Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What is collagen anyway?
Collagen is the most abundant extracellular matrix protein found in tissues. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and helps give structure to our hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons in our body. It consists of amino-acids namely glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine, which help our body’s connective tissue, skin, hair, nails, as well as gut health. Consuming collagen in a balanced diet helps our body to regenerate it back, which was broken down.
Daily activities including stretching and bending are possible with the use of collagen. Collagen also helps in many other ways including hair shine, skin glow, and nails to stay strong. It also helps in muscular growth, joint health, and an overall glowing appearance. Collagen protein is different from whey protein and casein protein due to the high levels of amino acids present in it. Gelatin, which is the heat-denatured collagen and hydrolysate (collagen peptide) are used as food supplements.
Consuming 5 to 10 grams of collagen supplement on a daily basis can improve the properties of facial skin, suppressed ultraviolet-induced skin erythema, and improved the T-cell-related to immune status. Collagens are long-lived proteins that are modified by glycation (the bonding of a sugar molecule to a protein or lipid molecule without enzymatic regulation).
Glycation increases with age and several advanced glycation end products act as cross-links, which contribute to the progressive insolubilization (to make incapable of dissolving) and to the increased stiffness of collagens in aged tissues.
Are there different types of collagen?
Collagen is produced in different parts of the body. Type 1 collagen consists of over 90% of the collagen in the human body. There are 28 types of collagen, which have been identified and described, and can be divided into several groups according to the structure they form.
Below are the five most common types of collagen:
- Type I: Skin, tendon, vasculature, organs, and the main component of the organic part of the bone.
- Type II: Cartilage.
- Type III: Reticulate (a component of reticular fibers), commonly found alongside type I.
- Type IV: Forms basal lamina, and the epithelium-secreted layer of the basement membrane.
- Type V: Cell surfaces, hair, and placenta.
Find out how using collagen can improve your health
Collagen protein is one of the major components of our skin. \
Collagen helps in strengthening skin and promotes elasticity and hydration. Production of collagen in the body is reduced during old age, which leads to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles.
Research has shown that consuming supplements of collagen peptides can help slow the aging of our skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.
Consuming collagen as supplements can also promote the production of other proteins, which help in the structuring of skin including elastin and fibrillin. The wrinkle-reducing effects of collagen supplements have been related to their ability to stimulate our body to produce collagen on its own. Supplementing collagen in the diet helps in reducing dryness of the skin and prevents skin wrinkles. There are also some personal claims by individuals that collagen supplements are helpful for preventing acne and other skin conditions.
People these days very commonly suffer from joint pain. Cartilage is a connective tissue found in many parts of the body namely joints between bones, elbows, knees, and ankles. Cartilage is a firm tissue but is softer and much more flexible than bone. Collagen helps maintain the integrity of our cartilage, which protects our joints. As we know that the production of collagen decreased with old age and may lead to a medical condition called as degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a joint inflammation that results from cartilage degeneration. Research has also shown that supplemental collagen accumulates in cartilage and stimulates our tissues to produce collagen, which leads to lowering the inflammation in joints, gives support to our joints and reduces pain. Collagen supplements are widely used by athletes.
Athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest. Studies have also shown the ability of collagen, which can give pain-relieving effect.
Bone loss is another problem faced by people which can be caused by multiple aspects. Bone loss can lead to a medical condition called as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become brittle and fragile due to low bone mass and bone tissue loss. This condition is also referred to as a silent disease, as one does not know that they have been affected by this and people come to know only when they break a bone or have a lab test done. As we know that bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives the bone their structure and helps keep them strong. Collagen can help prevent the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.
Collagen supplements with a combination of calcium supplements can make wonders in reducing the bone breakdown and improve the bone health. A combination of these two supplements lowers protein levels in the blood, which reduces bone breakdown.
Studies have shown that people consuming 5 grams of collagen on a daily basis for 12 months have experienced a 7% increase in bone mineral density (BMD). Bone mineral density is a measure of the number of minerals, such as calcium present in our bones. Low bone mineral density is associated with weak bones and the development of osteoporosis.
Muscle mass is the physical size of the muscle. Muscle strength is one of the accepted components of total fitness, which includes endurance, flexibility, power, and speed. Around 1% to 10% of muscle tissue is composed of collagen. Collagen protein is necessary to keep our muscles strong and functioning properly.
Studies have shown that collagen supplements help boost muscle mass in people suffering from sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass after the age of 50.
Studies have indicated that people consuming collagen gain better muscle mass with exercise as compared with people who do not take supplemental collagen. Collagen helps promote the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine (an amino acid located mostly in our body’s muscles, as well as in the brain), and may also stimulate muscle growth after exercise.
Collagen provides structure to the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels, which carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Lower quantities of collagen may lead to arteries becoming weak and fragile and ultimately can lead to a medical condition called as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries become narrowed and hardened due to a buildup of plaque around the artery wall, which is also called as arteriosclerotic vascular disease.
Arteriosclerotic vascular disease disrupts the flow of blood around the body, which can lead to serious health conditions. Atherosclerosis has the potential to lead to heart attack and stroke. Research has proved that consuming collagen supplements help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.
Studies have shown that taking 16 grams of collagen daily for six months helps in reducing artery stiffness and increase the levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins), which is an important factor in reducing the risk of heart conditions, including atherosclerosis.
Hair and nails
Supplementing collagen increases the strength of nails by preventing brittleness and stimulates the growth of nails. Collagen also helps in promoting hair growth and gives the shine to the hair.
Collagen has been found to regulate the secretion of gastric juices by ensuring enough acid for proper digestion. Excess secretion of gastric juices can lead to heartburn, stomach ulcers. Glycine and Proline, the two main amino acids present in collagen peptides help heal the stomach lining and prevent stress-induced ulcers.
Collagen is a hydrophilic molecule, which attracts water and acidic molecules and aids the digestive process. Collagen surrounds itself with water and stomach acid as it moves through the GI tract, which assists the breakdown of other proteins and carbohydrates in the intestines. When there is inflammation to the intestinal lining, new smooth muscle cells are required to heal the stomach lining and the intestinal wall. Collagen synthesis is an important component in the process of repairing and healing the intestinal lining.
Collagen production in the intestine is greatest when smooth muscle cells are being generated during healing. Glutamine, which is one of the amino acids in collagen, has been identified as the key amino acid for preventing inflammation of the gut wall and healing leaky gut syndrome. Glutamine is linked to preventing inflammation and oxidative stress associated with the opening of tight junctions in the connective tissue of the intestinal lining. Supplementation with collagen protein is the key to providing relief for digestive diseases.
A certain type of collagen, which is collagen VI, protects brain cells against amyloid-beta proteins, which widely influence the cause if Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder, which slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Collagen VI is made by neurons in the brain and that it can fulfill important neuroprotective functions. There are also some unverified claims of collagen supplements helping to improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
People try many ways to reduce weight and research has shown that collagen supplementation has helped in reducing weight. Collagen protein is helpful for weight loss as it provides a source of protein that helps in maintaining fullness and promoting weight loss.
Collagen is 40% more filling than other proteins. Collagen protein suppresses appetite, resulting in a decreased energy intake. Collagen supplementation helps to maintain lean body mass. Collagen strengthens the dermis layer of our skin, helping to hide cellulite.
Side Effects of Collagen
Collagen, in general, is not harmful to health, as it is produced by the body itself. However, some supplements are made from common food allergens namely fish, shellfish, and eggs. People suffering from food allergies to these foods should avoid collagen supplements made with these ingredients to prevent allergic reactions. There are also reports of people complaining of lingering bad taste with consuming collagen supplements.
As we know that collagen can help in digestion, excess consumption of collagen can result in digestive side effects such as feelings of fullness and heartburn.
What are the best sources of collagen?
- Bone Broth
- Wild salmon
- Leafy greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
Collagen – In a nutshell…
Collagen is the most abundant extracellular matrix protein found in tissues, which helps give structure to our hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons in our body. There are multiple other medical benefits of consuming collagen including skin health, relieve joint pain, boost muscle mass, promotes heart health, helps in promoting gut health, helps in brain health, and also promotes weight loss.
Collagen generally has minimal to no side effects and can be considered negligible since collagen is produced in the body itself. Supplementing collagen in diet can be considered with proper medical supervision.
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