Dear Mark: Mostly Questions About Collagen

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m quickly answering a bunch of questions from readers. Most are from the comment section of last week’s collagen post, and others concern different topics. They’re all interesting and useful, including how I consume podcasts, gelatin loss during chicharrone production, adding collagen to hot coffee, how much vitamin C to take with collagen, collagen’s effect on ketosis, and why I include a processed food product like whey in the pantheon of Primal-friendly foods.

Let’s go:

Vince asked:

I love the concept of health podcasts (or podcasts in general) but I admit that I’ve never invested much time into them. I think it’s mostly just figuring out the balance of what you do at the same time. I don’t quite find them engaging enough to sit and listen to on their own. But, any other task makes it tough to pay attention.

How do others get around that balance?

I mainly listen to podcasts while driving, walking, hiking, or doing any “mindless” task like doing dishes. I can’t listen to a podcast while I’m reading or writing. I can sometimes make it work while training, though it depends on what I’m working that day.

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to be “present” at all times, to turn every mundane activity into a zen koan. Maybe that’d be great. But it’s not me.

I’d definitely suggest finding better podcasts that do engage you and not setting expectations too high of how many to fit into a week. There’s nothing wrong with cherry-picking specific episodes.

Karen wondered:

Chicarones? That’s pork rinds. Or does the good stuff get melted out?

There may be some gelatin loss, but the vast majority of the good stuff that gets melted out during the creation of a chicharrone is fat. Most of the gelatin remains. Just check the nutrient content of a bag of pork rinds and you’ll see that it’s quite high in protein, all of which is collagen.

Guy asked:

I add a tablespoon of Great Lakes collagen powder to my coffee every morning.
Does anyone know if adding it to near boiling water compromises it’s nutrient value?

You’re fine. Consider how bone broth—the health effects of which we’re trying to emulate with collagen—is created by subjecting collagenous animal tissues to boiling water for hours on end. And it still works.

Also consider that collagen is a protein composed of amino acids. Heating a protein merely increases its bioavailablity. Hot water isn’t going to damage or irrecoverably alter the amino acids.

Kate asked:

Thanks for a great post! Any recommendation as to how much vitamin C one should take per day to maximize the benefits of collagen?

A recent study gave a good hint.

Forty-eight mg of vitamin C with 15 grams of gelatin, taken an hour pre-workout (6 minutes of jump rope), boosted collagen synthesis in athletes. That’s a good contender. If 48 mg of vitamin C with 15 grams of gelatin increases connective tissue strength, start with 48 mg of vitamin C.

Adrian wondered:

Hi Mark, How does collagen supplementation effect protein/amino acid generated insulin levels significantly if you are wanting to to into and maintain ketosis?

My guess is that there is an insulinogenic effect, however slight, as insulin boosts collagen synthesis. Surprised? Remember that insulin isn’t a bad guy. It’s a necessary agent in the body, doing all sorts of helpful things like moving protein into muscle tissue, shifting glycogen into glycogen stores. Even its blunting of free fatty acid release is necessary when we need to get rid of glucose. It’s the excessive release of insulin that causes trouble. The constant elevation. The insulin resistance.

The good news is that collagen peptides derived from fish have been shown to make type 2 diabetic rats more insulin sensitive. If these results hold true in humans, that means you need less insulin to synthesize the same amount of collagen. I don’t see why other sources of collagen wouldn’t have a similar effect.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never noticed my collagen intake (and I intake quite a bit) interfering with the benefits I get from fat-adaptation and keto.

Timothy pointed out:

Biased towards what we see in the mirror, we obsess over our paint job and rarely look under the hood. If we did, the effect of collagen on wrinkles would be a footnote compared to its vastly larger role throughout the body literally keeping us from falling apart. Bone, tendon, and ligament is the foundation of strength, preventing every kind of crippling injury, and scurvy is not merely a cosmetic affliction.

Great stuff. I totally agree.

One thing to remember. The paint job can reveal the state of the engine.  There was even an interesting study some time back where “apparent age of face” was a better predictor of longevity than objective biomarkers of aging. That is, the younger you looked to others, the longer you’d live. Since dietary collagen reduces wrinkling, improves skin elasticity, and improves other qualities of facial appearance, we can safely assume that it also improves longevity and fights aging—primarily by buttressing the stuff under the hood.

You speak of.whey as a food that Primal people eat…Then talk about whey powder. How is this processed dairy byproduct Primal??! Personally, I avoid processed foods in general, and denatured protein powders in particular.
If I were going to eat whey, I would use FRESH whey, and preferably from cheese or yogurt, so that at least some of the lactose would have been reduced by lactobacillus fermentation.

Whey protein isn’t paleo, but it’s Primal.

“Orthodox” paleo rejects dairy because  it wasn’t available before agriculture. They begin with the assumption that humans aren’t adapted to eating grains, dairy, legumes, and other common foods that agriculture introduced to the human diet and work backward through the scientific literature to get the result they expected—that many agricultural foods cause problems in many people.

The Primal Blueprint is suspicious of post-agricultural foods and uses modern science to determine if those suspicions are warranted. We often change our mind as new evidence enters the picture, and we’re completely willing to “approve” of genuinely beneficial foods, even if that food is “processed” or post-agriculture.

I’ve written a ton of stuff about whey. It’s one of the best-studied dietary supplements in the world, and the vast majority of those studies report beneficial effects across multiple areas of health. Among other effects, it can:

  • Boost glutathione status.
  • Increase hypertrophy when paired with resistance training.
  • Stave off muscle wasting in the elderly and infirm.
  • Improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Reduce postprandial blood glucose.
  • Exert many different bioactive effects (PDF).

I see no convincing evidence that whey protein has any major downside.

Dairy intolerant? Don’t take whey powder. But make sure that’s actually the case, and whey is the dairy protein you can’t have. Casein intolerance is far more common than whey intolerance. And whey may even be downright anti-allergenic, as whey-based formulas have shown efficacy in the prevention of allergic diseases like asthma and eczema in susceptible children and infants.

Whey’s no slouch. That’s for sure.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending more than three decades educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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