Collagen is an extremely beneficial compound that our bodies already work to produce. After all, collagen is responsible for the growth of skin, nails, and hair. However, there are still people out there who need a little boost in their collagen production, leading to the development of supplements.
Supplements are a fantastic way to enhance our body's production of certain essential compounds, collagen included. Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal, and those of lesser quality tend to have a few more ingredients than you probably want. Specifically, there is always a concern that a collagen supplement might contain highly toxic heavy metals.
Despite the fear of heavy metal poisoning, there is still a little uncertainty about whether or not such toxins are found in collagen. Despite being a naturally occurring compound, collagen has to undergo a refinement process to become a supplement. During this refinement process, the collagen is exposed to the environment where the supplement is being created. However, whether or not heavy metals can find their way into your collagen supplement might not be obvious. This article should tell you all you need to know about any potential risk of heavy metals being present in your collagen supplements.
Can Heavy Metals Pollute Collagen Supplements?
The simple answer is "yes." Heavy metal concentrations in collagen supplements are a far worse issue than you might have expected at first glance. Heavy metals can be found in several collagen supplements that are very common in most markets. Collagen is not the only victim of heavy metal toxicity either, as many supplements can have heavy metals if not made with the proper precautions.
Negligence by the producer is probably the leading cause of heavy metal contamination in supplements of any kind, which is unforgivable. An equally common cause is that the producer uses the heavy metals to meet quotas or as a filler product. Either way, heavy metal contamination is an all too real threat.
As for how widespread such contamination is, there has been an investigation into the concentration of heavy metals in certain brands of collagen supplements. The study was conducted by the Clean Label Project, which tested 28 of the most popular collagen supplements to determine the level of heavy metals in each brand.
The testing evaluated collagen supplements from multiple brands and came back with the following results:
- 64% of the supplements had observable levels of arsenic in them.
- 37% of the supplements had observable levels of lead.
- 34% of the supplements had observable levels of mercury.
- 17% of the supplements had observable levels of cadmium.
As you can imagine, these heavy metals existing in any concentration in a health supplement are a horrible revelation. The fact that so many supplements in the study were found to have observable concentrations of heavy metals speaks to the negligence of their manufacturer.
Unfortunately, collagen supplements have no oversight from the Food and Drug Administration since they are dietary supplements. So, there is little to no federal oversight that could be exercised to prevent this negligence.
Despite the fact that collagen oversight is desperately needed, the issue of heavy metal poisoning from supplements remains. However, the question of how these toxins find their way into these supplements needs to be addressed.
How Do Heavy Metals Get Into Collagen?
While negligence plays the largest role in contaminated supplements, there will always be a risk depending on the supplement's geographic origin. Collagen supplements are traditionally made using animal matter harvested from livestock. While this might not seem important, it can be a huge giveaway about how the heavy metals got into the supplement.
One of the more common animals used to manufacture collagen supplements is cows. Bovine collagen has long been used in the manufacture of supplements, and these cows are where some of the risks come from. Heavy metals tend to be found in the soil around plants, including the grass on which most cows feed.
If heavy metals contaminate the soil around the cows, and the cows eat the grass growing from that soil, then the heavy metals enter the cows' systems and remain in the collagen harvested from them. As a result, the supplements made from that collagen pack the same heavy metals that can be transferred into your body when you take them.
This is not to say that all other collagen sources are not at risk. However, the safest bet for animal collagen comes from fish rather than cows or other mammals. This is because marine collagen has a better refinement process unavailable for bovine collagen.
Ordinarily, fish have a small concentration of mercury in their system. However, this is not compounded by what they consume, and their biology is not as complex as that of a cow. So, marine collagen can have mercury purged from it to make it safe for consumption. Bovine collagen has the potential to be just as safe so long as the concentration of heavy metals in their food is minimal or non-existent.
Unfortunately, this can be harder to regulate. Knowing this, the biggest question is how to detect heavy metal poisoning and what symptoms to look out for in case you consume a contaminated supplement.
How Heavy Metal Poisoning Works
When you consume a product with heavy metals, the concentration can build up and lead to heavy metal poisoning. However, such poisoning can be difficult to detect unless you know the signs. Especially since more than one kind of heavy metal poisoning could affect you.
Understanding the fundamental differences between the different types of heavy metal poisoning and recognizing the symptoms can be critical if you think you have taken contaminated supplements. The first thing we need to discuss is acute heavy metal poisoning. The acute variant means that you have suddenly ingested a large concentration of heavy metals in a single sitting with symptoms that manifest rapidly. These symptoms include:
- Confusion or general disorientation.
- Numbness in the body.
- Feelings of nausea leading to vomiting.
- Loss of consciousness.
These are just a few examples of acute heavy metal poisoning symptoms. Depending on the metal consumed and the severity of your condition, worse symptoms can manifest, including fluid in the lungs or damage to vital organs like the kidneys or liver. None of this is desirable, but recognizing the symptoms could help you to resolve any sudden poisoning from heavy metals.
However, another type of heavy metal poisoning needs to be considered. On the other end of the spectrum is chronic heavy metal poisoning. As the name suggests, chronic heavy metal poisoning is a lasting issue and does not suddenly occur.
Chronic poisoning requires consistent exposure to low doses of the toxin over a long period. Unlike acute poisoning, you take a supplement with low concentrations of the metals that build up over time to cause the symptoms and toxicity associated with the chronic version of the poisoning.
These symptoms include:
- Lethargy or general weakness.
- Aches in the joints or muscles.
As you can see, there is no version of heavy metal poisoning that is pleasant. Unfortunately, these symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg since heavy metal poisoning, if left untreated, can be fatal. Even more unfortunate is that there is no surefire method for diagnosing heavy metal poisoning by yourself.
If you suspect that you might be suffering these symptoms due to heavy metal poisoning, you should seek out immediate medical attention to confirm the diagnosis. Diagnosing heavy metal poisoning is not difficult, but it will likely require specialized equipment to get an accurate diagnosis. Some of the most common ways that heavy metal poisoning is diagnosed in a medical facility include:
- Complete Blood Count: A complete blood count (CBC) is a test in which your physician measures your red and white blood cell count, your hemoglobin, your hematocrit, and your platelets. A discrepancy could indicate heavy metal poisoning.
- Kidney Function Tests: Kidney function tests generally involve tests of your urine for traces of contaminants, including heavy metals.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests involve using technology like x-ray or MRI to check your internals. These can be used to detect heavy metals in your system.
As you can see, even physicians will need specialized tools to determine the concentration of heavy metals in your system. Fortunately, once a diagnosis is confirmed, you can focus on treating the poisoning to return to your normal life. However, it is important to note that your collagen supplements could be the source of your poisoning if you purchased from a less reputable vendor.
How to Treat Heavy Metal Poisoning
If you have confirmed a diagnosis of heavy metal poisoning, acute or otherwise, the next step is treating it. If the source of the poisoning is coming from a low-quality collagen supplement, the first step is to discontinue the use immediately. Failing to do so will only ensure the poisoning remains with potentially lethal results.
After that, there are ways to tend to your health so you can undo the damage. The avenue of treatment will depend on the severity of your poisoning and might require a physician's aid or can be treated from home. In minor cases, simply discontinuing the use of the supplement will be sufficient in helping you to recover. Unfortunately, the odds of more severe cases go up depending on the concentration of heavy metals in the supplement and how long you used them.
In some more advanced cases, you might need to have your stomach pumped. If the metal concentration is high enough to warrant such an action, waiting for them to dissipate naturally might take too long. However, the most severe cases of heavy metal poisoning will require medicine to flush your bloodstream with the metals.
This process is known as chelation, where a bonding agent is sent into your system via an intravenous needle and attaches to the metal molecules. After which, your body flushes them out through urination. Chelation is an uncertain treatment avenue, however, as the bonding agent does not affect all types of heavy metals.
Chelation is generally only employed if you have dangerous concentrations of the metals in your system. At this point, the toxicity is so dangerous that your doctor will want to flush as much of them out as possible before administering more common treatments to purge the rest. Hopefully, any poisoning you suffer from a collagen supplement will be minimal enough to make chelation an unnecessary measure.
With all of this in mind, there is another important lesson. While heavy metal poisoning stemming from supplements is a risk, it does not mean you should avoid supplements themselves. Rather, it is a matter of acquiring a quality product from a reliable source.
Keep It All Natural
Heavy metal poisoning is an extremely serious issue all by itself. Knowing that these toxic compounds can sneak their way into supplements designed to make us healthier is nothing short of terrifying. The odds of such poisoning increase with a poorly made product, but the CLP has found that even well-known brands can produce a supplement rife with metals.
This is why exercising discretion when considering a supplement is crucial to maintaining your health. Otherwise, you might find yourself having to cope with the effects of heavy metal poisoning and paying a visit to a hospital to try and fix what the supplement has done to you. However, you should not give up hope on supplements as there are plenty of options that offer a healthy and natural option free of heavy metals. You just need to know where to look.
We at Bella All Natural are here to make that search easier. Our catalog of products includes several collagen supplements made from marine collagen rather than bovine and is completely safe. We believe that the naturalistic approach is the only real approach if you want to become the healthier version of yourself. Rather than allow heavy metals or other toxins to harm you, our products will offer a natural supplement without the risk. So, visit our website and check out our products today. Just remember always to keep it All Natural!