What Is Vegan Collagen?

Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN
·3 min read

Collagen supplements and the many health benefits of this animal-based protein found in hair, skin, nails, bones and connective tissue, continue to be the talk of the town. There does exist one problem. Collagen comes from animal sources, which poses a challenge for anyone who's a vegan or vegetarian.

Until vegan collagen came along.

What Is Vegan Collagen?

Vegan collagen is made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria, specifically the bacteria P. pastoris. It then has four human genes that code for collagen added, along with the digestive enzyme pepsin. And viola, vegan collagen. Perhaps not as simple as I just made it sound, but hopefully you get the idea.

[Read: Vegan Protein Powder Review.]

Health Benefits of Collagen

Some research suggests collagen supplements may help reduce knee pain among people with osteoarthritis, help reduce joint deterioration in athletes, as well as improve bone and joint support in postmenopausal woman. Other research looked at skin benefits and revealed that collagen supplements may help improve skin elasticity and hydration. However, the claims that it can reduce constipation, improve gut health, improve sleep, decrease anxiety and keep cravings at bay are unsubstantiated at this time.

[See: Vegan Breakfast Ideas.]

Comparing Vegan Collagen to Animal Collagen

As far as health benefits go, I'm unaware of any research to date comparing the two. Some advocates though report that there will be a lower risk of allergies associated with vegan collagen since it will be produced in a controlled environment. Others believe it will also be a safer product since it will come from a lab setting. And lastly, there's a belief that it may be less expensive for the consumer once it's mass marketed.

I would argue though that collagen supplements from animal sources can also be both safe and free from allergens. As with any purchase of a supplement, you should look for nationally recognized brands or store brands from a retailer you trust. Consumers should also look for a label from third party certifier, such as NSF International, UL or USP.

[See: Highest Protein Fruits.]

Where Can You Buy Vegan Collagen?

At the moment, vegan collagen supplements aren't available to consumers. However, what is available are products that claim to "boost" one's natural collagen production instead. These products include vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc, and/or plant extracts and herbs that supposedly your body needs to produce collagen. Some of these "booster" products also contain amino acids necessary for building collagen, such as lysine, glycine and proline.

Bottom Line:

For now, if you're following a vegan diet, you only have the option of collagen boosters -- not actual vegan collagen. However, you also have the option, as do meat eaters, of eating a variety of foods that can help to naturally boost your collagen production such as fruits and veggies, tempeh, legumes and tofu. And, of course, you can patiently await the arrival of vegan collagen supplements at the nearest store by you.