Dr. Jennifer Janiga Answers Common Nutrition Questions
One of the most common types of questions I get from my patients is about nutrition. They will ask me questions about taking collagen pills, probiotics, and eating antioxidants. As these are the most common three let’s go through them:
Collagen pills are widely available at a variety of stores from Costco to Walmart to nutrition stores. I will get this question about whether a patient should take collagen pills to help their skin at least 2 to 3 times a week. As addressed in my book: Clearing Up Skin Care, the research shows that collagen pills are not absorbed. Collagen is a very large molecule and is broken down in the stomach acid into small pieces. It wouldn’t have to be put back together in your bloodstream and delivered to your skin as full collagen.
Some companies have tried to get around this by producing a smaller molecule called pro collagen, but there is no evidence that this molecule can remain intact either. It is also too large and broken down, and it would have to be put together and transported to the skin to have any effect on skin health. Because of this, you will commonly hear me telling my patients to “spend the money on a steak instead“. This is because molecules such as collagen are built from individual smaller components and even the steak is broken down into those small molecules. So, you may as well enjoy the money you’re spending rather than wasting it on collagen supplements.
Antioxidants and Vitamins
Secondly, people asked me about taking supplements of antioxidants and vitamins, such as vitamins A, K, magnesium and zinc. Recently at Tufts University, they compared people who took vitamin pills to people who receive their nutrition and vitamins by eating a healthy, balanced diet. They tracked the intake of these four vitamins and found that people were less likely to die of heart attacks and other disease when the vitamins were taken through their diet.
Obviously, there are benefits to eating a healthy diet that cannot be replaced by supplements. I tell my patients that I personally do not take any vitamin supplementation besides vitamin D. Vitamin D is very difficult to absorb from the diet and comes mostly from sun exposure. As most of you are aware, as a dermatologist, I don’t get much sun, so my vitamin D level is low – I do take a supplement prescribed by my doctor for this.
Lastly, let’s talk about the newest hot topic: probiotics. There are two ways to get probiotics: through foods and through dietary supplements. Probiotics are relatively new and supplements are not regulated. Is the verdict is still out on supplements what should patients do? As it turns out, there is a new article that was published in July in a journal called Frontiers in Microbiology.
In this study, researchers found that the average apple contains over 1 million of these probiotic microbacteria. Most are in the fibrous inside and core area, not the skin. One cautionary tale, it is known that apple seeds contain a high amount of cyanide so they should not be consumed in large amounts or likely at all by children. They are also found in other fruits, yogurt, and fermented foods. So, it is becoming more and more clear that getting your nutrients, vitamins, and probiotics from natural food intake is what doctors and researchers recommend.
Turns out that an apple a day may keep the doctor away!