consumption which has been shown to lead to x-linking of collagen fibres resulting in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) – basically rendering the collagen fibres incapable of repair. In conclusion, this article has highlighted some of the alternative options available to support collagen synthesis through whole food nutrition over supplementation.


By Jacqui Gaibor

DBM, DNutr, BMedSc, GradDipNutr, MChir.



References used to compile this information

Leon-Lopez A, Morales-Penaloza A, et al. Hydrolyzed Collagen – Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019;24(22):4031.doi:10.3390/molecules24224031

Osiecki H. The Nutrient Bible, 9th Ed. AG Publishing, QLD, Australia.

Paul C, Leser S, Oesser S. Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1079. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.3390/nu11051079F.

William Danby, Rogerson D. Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:36. Published 2017 Sep 13. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9F.

William Danby, Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation,Clin in Derm,Volume 28, Issue 4,2010,Pages 409-411,ISSN 0738-081X,