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Collagen, Heat & Cooking Debunked: Here’s What You Need to Know

BY

Charlie Bailes

January 14, 2020

Collagen is a hot topic, specifically in the health and beauty industries, and for good reason. But, what about the other kind of hot? Like, temperature hot? If you've heard that heat damages or destroys collagen and you can't cook with it, we're here to debunk. Here's what you need to know about collagen peptides, heat, denaturation, degrading, & cooking with collagen.

Dr. Cate Medically Reviewed

Dr. Cate’s Takeaway: “Heating collagen does not change its effectiveness. Denaturing or degrading isn’t a bad thing, it’s required to make it digestible.”

IN THIS ARTICLE YOU WILL LEARN:

The 30 second short answer

Collagen does not become damaged under high heat because:

  1. Collagen comes from durable stuff, like bone (It’s not easy to break down bone to a form that is digestible, it requires extensive boiling)
  2. Denaturing and ‘degrading’ collagen protein isn’t a bad thing (because all proteins are denatured and degraded during the process of digestion)
  3. Collagen doesn’t lose its nutritional value until it burns, which occurs at 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit (a very hot cup of coffee will be around 185° F, most cookies bake under 350° F)

There you go. Topic debunked. Back to sipping your collagen and coffee.

(Can you tell I’m slightly annoyed?)

But seriously, if you’d like to know more than just the 30 second answer, let’s keep going.

Collagen is a hot market (with rapid growth)

Collagen comes in many forms for the consumer
As the collagen supplement market grows, it’ll only get harder for you the consumer to cut through the noise of bad information

Collagen has recently been a hot topic (pun intended), specifically in the health and beauty industries, and for good reason. The benefits of collagen is a long list.

Collagen as a business sector is booming (and growing). The global collagen market size is projected to reach USD 6.63 billion by 2025.

Google Trends doesn’t show signs of stopping either:

With any industry experiencing major growth, there’s bound to be information not understood clearly or people/sources trying to make an extra buck (fake news anyone?)

The heated debate of Collagen

Hot Coffee with Collagen
Does collagen break down in hot coffee? Unless you heat your coffee to 1400° F (which would melt your esophagus), you’re safe.

So does heat affect collagen powder? Does heating collagen negate its health benefits? 

Let’s explore both views, because at CB Supplements we don’t shy away from opposing views on collagen, nutrition, and overall general health. Education is one of the 3 founding pillars of our company so we’re leaning into this debate. And, as a consumer,  it’s important and beneficial to you as you research and invest in your health.

There are some sources that claim collagen’s benefits are negated in hot 185° F coffee (which is WAY under 1400° F aforementioned  — more on this temperature later), here’s what they claim:

When added to hot coffee, for example – collagen’s molecular structure melts, diminishing or even negating the desired health benefits.

Molecular structure melts? What does that even mean?

Try sticking a bone in your morning coffee (or a cup of boiled water) and see if it melts. Bet you a dollar it won’t.

Seriously, though, whoever wrote that heating collagen negates its health benefits seems not to realize that collagen needs to be broken down quite a bit in order to be digestible. The fancy term for breaking down collagen into digestible bits is hydrolysis, and that’s why CB Supplements contains hydrolyzed collagen not pieces of skin and chunks of bone.

Here’s our in-house biochemist’s take:

The truth is boiling collagen to make it digestible does break down the collagen molecules. And that is absolutely necessary for our digestive enzymes to break it down further so our body can absorb the nutrients.Dr. Cate

For you chemistry nerds, here’s a sketch from Dr. Cate illustrating this concept:

The process of hydrolysis: from bone > boiling > short strands of collagen (that are digestible).

Since we sell multi collagen protein, are we biased? Maybe, but this debate is just understanding science and chemistry. We encourage you to continue the research around this debate, we think you’ll agree with us.

What Temperature does collagen break down?

Speaking of science, let’s continue that.

There are two parts to this conversation, we’ll address part one first:

  1. The temperature where collagen simply breaks down (so it can be digested)
  2. The temperature where collagen is destroyed (and benefits negated)

If collagen couldn’t “break down”, there’d be no such thing as bone broth or CB Supplements.

Boiling water is hot. Hot water molecules are energized water molecules, kinetically energized. Boiling bones in water (where it all begins in the manufacturing process) enables high-kinetic-energy water molecules to start to separate the long strands of collagen that compose bone and skin (etc.) apart, and then to further break long strands into short strands. These short strands are now digestible. Your body’s digestive enzymes break down these shorter strands into the bioactive peptides and amino acids that represent the real reason broth and collagen supplements are beneficial to your health.

So yes, collagen does “break down”, but it has to for us to digest it! Don’t confuse “breaking down” with “destroyed” or “damaged”.

What Temperature does collagen’s nutritional value become damaged?

This specific number is probably why you’re here. And we have the answer.

We love collagen and it’s incredibly powerful, but it’s not some space-like supplement that defies the laws of chemistry & physics.

The temperature that really matters in this discussion is the point at which collagen’s bioactive amino acids and peptides are destroyed. That does not occur until bone ignites and burns around 1400-1800 degrees, says the Cremation Resource.

Collagen Heat Miser
Unless you’re Mr. Heat Meiser, you’ll never have to worry about possibly destroying collagen in your hot drinks or food

So, unless you are Mr. Heat Meiser and incinerate your food to a whopping 1400° F,  you’re safe to add collagen protein powder to almost anything — including the most important meal of the day, your morning cup of coffee.

What about this 572° F number floating around?

If you Google enough, you’ll often find reference to 572° F. 

What does that number mean? Is it relevant and important? Let’s address it.

572° F is more than likely an irrelevant number to this entire conversation around collagen and heat. All this number means is that without water, collagen must be heated to 572 degrees Fahrenheit before it starts to break down into a digestible form.

Again, this only matters if you have a pile of animal bones and looking to run some scientific experiment without a liquid to aid in the process. We’re guessing that’s not you.

Here’s that NCBI study you may have seen. If you haven’t see it, feel free to nerd out.

Denaturation & Collagen 101

Denaturation & Collagen 101 - Scared Man
Don’t let the word Denaturation/Denature/Denaturing when discussed with collagen scare you! It’s OK, really.

So if collagen doesn’t lose its bioactive effect until it ignites around 1400-1800° F degrees, why are we even talking about this?

For one, there is a lot of bad information out there on the Internet. Second, there are a lot of scary words too. One of those scary words that evokes fear, sweaty palms, and headaches is the term “denaturation.”

The word de-naturing is scary because, if you don’t know what it really means, you might think it refers to removing the nature from it and turning it into an unnatural substance.

But that’s not what denaturing means.

It’s actually a ridiculously technical term that refers to changes in a molecule’s shape and does not refer to altering its nutritional contents. Some claim that heating collagen protein causes denaturation that changes the effectiveness and negates any benefits you receive from taking that collagen. The fact is, anyone claiming that denaturation is a problem has no concept of the meaning of the word ‘denature’ or of the digestive process.

In reality, a collagen supplement has already gone through denaturation so you can actually digest it as food. Otherwise you would be gnawing on solid bone.

Dr. Cate Shanahan explains it best:

“Denaturing is one step of many in the digestive process, the one that ‘loosens’ the long balled up, wound up strands of protein molecules so that your digestive enzymes can gain access and do their work. If no denaturation occurred, you’d be unable to absorb the special nutrients in collagen that your body needs. Much of it would just pass through your body undigested. In order for your body to absorb all proteins, be it collagen or egg white or muscle meat, your body needs to break the protein molecules down into tiny pieces, called peptides and amino acids.”

Thanks Doc.

So denaturing and ‘degrading’ (breaking down) collagen actually makes it easy for your body to absorb. That’s how supplements are made. And bone broth.

Denaturation & Collagen (explained in a metaphor)

Collagen Denaturation Metaphor
Let’s use a ball of yarn as a stand in for bone (or the collagen in skin, etc.) to help you visualize the digestive process

Why does collagen need to be ‘broken down’ to be digested?

Because it’s a really really big long molecule and it’s balled together in a way that makes it hard for our digestive enzymes to get in there and break it down.

Picture a ball of yarn. It’s one long string neatly rolled into a sphere. Digestive enzymes can only attack the ball from the outside in, just a few external strands. Now imagine someone unrolling that ball of yarn, then cutting the one string into 1,000 pieces. You are now looking at yarn in a different form, one that is already partly ‘degraded’ and it enables our digestive enzymes to get in there and finish the job. Boiling collagen in water and ‘hydrolyzing it’ is like unraveling that ball of string and snipping it into short pieces.

Stirring hydrolyzed collagen into hot coffee for a few minutes does not break down the molecules into peptides or amino acids.

Heating collagen during stock making (or the making of supplements) will break down collagen just enough to enable our enzymes to further break it down into the smaller, bioactive components we need.

Here’s what your digestive enzymes do to those short snippets of ‘string’ in our ball of string analogy:

Can Collagen Powder Peptides be mixed with Hot Water, Coffee, Tea?

If you’ve been reading along, you know the answer. If you’ve bounced straight down to this section, then we’ll be quick.

Yes, you can mix a scoop of collagen powder into hot water, coffee, or tea. The collagen won’t be damaged nor will it lose its benefits. Cool? Cool.

Now, go check out our collagen drink recipes, here are our favorite hot ones:

Can you Cook & Bake with Collagen?

Tigernut Collagen Cookies Recipe
I mean, cookies. Amirite?

Let me answer with a question.

Do you cook (aka incinerate) your food at blazing 1400-1800° F degrees? Unless you’re Mr. Heat Meiser, probably not!

To really beat a dead horse here, below are some average cooking temperatures for some common foods (source: Foodsafety.gov):

Horse beaten.

Yes you can cook and bake with collagen, and no collagen doesn’t loose its nutritional value while cooking and baking any more than any other protein would — which is to say there are some losses (due mostly to glycation, if you must know). But, as long as there are still bioactive peptides, which there will be, you can still benefit.

You can of course mix multi collagen protein powder into your daily coffee, tea, or smoothie (see collagen smoothie recipes), but its versatility and tastelessness really lends itself to experimentation in cooking and baking.

You can also add a few scoops of collagen to your:

Basically, you can add collagen to pretty much anything. Learn more about how to take collagen powder.

Go ahead, heat that collagen, and enjoy

Have we helped you breath a sigh of relief? We hope so.

If not, and you have more questions, please drop us a comment below. This topic of heat and collagen is dicey and there’s questionable (to put it nicely) information floating around.

So go ahead. Add that scoop of collagen to your coffee. Cook it. Bake it. Trust that you’re gaining all the wonderful benefits of this superfood even after it’s heated!

Main image by Kevin McCutcheon

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