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What is Gelatin?

You've seen gelatin listed as an ingredient in many products. Have you ever wondered what it is or where it comes from?

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, gelatin is a huge no-no. OK, so where does gelatin come from then?
Gelatin is produced from the animal's two main sources of raw material, namely skin and bone.

Bone Gelatin:
The production from bone requires that the bone be crushed, degreased and all meat removed before demineralisation using dilute hydrochloric acid to solubalize the calcium carbonate and phosphate in the bone. The residual protein matrix (collagen I) is then converted to gelatin by heating in water, filtration and ion-exchange of the resulting solution to remove contaminants, and then the solution is concentrated, gelled and dried.

Finally the dry gelatin can be milled to a fineness most suited to its use i.e. fine ground for fast dissolving or coarse ground for minimal foam generation in confectionery manufacture.

Skin Gelatin:
In the manufacture of gelatin from skin, the process depends very much on the age of the animal. For young animal hide, the hide can be simply acidified to about pH 4 and then warmed to denature the collagen, which then dissolves as gelatin.

Older bovine hide requires an alkaline pretreatment to separate hair and Acondition@ the hide to make it dissolve in hot water. After the alkaline treatment which has a marked chemical effect on the hide and causes dissolution of most of the non-collagen components, the hide is acidified and then dissolved in hot water as with young animal hide.

The gelatin solution is then filtered, ion-exchanged, sterilized, concentrated, gelled and dried normally. It should be noted that the alkali process produces a gelatin with an isoelectric point (pI) of about 5 whereas gelatins produced without any alkaline treatment of the collagen have a pI of 7 to 9. For the housewife this has no importance but in more demanding applications pI can be very important.

Other Type Of Gelatins:
In fact, Gelatin is found all through most animal bodies, between muscles and muscle cells. But, all things considered, the skin is the best source for commercially viable quantities of collagen, and the gelatin you buy in packets is mostly pig skin.

Special kinds of gelatin are made only from certain animals or from fish in order to comply with Jewish kosher or Muslim halal laws. Vegetarians and vegans may substitute similar gelling agents such as agar, nature gum, carrageenan, pectin, or konnyaku sometimes referred to as "vegetable gelatins" although there is no chemical relationship; they are carbohydrates, not proteins.

The name "gelatin" is colloquially applied to all types of gels and jellies; but properly used, it currently refers solely to the animal protein product. There is no vegetable source for gelatin.

Health Benefits:
For decades, gelatin has been touted as a good source of protein. It has also been said to strengthen nails and hair.

The benefits of gelatin consumption on nail growth and nail strength were documented in double-blind studies conducted on nurses in the 1950s.

More recently it has been found that the degree of the progress of osteoporosis can be measured by the excretion of collagen terminal amino acids in the urine.

It follows that osteoporosis is associated with the destruction of bone collagen and it has been shown that the ingestion of gelatine (derived from collagen) reduces the amount of degradation of the natural collagen and therefore reduces the amount damage done by this disease.

Presumably, the enzymes that were degrading bone collagen are spent on degrading gelatine when it is available in sufficient quantity. Then again it has been known from double-blind studies that taking gelatin can alleviate the pain and inflamation caused by arthritis.

A recent rodent study, using isotopically labeled gelatin, showed that most of the gelatin was found concentrated in the joints, which at last gave some indication of the mode of action of gelatin in arthritis i.e. it looks as though it is used in the cartilage repair processes.

Other clinical statistical studies have indicated that gelatine promotes hair growth and it is well known that gelatine is substantive to hair and has many beneficial effects in that it has an antistatic effect, hair strengthening effect and improves hair gloss and repairs the damage caused by permanent-waving when incorporated at the level of about 0.5 % in shampoos and conditioners.

Side Effects: Allergic reaction to gelatine is almost unknown and when observed the allergic reactions is invariably mild.

Gelatine, when supplied by a reputable manufacturer is a perfectly safe and wholesome foodstuff.

Solgar's Gelatin

TwinLab's MaxiLife Chicken Collagen

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