The Holiday Food Shaming Begins

The Holiday Food Shaming Begins

This is a cross-post from my Medium blog. It references a post that I published to this website 3.5 years ago.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of words such as “guilt” as a way to describe a feeling toward food and eating.

Guilt is a negative word. Guilt is controllable.

Food companies use that word to sell their “healthy” alternatives. Fitness companies use it to coax people to hand their money over for “weight loss solutions”. Individuals use it as a judgment about what they eat — as if adult humans are not responsible for feeding themselves and don’t have a choice about what they consume.

It happens year-round, of course, but is most intense during “the holiday season”.

Four days ago I tweeted this:

Six days before Canadian Thanksgiving and I’ve seen the word “guilt” in a relevant newsletter headline. This kicks off my seasonal rage towards manipulating people by telling them that they should feel “guilty” about what they put in their face.

You shouldn’t feel guilty. Really, you shouldn’t.

Advertisers are brainwashers

This isn’t new information: Marketing is manipulation that begins months before the new year.
(No, you’re not fat.)

I believe that good ol’ marketing is behind people thinking that they’ve gained weight over the holidays. Headlines in magazines and blogs such as “How to avoid gaining weight over the holidays”, “10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain”, “How to Beat the Holiday Weight Gain Odds” and “Weight-Loss Solutions for the New Year” prevail. Marketers imply that you’re fat — preying on common insecurities — so that they can sell weight loss solutions. And maybe you are overweight and perhaps experiencing health issues as a result, but if you are, most of those solutions aren’t for you anyway. Those so-called solutions address the weight rather than overall health. I’m not a professional, but I’m willing to bet that you didn’t go from skinny to obese in a matter of weeks.

There’s some cross-border pollination here in a bad way.

bodyweight scale

Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash

Clarifying “The holidays”

Simply put, if you live in the U.S. “the holidays” are six weeks.

For Americans, “the holidays” begin at Thanksgiving in November. An article on the Forbes website published on November 25, 2013, called 7 Ways To Curb Weight Gain Over The Holidays, refers to a statistic that the average weight gain over the holidays — the American holidays — is 7–10 pounds.

The Forbes article links to a study report called, “Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?” that defined as the 6-week winter period from Thanksgiving through New Year that that concluded that for most people, holiday weight gain is a myth.

That study said that “weight gain was greater among individuals who were overweight or obese” and that the average amount of weight gained was only 5 lbs.

The Forbes writer, possibly spinning the data to align with her headline, states:

According to the Calorie Control Council, the true average weight gain is 1 to 3 pounds, which doesn’t sound like that much until you realize that we’re talking about a four-week period, which means many people are packing on almost a pound a week.

No, 1–3 pounds is not a lot, and it’s a six-week period, so it’s not “ almost a pound a week.” The writer is feeding into the holiday weight gain narrative.

Here in Canada, people see U.S. advertising, and it gets to them too. But Canadian advertisers also want their audience to believe in holiday weight gain.

I don’t believe that people gain the weight they claim to over the holidays — whether six weeks or 1. I’m not calling people liars, but I strongly suspect that people falsely perceive that weight gain because of the classic Christmas tale:

Snow falls gently, Christmas carollers sing songs — written by Jews — about Baby Jesus in a manger, sleigh bells ring out, the Three Wisemen are remembered, and God’s children stuff themselves into dangerous weight gain.


It’s presented as a cautionary tale with advice about how to avoid it. And geez, if everyone’s talking about it, it must be a thing.

I don’t believe that it’s possible to gain a significant amount of weight in a matter of days. You might acquire a few pounds or a pants size, but your body isn’t transforming radically. Holiday weight gain is not an epidemic.

I believe that some people stress eat in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which can contribute to real weight gain. Holiday parties increase calorie intake, no doubt. Real weight gain. There’s less time for exercise and people are generally less active when the weather gets colder anyway. Given the 6-week holiday season in the U.S., I believe that over those weeks, yes, it’s possible to gain weight. But, a significant amount?

Photo by Miron Cristina on Unsplash

Weight vs. bloat

Here’s another thought: When you’re bloated, it might feel like you’ve gained weight, and it might look like it. It’s the holiday-centric version of what some people call the “food baby”. You’re eating lots of salt. You might be eating foods that you only eat one time of year, and that confuses your body. You’re eating combining foods that you don’t usually eat together, and snarfing it quickly. However, bloat doesn’t always come with extra weight. They’re two different things. So, if you think that you’ve gained weight around your mid-section, consider that it might not be weight at all. Those pants that felt tight last night might fit fine today.

People carry extra water from what they eat and drink, from stress, from travel, and more.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Fabricating the problem to sell the solution

All that said, please, marketers, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT THE HOLIDAYS ARE MAKING THEM FAT SO THAT YOU CAN SELL THEM “SOLUTIONS”!

Creating problems to make solutions is what marketing is about. Some ailments are “discovered” to sell drugs, gadgets are invented to fill needs you didn’t know you had, and you’re told that you’ve gained weight so that you can be sold on weight loss. Your pants might feel a little snugger when you’ve been brainwashed like that. Or maybe you’re bloated.

I understand having something to sell and wanting to capitalize on the best time of year, but the whole January thing is out of hand. Health and wellness should be a year-round endeavour. Don’t try to sell me your bullshit e-book. “10 top weight loss tips to survive your new year’s resolution”? Give me a break.

— Everything in this post from “Advertisers are brainwashers” through the last section was copied from a piece that I published on my wellness blog on January 1, 2016, with only some minor edits but here’s where my rant continues:

As I said, I received an email with “guilt” in the headline four days ago.

It’s your choice

Then, in my Instagram feed today, I saw an image with a customer testimonial for a company that makes freeze-dried okra. I don’t want to name the company or product here (the product is one of my new favourite finds), but I do want to share the contents of the post. The testimonial went like this:

I’m always a fan of snacks I don’t have to feel guilty about. Bonus points for [product name] for having a satisfying crunch.

I say all the time that it’s your decision whether or not to put something in your mouth.

As my usual rant goes, “If you think that something that you’re about to eat or drink will make you feel guilty, either don’t put it in your face or do it, enjoy it and shut the fuck up.”

This stock photo that I found while typing up this post says it nicely:

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Stop the shame.

People — especially women — food shame themselves because they internalize messages that say we should. People feel guilty because they’re told they should.

Please, people, I beg you. I implore you:

STOP. FEELING. GUILTY.

STOP USING THE WORD “GUILT” CONCERNING FOOD.

STOP FOOD SHAMING YOURSELF AND OTHERS.

STOP INTERNALIZING THOSE CORPORATE MESSAGES ABOUT FOOD AND SHAME AND GUILT.

You don’t have to feel guilty about anything you eat or drink. You are not a bad person for eating something “unhealthy”. You are not less-than. You are allowed to enjoy what you enjoy — but, you know, make sure that your food and drink intake is nutritionally balanced overall. Allow yourself comfort foods. Don’t let food be the enemy. Food should not make you miserable. It should nourish your body and/or your soul.

There’s nothing wrong with you

You’re not bad or broken. A processed food system has manipulated you, but you chose to act on that manipulation. You are wired to like sugar, salt and fat, neither of which are inherently “evil”.

Howard Moskowitz, an American market researcher and psychophysicist who has worked for companies such as Dr Pepper, Cadbury Schweppes, Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft and PepsiCo, established the term “bliss point”. The bliss point is the optimal amount of salt, sugar, and fat (or richness) in a food product. (Here’s one information source.)

Our bodies evolved to crave sugar and dislike bitter. We have taste buds for sweet and salty. Consuming sugar stimulates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes us feel good.

You are not broken.

You also have free will.

Stop blaming others. Stop blaming the companies, the ads, your peers. I will repeat it:

“If you think that something that you’re about to eat or drink will make you feel guilty, either don’t put it in your face or do it, enjoy it and shut the fuck up.”

Eat what makes you happy.

The holiday season is about comfort and joy, not self-loathing and misery.

Also, wear your stretchy pants (or skirt) to a festival meal. Not doing so is a rookie mistake.


In response to my tweet about seeing the word “guilt” days before Thanksgiving, a good friend of mine responded, “I just feel guilty if there’s leftover pumpkin pie that goes to waste…”

All that I had left to say was, “ Atta girl.”.

Organika Bone Broth Powders

Organika Bone Broth Powders

If you read my last post about collagen powders, this one might interest you too.

A while back, I bought two Organika bone broth powders on a Buy 1 get 1 50% off sale. I like trying products I've never tried before and if I can't “try before I buy”, I prefer to experience products for the first time by buying them on sale. Or maybe I'd tried a sample of the bone broth powders and forgot. I bought two beef: An unflavoured beef and a ginger beef flavour.

What you're about to read is my opinion only. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Organika Beef Bone Broth Protein Powder

(It still seems strange to me in English we call the chickens we eat chicken, but cows are “beef,” and pigs are “pork.”)

Organika sources its Beef Bone Broth Protein Powder  from Swedish cows that have been pasture raised and grass-fed. (I'm imagining the Swedish chef dressed as a cow. Bork Bork Bork!)

The product naturally contains GAGs (Hyaluronic acid, Chondroitin, Glucosamine), great for joints, skin, hair and more. Organika's Beef Bone broth has tested out at 86% Collagen through their laboratory tests, and it contains all three types of collagen, but primarily types 1 & 2. This isn't exclusive to their bone broth powder. Every type of animal is unique in its nutritional makeup. Every animal has its own collagen and amino acid profile. Organika's chicken bone broth protein powder mostly has type 2, because of the makeup of chickens.

I opened the Organika Ginger Beef Bone Broth first and started blending it up every morning, replacing my morning lemon water. It became my new routine. First bone broth protein powder to hydrate, then coffee with collagen. One doesn't need more than 20 grams of collagen per day, and each serving of protein powder (of the few I've used) is 10 grams, so consuming the protein powder and the collagen powder is within range. Some doctors say up to 30 grams per day for those who need it.

While animal bones and skin – and thus broth – contain collagen, bone broth isn't the same as collagen. The most significant difference, according to Organika, is that bone broth naturally contains those GAGs.

My thoughts on the COW-derived protein powder

Honestly, while I like the company thus far, I was disappointed with Organika's Beef Bone Broth. When mixed with water, the beef broth powder gets clumpy. No one likes clumpy.

I posted about it to an Instagram story. No complaints, just a visual. (I don't complain about companies on social media because it's a shitty thing to do and I'm not a shitty person. This post isn't a complaint either, it's respectful opinion, which might be the same thing.)

organika beef bone broth

organika beef bone broth

I appreciate the response, and so quickly. I'm sure that Organika's Instagram account gets a lot of mentions.

Later, while researching and writing my post about collagen, I read more about the clumpiness of beef broth powder on Organika's website,

Here's what it says:

Note: Organika Beef Bone Broth is a 100% natural product and is high in natural collagen protein. It is also free from additives such as emulsifiers and fillers, which is why the product may not mix instantly in water. Adding hot water into the powder while mixing reduces the clumping effect and results in faster dissolution.

Furthermore, in their FAQ they say,

Q: How come your beef bone broth mixes more clumpy than your Chicken Bone Broth?

A: Solubility of the broth can be affected by the ingredients present in the product. Our beef bone broth contains 100% bone, and cartilage. We do not add carriers like guar gum or preservatives to make the powder mix better. It is a pure beef bone broth.

Bellow that first quoted part:

For Best Results:
1) Try adding the powder to the cup first, then adding hot water.
2) When clumps appear, use spoon [sic] to press it against the wall of the cup. This helps spread the broth powder out, and breaks the clumps, so more water comes into contact with it.
3) Mix until dissolves then enjoy the filler and emulsifier-free Bone Broth!

I tried all three suggestions before I read them and there's a part of me that wishes there was a filler or emulsifier. I'm all about being as natural as possible, but not to the detriment of the product. My opinion – and this is only one person's opinion so don't take it as ultimate fact – is that they could improve it. I'm not sure that a clumpy product should go to market, and that the company should have to share “for best results”.

Coincidentally, they released an IGTV (Instagram video) about it today too. The host of the video – Organika's Social Media Specialist Rhiannon, who is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist – spends what feels like a lot of time stirring and, “I've been stirring for a little bit, and as you can see, there are still a few little tiny clumps on the top as again, a little bit more love.”

Nuh uh.

I really want to accept Organika's explanations, tips and tricks, and maybe my ego and need to be right is getting in the way, but nuh uh. I don't want them spending resources on trying to convince me that the product just “needs TLC,” I want them to make a product that takes less work if it's possible to do so. Otherwise, maybe take the beef version off the shelves and only sell the chicken. My marketer brain thinks, “If they need to control the narrative by addressing people's complaints through copywriting and video, and if they need to work at addressing those negative sentiments, maybe they need to work on the actual product.”

Again, that's my opinion.

organika beef broth powder - stick blender

The stick blender is ideal for this.

A regular blender or a stick blender is the only way, IMO.

So, I went back to the store and I exchanged the second beef broth powder – the unflavoured one – for an unflavoured chicken bone broth powder. From the quoted Frequently Asked Question above, you know that it doesn't mix clumpy, or as clumpy, as the beef.

I am MUCH happier with it.

Organika Chicken Bone Broth Protein Powder

Organika chicken broth powder

Look, ma, few clumps!

From Organika's Chicken Bone Broth product page:

Your Broth, Your Way
Bone Broth Protein Powder, available in original, ginger and turmeric, is great by itself or mixed with your favourite soup, sauce, or stew. Made locally, enjoyed world-wide.

I chose unflavoured so that I can add my own flavours. It's the same reason I buy unflavoured or vanilla protein powders.

I HAVE added ginger. In fact:
organika chicken bone broth protein powder

My cold was mild and lasted three days. Was it the broth that healed me? Maybe. A few years ago, on my old blog, I wrote a series that explained with healing properties of soup, with scientific studies to back it up.

While Organika's Beef Bone broth has tested out at 86% Collagen through their laboratory tests, the chicken version has even more collagen. Lab tests say that the chicken bone broth powder is 92% collagen.

I'm taking both varieties, but not on the same day. I choose intuitively and based on what I need that day – such as the days I had a cold. Some days I feel I need more collagen after a workout. Some days I choose by flavour. Although Organika's website states that the chicken broth powder has a neutral taste, I think it tastes chickeny in a good way. I'm a dark meat girl and prefer the gristly ends of bone, skin and fat over the light meat.

Will I rebuy these products?

Maybe. After I finish both containers, I might purchase the chicken powder again. However, I have the same functional issue with the bone broth powders as I did with the collagen powder. It lacks one of these:

measuring scoop

Clumpy beef, no scoop. Sorry, Organika. I love your social media response rate, and I'll keep trying your new products, but I won't love them all.

Other Organika products

Although I did just replace my finished bottle of Organika®’s Enhanced Collagen MCT Creamer with the Marine Collagen from Sproos as I said I would (I happened to be in a store that had Sproos products the day I ran out of collagen powder), I'm really looking forward to trying Organika®s newly released Full Spectrum Collagen. It contains types 1, 2 and 3 collagen from marine and bovine (codfish and cow) sources. Its ingredients are hydrolyzed bovine collagen, hydrolyzed fish collagen, Chicken bone broth. Read more about it here.

I'll keep trying their products. I'll like some but not others, and that's okay.

organika bone broth powders powder

The Old Collagen Try

The Old Collagen Try

This post is Part 2 of a two-parter.

As I said in my previous post, I’ve been taking collagen as a supplement for many years.

It is one supplement that hasn't ended up in my “supplement graveyard.” I did take a break for a few years as habits came and went, but I’ve been pretty consistent for several months now, especially since my morning ritual includes making coffee and pouring it for my partner and me.

I keep his simple with some sugar-free flavour syrup and 35% cream. My condiments of choice make my first cup kind of fancy:

There’s always 35% cream in that first cup along with a collagen powder and whatever sweetener I feel like having that day. Sometimes I choose a sugar-free flavour syrup, which is the only time I’ll ever ingest sucralose, aka Splenda. Other days I prefer a granulated non-sugar sweetener, specifically an erythritol-monkfruit blend that I buy at Bulk Barn.

Additional ingredients depending on what I feel like that day: Cacao powder, cinnamon, MCT oil, vanilla extract.

Always collagen, and mixed with a milk frother (previously I used a stick blender, and before that, a Vitamix – my appliances keep getting smaller).

Coffee + yoga schedule

This was my coffee on January 15.

I like how collagen helps coffee froth, even when I don’t use cream, and I like how collagen supplementation makes me feel. Some of the positive effects might be all in my head, but I do see some physical benefits. Consuming collagen might contribute to my overall health, including keeping my nails strong and my hair not grey, it might be holding symptoms of depression at bay, and consuming collagen daily might be one of the reasons that I look younger than my age.

When I began taking collagen, the choice was limited. Most people, including myself, used the Great Lakes brand, available sourced from pig or cow. I had to buy it online. Now, there are so many brands and each brand has several varieties and lines. The iHerb website lists 222 products in their collagen category. Amazon's got over 1,000 results under the search term, “collagen“.

I can't say that I've tried collagen from every company but I've tried a few. Perhaps as I try more, I'll post about those too.

Some companies have several lines of collagen products. In addition to collagen peptides (the basic collagen powder), many companies now make collagen creamer with MCT oil powder (for coffee) and collagen shots, in addition to other products to get ahead in the market.

Collagen creamer is a product I’ve been seeing more of recently.

Today, before blending & frothing.

Sproos Collagen

Several months ago the PR company that represents Sproos sent me a full-size (300g) container of Sproos Grass-Fed Collagen along with sample sizes of some of their other products – sizes small enough to taste but not assess the efficiency or quality of.

Sproos Collagen package

This

I used that container, and then bought a container of Organika Enhanced Collagen (original)

Both are sourced from cows.

It seems a bit odd to compare the two now, as I’d originally intended, but I’ve already committed.

Here’s a quick overview:

Sproos’s website describes their product as,

Hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides sourced from the hides of grass-fed, pasture-raised North American cattle, to help restore and rebuild your body’s natural collagen.

Organika’s website also describes their product as coming from grass-fed cows (they don’t say which part of the cow) and mentions that it’s free from antibiotics, hormones and GMOs. Both mention the benefits of their product of course, but my last post addressed the benefits.

  • Both Sproos Grass-Fed Collagen and Organika Enhanced Collagen are, as I said, sourced from cows
  • Both suggest a 10-gram serving size.
  • They both have the same nutritional profile, with the same amino acids. Sproos’s label lists the amino acids profile in milligrams per serving, while Organika’s goes by percentage per serving. I can’t do an exact comparison, but they appear comparable, having less or more of each amino acid. This is because they both use bovine-derived collagen and only that, so there’s no reason for the amounts per serving to deviate.
  • They both have a neutral taste.
  • Both Sproos and Organika are Canadian companies, which I’m happy and rather support because of the current economic and political climates. Sproos is headquartered in Whistler, BC and Organika is based in Richmond, BC.

If I have to list distinguishing features (because I’m comparing):

Package:

I like Sproos’s package design a bit better, which has nothing to do with the product or its quality.

Size and price:

  • Sproos has 30 servings per 300-gram container. The price is listed as $34.99 on their website. (They also offer boxes of individually packed servings.)
  • I bought the 250-gram (25 serving) container of the Organika product. They also offer 150-gram and 500-gram containers. Their website links to their Amazon store, which sells the 25 serving container for $29.99
  • Comparing these Sproos and Organika products, the price difference is negligible, with $1.17/serving for Sproos and $1.19/serving for Organika.

My preference

Given what I said above, you’d think that I don’t have a preference between the two. I do, though, and it comes down to one aspect of user experience.

I’d tease it, but your eyes have already caught what’s below, so the reason why I prefer Sproos’s collagen product over Organika’s is clear:

measuring scoop

The measuring scoop.

It's a small thing but it makes a significant difference for me.

User. Experience.

I could – and do – measure out two Tablespoons but I’d rather keep a scoop in the container and keep my measuring spoon clean for other uses, such as making single-serve keto-friendly chocolate cakes.

The same goes for other Organika products that I've bought, which I might address in another post: A scoop would be a benefit to using the products. Not that the lack of scoop is a barrier, but it helps.

My next purchases

I now have a strategy for my next collagen purchases, based on what I learned from my research and this measurement preference:

My next container of collagen will be Sproos Marine Collagen, which is also 10 grams of collagen per serving but made from fish skin. (Organika’s fish-sourced collagen comes from freshwater cod, with 9 grams of collagen per serving.)

Sproos also sent me single-serving samples of two of their three Enhanced Collagen beverage crystals, which address gut, skin & hair and joints, respectively. I’d like to try the third.

Subsequently, I look forward to trying Organika’s Full Spectrum because there are several types of collagen and I feel that our bodies might need all of them, but I’ll keep the scoop from the Sproos jar. The Full Spectrum product hasn’t yet been released, but I discovered it on their website.

Although they’re one of my favourite companies in this industry and are Toronto-based like me, I haven’t yet tried the collagen from Genuine Health. Their bovine-derived collagen seems comparable to the others. Their marine collagen contains 10g per serving and is sourced from from “wild caught fish” (skin).

I think that when/if I buy bovine collagen again, I’ll go with whichever of the three is on sale as long as I've kept a measuring scoop.

I’ll keep you posted.

Collagen For Health

supplements-collagen-health

Do you use collagen as a supplement? I do. It's one supplement that hasn't ended up in my “supplement graveyard”. I've been taking it for several years.

A year ago, WebMD stated that Americans are expected to spend $122 million on collagen products in 2018.

Indeed, collagen has gained popularity, in part with the alternative medicine crowd, the functional medicine doctors, the Bulletproof followers who add collagen to their coffee, which is the way I was introduced to the concept (as Dave Asprey “biohacks” his way to… whatever his health goal is).

This post was supposed to be a review of two collagen supplements that I've recently used, but as the introduction got longer, I realized that the opening was a post of its own. The review follows (also linked at the bottom of this post).

Are you blindly following the trends?

I couldn't talk about collagen products without talking about what collagen and collagen peptides are and why everyone needs a healthy amount of collagen in their body. My decision to provide that background wasn't because I'm writing for search engines (though part way through I realized that I was reflexively doing so because I've been a content writer for two decades), it's because you might need that information.

I believe that if you add or remove nutrients from your diet, you should know about those nutrients, their function, and their potential effect on your body. One of my pet peeves is people who cut gluten from their diet but don't know what gluten is. Many people don't know what a “calorie” is but associate it negatively and so assume that calories are bad when they're neither good nor bad.

Whether you're adding or removing “carbs” (carbohydrates), increasing or decreasing your fat intake or adding zinc or any other mineral, you should know why. All of these actions are part of a health strategy.

Goal + Action  = Result*
(*or lack of result, which means that the plan needs to change.)

Examples:

“I want to [lose 10 lbs/have more energy/have more focus/have clearer skin] so I will [eat more fish/consume protein powder/drink more water/cut out sugar]”. You can also state HOW you'll do it.

If you don't know why you're changing your intake, don't do it. “Because someone told me I should” or because “it's worked for other people” are not a good enough reasons, IMO, although the latter is a step in the right direction. If it's worked for a lot of other people, find out what.

Trying different things to see what makes you feel better is valid. “Feeling better” is a legitimate goal.

It reminds me that for years I told my mother that if she wants her business to be on particular social media channels, she needs to have a reason other than, “I heard I should.”

Few “shoulds” are universal, and it's dangerous to follow advice blindly.

So, that's my introduction to what initially began as an introduction to something else and took an entire day to write Let's move on.

collagen health molecule

Tropocollagen molecule

What Is Collagen?

We are all made from collagen. Collagen is us. Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals and is the main structural protein in the space outside of the cells in the various connective tissues in the body. These connective tissues and body parts include tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles.

The word collagen itself originated in 1843, from French collagène, from Latinized form of Greek kolla “glue” + –gen “giving birth to”.

It makes sense, then, that collagen is often described collagen as, “the glue that holds the body together.”

There are over 15 types of collagen in the body, but most of the collagen in our body consists of three types, with Type 1 being the most abundant. It would be too much for me to explain all the types right now, but here's an explanation of the most abundant types of collagen in the body.

How Collagen is Made

Collagen is made up of around 20 long chains of linked amino acids.

Arginine

Alanine

Aspartic acid

Glutamic acid

Glycine

Histidine

Hydroxylysine

Hydroxyproline

Isoleucine

Leucine

Lysine

Proline

Serine

Threonine

Tyrosine

Different cells in our body tissues are responsible for the production of collagen. Cells use specific amino acids and peptides – little proteins – to form collagen.

Collagen peptides – aka hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate – contain the same set of amino acids and nutrients as collagen but have undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down into shorter chains of proteins.

Collagen powder, then, naturally contain those amino acids.

8+ Benefits of Collagen

layers of skin diagram for collagen health

Your epidermis is showing!

1. “Anti-aging”: Collagen For Skin Health

As you may have gathered from ads for anti-ageing products, collagen plays an important part in skin health. In the 1980s it became a popular skincare product additive and injectable filler to plump lips and soften lines. Collagen makes up about 75% of the dry weight of your skin, providing that which keeps skin looking plump and helps delay those lines we call “wrinkles” or reduce their appearance.

Note that I've chosen my words carefully here based on summarizing and rewording my research in addition to the knowledge already in my memory. The term “anti-ageing” bothers me. We all age, and we all WILL wrinkle. What we put in our body and on our skin can help improve our skin's health and appearance but don't expect to look 30 forever.

As you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles. Skin dryness can make wrinkles look more pronounced, hence those “before and after moisturizer” photos. Collagen supplements stimulate your body to produce more collagen. Several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help reduce wrinkles and dryness. Collagen contributes to the elasticity and strength of your skin.

I want to add that several factors result in individuals looking physically older or younger. This includes health (illness can age a person), race (you know how Asians and blacks seem to go from youthful-looking to “old”, which I probably wouldn't mention race if Shonda Rhimes hadn't acknowledged it in her book), physical fitness, diet (vegans often lack collagen), stress levels, and genetics (that's my family).

2. Collagen For Hair Health

Healthy hair, collagen health

Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash (Not my hair.)

There are 11 nonessential amino acids that your body can make and nine essential ones that you need to obtain from your diet. Collagen is primarily made up of 3 nonessential amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline

Hair is mostly made up of the protein keratin. Proline is also the main component of keratin.  So, consuming amino acid proline can help maintain hair health.

The anti-aging connection between collagen and hair

Because collagen contributes to the elasticity and strength of your skin and the body produces less collagen over time, a lack of collagen can be a contributing cause of thinning of hair. A lot of older women experience thinning hair.  (Men too, but thin hair and baldness are also tied to testosterone.)

Collagen has antioxidant properties, which fight cell damage and slow graying. According to a study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, free radical damage to the cells that produce hair colour may also play a role in greying hair.

Amelanotic melanocytes at the outer root sheath (ORS) are somewhat less affected by these processes and survive for longer time [sic] even within the white, ageing hair follicles.

This statement suggests that the hair at the root might not be grey or white and that there's something going on at skin level.

How do we assess how old people look? Wrinkles and grey hair.

3. Collagen For Nail Health

Taking collagen could increase the strength of your nails. Brittle nail syndrome is a common problem among women and refers to nails that exhibit surface roughness and peeling. In a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, bioactive collagen peptides treatment promoted an increase of 12% nail growth rate and a decrease of 42% in the frequency of broken nails.

Additionally, 64% of participants achieved a global clinical improvement in brittle nails, and 88% of participants experienced an improvement four weeks post-treatment.

heart, bones, collagen health

4. Collagen for Joint Health

Studies have shown collagen supplements to help with arthritis pain and sports-related joint pain. Not an athlete? You might still benefit. Because the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you age, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases as you get older.

Chicken-sourced collagen is best of joint health.

5. Collagen and Bone Health

90% of bone matrix proteins consist of collagen. As mentioned above, decreased collagen in the body can lead to osteoarthritis. It can also contribute to osteoporosis. A German study reported that supplementing with 5 g of collagen peptides significantly increased bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and the femoral neck, in postmenopausal women with age-related decline in bone mineral density.

Bone density would also affect athletic performance.

6. Collagen and Your Heart

Collagen affects cardiovascular health in several ways.

Collagen provides structure to your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Collagen has been linked to the preventing arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Arteriosclerosis can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The amino acid proline may help to obliterate fat deposits in the arteries and repair tissue within the arteries.

It reduces arterial stiffness, which is a marker of cardiovascular disease and provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.

Collagen has also been shown to help control blood pressure.

leaky gut, collagen health

7. Collagen and Gut Health

When you have a leaky gut, toxins, food particles, and infections can pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream, causing inflammation, and over time this chronic inflammation can lead to autoimmunity.  The gut houses nearly 60-80% of your immune system. Inflammation is an immune response.

Collagen has the potential to heal your gut. Here's where I think that the form of collagen matters. I suspect that a soup made from bones would be more beneficial than a collagen supplement because bones have so many gut healing properties. On my old website, I had a blog series about the healing properties of soup, and I discussed that chicken soup is scientifically proven to help a cold. (I also discussed ramen and pho.)

8. Collagen and the Brain

A  lot of this information is new to me, but by now I've figured out that if collagen fights inflammation, it must be beneficial for the brain. Inflammation in the brain causes all sorts of symptoms, including those related to ADHD, depression, Alzheimer's and dementia.

According to Science Daily (thank you, validation), Scientists have discovered that a particular type of collagen protects brain cells against amyloid-beta proteins, which are widely thought to cause Alzheimer's disease.

While the functions of collagens in cartilage and muscle are well established, before this study it was unknown that collagen VI is made by neurons in the brain and that it can fulfill important neuroprotective functions.

I love the idea that collagen can be neuroprotective.

Other Benefits of Collagen

Collagen is a major component of muscle tissue. At least one study has shown that taking collagen while strength training can increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass. The evidence is lacking, but given collagen's other benefits, it can't hurt.

Glycine can help liver detoxification. I think that “detoxing” is oversimplified and an exercise that's often used incorrectly and unnecessarily. Not everyone needs liver detoxification – and detoxification is a multi-stage process. If you're already supporting your liver in ways that include ensuring adequate glycine, you're ahead.

Some preliminary studies suggest an anti-fatigue effect.

Downsides to collagen

If you tend to have low serotonin, take note:

I've only seen reference to this in one place, in a newsletter that I received last June. According to Trudy Scott, collagen can cause anxiety and disturb mood disorders. The solution, she says, isn't to stop taking collagen with all of its amazing benefits, but to add the amino acid tryptophan – the one that people claim is responsible for your post-turkey coma (the tiredness is probably because you overate, not because of the tryptophan).

Sources of collagen

There are four primary sources of collagen, all animal based. They all have amino acids but don't have the same amounts of each amino acid.

  1. Chicken collagen
  2. Bovine (cow) collagen
  3. Porcine (pig) collagen
  4. Fish collagen, aka marine collagen – the most bioavailable source.

There's also eggshell membrane collagen.

While there are no vegetarian or vegan sources of collagen, nutrients such as vitamin C can increase the bioavailability of collagen and can help support natural collagen production. It's not the same thing, but it's one of the compromises that one can choose to make.

In the past, I've had bovine and porcine collagen and think I'll try marine collagen next.

That's the end of this part. Studies linked below:

Read Part 2
An Ode to Bagels

An Ode to Bagels

Oh, grain-free bagels. Where have you been my whole life? These photos show what I ate after work last night:

I've been eating a diet high in fat and low in sugar and refined carbs for the better part of two decades. It helps relieve my ADHD symptoms, and it's better for my digestion.

In the early 2000s, after I became aware of my ADHD and started reading about using nutrition to combat symptoms, I increased my fat consumption and my refined grain consumption. I was never a big fan of sweets, but over the years I would do the occasional “sugar detox”, and I'd also go through phases in which I consumed lots of “natural” sugar, such as honey, maple syrup, and molasses. I still think that all three are nutritionally beneficial and have their place.

For much of my adult life, I haven't been much of a sandwich person. Unless it's excellent bread, I see it as a vehicle for filling that can be eating without bread, thus allowing more room in my stomach for whatever would otherwise be between the slices.

I'm also sensitive to yeast in foods and beverage. Yeasty beers make me itch. Bread sometimes bloats me and makes me itch.

Bagels and I have a history

Bagels and I have a history. I'm Jewish. We Jews take our bagels seriously.

Also, I couldn't stop at eating just one fresh, warm bagel with its soft inside and (my preference), slightly crunchy outside. If you live in Toronto and you've ever had a fresh bagel from Gryfe's, you know what I'm talking about. (I'm also partial to What a Bagel).

For the last couple of decades, I'd rarely buy bagels because I could eat 4-6 FRESH bagels in one sitting, so it was best if they weren't around. At gatherings where there were bagels, lox and cream cheese I packed as many as I could into my body.

This past summer when my partner joined the ketogenic diet world to lose weight and gain energy, I got stricter with my intake. It's way easier to eat a certain way when your partner is too. In years past when he made me dinner, my detox periods frustrated him. Now he's on board.

Last August I discovered that I was able to eat half a bagel and be satisfied. It shocked and pleased me. I will now happily eat one bagel occasionally and be satisfied.

Keto and me

A modified keto diet meets my low sugar, high fat, low refined carb needs for brain and mental health. Because of the keto trend, foods & recipes are available to me now that weren't in the early 2000s. This includes recipes for “fat head dough” (mozzarella and cream cheese melted together with other ingredients added), used for baked goods such as pizza crusts, bagels and rolls. My partner made a fat head pizza crust once and it didn't work out.

Years before that there were various gluten-free recipes. I've had a fantastic grain-free loaf bread in my repertoire for a long time, but it's got a lot of ingredients and I prefer recipes with fewer ingredients to buy and to make it all come together quickly.

The bagels I've been making, like the ones I've been posting photos of to Instagram, are a life-changer.

Months ago I put my toaster in the garage. Earlier this week I welcomed it back into the kitchen.

Welcome back, old friend.

Quora Answer: How has the keto diet affected your ADHD symptoms?

Quora Answer: How has the keto diet affected your ADHD symptoms?

The keto diet and ADHD symptoms

Sashimi – keto friendly, full of good fats and protein, good for brain health. (Skip the rice.)

The keto diet and ADHD symptoms and Quora

I try to be active on Quora because I think it's a good way to position myself as an expert on ADHD. I've had several people specifically request my answer to questions. Since the keto diet has helped me manage ADHD symptoms, I felt absolutely qualified to answer the following question in July:

“How has the keto diet affected your ADHD symptoms?”

I have a whole keto series in progress for this blog, but here's how I answered:

Even before I knew about the “keto” diet, I was following something like it, and have been for over 20 years. The most impactful thing I’ve done to manage my ADHD is to consume more fat. The brain NEEDS fat. For this reason, I recommend that people with ADHD try the keto diet, or something close to it. (Modify as needed. Your mileage may vary.)

A medically-controlled version of the ketogenic diet that involves measuring food and nutrients has been used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders for decades.

Some people with ADHD benefit from the intermittent fasting aspect of ADHD too. It’s something worth testing out. We do tend to need regular fuel with fat and protein but if IF works for you, then do it. I think that IF is more for people who do the keto diet for weight-loss, as IF forces the body to use fat for energy.

The key is to experiment, listen to your body and see what works. When you find what works, stick with it.

Worth emphasizing: Essential fatty acids are crucial, which means eating fatty fish and/or taking fish oil. If you’re vegan, then pumpkin seed oil or a marine plant source would work too. Fish is best, though.

Hope this helps.

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