Exploring the relationship between collagen and brain health

Collagen is a protein found abundantly in the body's tissues, including the skin, bones, and cartilage. While many articles have discussed the benefits of collagen for improving skin health, digestive function, bone health, joint health, and muscle recovery, you may not be aware that collagen could also support brain health and cognitive function. In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind this incredible functional food and discuss how it can be used to protect one of our most complex and essential assets – the brain.

Modern-day life poses various threats to brain health, of which we are all guilty. For example, how many of us and our customers struggle with a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, chronic stress, environmental toxins, sleep deprivation, and social isolation? We do what we can to survive; however, these struggles will likely exacerbate cognitive decline, mental health disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Individuals can improve their overall quality of life by understanding and addressing these threats.

Support your customers with high-quality functional foods

A "functional food" is a nutrient or bioactive compound that has been shown to benefit health beyond basic nutritional functions. Functional food ingredients are typically added to foods or beverages to enhance their health benefits, such as improving digestion, boosting immunity, or reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Collagen peptides have four main levels of functions: Nutrition, basic functions, special biological functions and other valuable properties. Collagen's nutrition provides amino acids and small peptides. Its basic functions improve connective tissues, such as skin, ligaments, hair, and bone. The special biology functions include antioxidant, antihypertensive and other bioactive benefits. Other useful functions include metal chelation, wound healing and forming an edible film. [1][2]

How collagen peptides may support brain health

1. Improved cognitive function

Collagen peptides have been shown to have a positive effect on cognitive function. A pilot clinical trial published in the journal Nutrients concluded that daily ingestion of collagen peptides over four weeks showed significant changes in the participants' brain structure and improved cognitive function. [3] Previous studies with animal models suggest this may be due to an upregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the brain.

2.   Glycine and Inhibitory Effect on Neurotransmitters

Collagen peptides are rich in the amino acid glycine, which has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on neurotransmitters in the brain. [4] Glycine is an important neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating brain activity and has been shown to have potential benefits for various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

In particular, glycine has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on strychnine-insensitive glycine receptors, which regulate the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain. It involves various brain functions, including motivation, reward, and movement. [5] Unfortunately, dopamine dysfunction is rising and can now be implicated in several neurological disorders, including schizophrenia.

3. Anxiety Reduction

Collagen peptides, especially glycine, can potentially reduce anxiety levels. Glycine has an anxiolytic effect (promotes a feeling of calmness and relaxation) and has been found to reduce anxiety levels in individuals with schizophrenia, as a 2021 study reported. [6]

Glycine modulates the autonomic nervous system that manages the fight-or-flight response. How glycine elicits its effects isn't well understood, but it has been proposed glycine may act on the presynaptic nerve terminals that release norepinephrine. Glycine may inhibit calcium channels in these nerve terminals, reducing the release of norepinephrine. It's possible that decreasing activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response may lower anxiety levels.

Furthermore, glycine has anti-inflammatory effects that may decrease inflammation in the brain. Research suggests that inflammation in the brain is linked to anxiety and depression. [7]

4. ECM and Structural Integrity

Collagen peptides are crucial for the brain's extracellular matrix (ECM). It is required to form the collagen triple helix structure, provide a structural scaffold for cell migration and growth, and provide tensile strength and resistance to stretching. However, as we age, the amount and quality of collagen in the ECM decrease, which can adversely impact the structure and function of the brain. This can result in various age-related conditions, such as cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. [8] The loss of collagen in the ECM can also affect the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a critical barrier that regulates the transport of substances between the blood and brain. This loss of BBB integrity increases permeability, which can increase the risk of brain damage and neuroinflammation.   

5. Memory and Learning

Collagen peptides have potential benefits for improving memory and learning. Studies have proven that they improve cognitive function, including memory, attention, and spatial memory, in healthy adults and rat models. In a 2010 study, researchers found collagen may help to relieve memory deficits associated with ageing. [9]

Why choose Great Lakes Wellness?

Great Lakes Wellness Collagen Peptides are high-quality collagen supplements from the best grass-fed and pasture-raised cattle sources. The company is one of the original makers of collagen peptide supplements, having dominated the market for over 90 years. Great Lakes Wellness Collagen Peptides are produced through hydrolysis, breaking collagen into smaller, bioavailable peptides for easier absorption. In addition, it offers a rich source of amino acids, including glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which are essential for collagen synthesis and play a critical role in supporting the structural integrity and function of tissues in the brain.

Collagen peptides have various potential benefits for brain health, including improving cognitive function, reducing anxiety levels, and supporting the structural integrity of tissues in the brain. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and potential health benefits of collagen peptides, the existing studies suggest they may be a valuable supplement for overall brain health.



[1] Potential Health Functions of Collagen Bioactive Peptides: A Review

[2] Biologically active peptides of meat and meat product proteins: a review part 2. Functionality of meat bioactive peptides (PDF)

[3] Effects of Collagen Hydrolysates on Human Brain Structure and Cognitive Function: A Pilot Clinical Study

[4] Glycine receptors and brain development

[5] Effects of strychnine-insensitive glycine receptor ligands in rats discriminating dizocilpine or phencyclidine from saline

[6] Directly and indirectly targeting the glycine modulatory site to modulate NMDA receptor function to address unmet medical needs of patients with schizophrenia

[7] From inflammation to sickness and depression: when the immune system subjugates the brain

[8] ECM in brain aging and dementia

[9] Marine collagen peptide isolated from Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) skin facilitates learning and memory in aged C57BL/6J mice.