What is collagen?
Why is collagen so important?
Collagen is an important protein that provides structure for many parts of the body including your bones, skin, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is the glue that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word kólla, which means glue.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about one-third of its protein composition. It’s one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.
What does it do in your body?
There are at least 16 types of collagen found throughout the body providing structure and support. The four main types are type I, II, III, and IV (1). As you age, your body produces less and lower quality collagen. One of the visible signs of this is in your skin, which becomes less firm and supple. Cartilage also weakens with age.
Collagen Type I - This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
Collagen Type II - This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and found in elastic cartilage, which cushions your joints.
Collagen Type III - This type supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.
Collagen Type IV - This type helps with filtration and is found in the layers of your skin.
Collagen Rich foods
Four of the nutrients that help produce collagen are vitamin C, proline, glycine, and copper. Therefore consuming these nutrient rich foods will help with procollagen production and collagen production. Our body needs high quality protein that contains the amino acids needed to make new proteins. Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animal products. Rich sources of collagen are bone broth, gelatin, chicken skin, and pork skin.
What can damage collagen in your body?
These are the worst culprits that can damage collagen, eating excessive amounts of sugar, smoking, and getting sunburned. Refined carbs such as sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. (2) UV radiation can reduce collagen production and reducing structural collagen and elastin. (3) Smoking reduces collagen production, it affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin. (4)
Benefits of collagen supplements
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles (1). One of its most important functions is providing the skin with structure and strengthening your bones (2). Consuming collagen may have a variety of health benefits, from relieving joint pain to improving skin health (3). Hydrolysed collagen protein is broken down into peptides making it easier for you to absorb. Taking collagen is associated with a number of health benefits and very few known risks. Supplements may improve skin health by reducing wrinkles and dryness. They may also help increase muscle mass, prevent bone loss, and relieve joint pain.
Two types of collagen supplements, hydrolysed collagen (collagen hydrolysate) and gelatin are popular. Hydrolysed collagen is more easily absorbed because the large protein has already been broken down into smaller peptides, which are more easily absorbed in the body. Studies on collagen supplements show benefits in increasing muscle mass, osteoarthritis and pain, skin health and leaky gut. A 2019 study in recreationally active men showed that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo (5) Protection from arthritis, a 2017 animal study indicated that supplementation may play a protective role in the development and progression of arthritis. (6) Skin elasticity. Women who took a supplement showed improvements in skin appearance and elasticity in a 2019 study. Collagen is also used in topical treatments to improve the appearance of skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles (7).
Collagen peptide comes in a powder that can be easily incorporated into foods. The peptide form doesn’t gel, so it can mix it into smoothies, soups, or baked goods without affecting their texture.
There are also several foods you can eat to increase your collagen intake, including pork skin and bone broth.
Collagen is a major component of your skin, but as you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles (8) Collagen peptides may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness (9) (10) In one study, women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks experienced less skin dryness and a significant increase in skin elasticity compared with those who did not take the supplement (11). Another study found that women who drank a beverage mixed with a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks experienced increased skin hydration and a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared with a control group (12)
The wrinkle-reducing effects of collagen supplements have been attributed to their ability to stimulate your body to produce its own collagen (13) Additionally, taking collagen supplements may promote the production of other proteins that help structure your skin, including elastin and fibrillin (14)
Reduce joint pain
Taking collagen supplements has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen synthesis in the body. As the amount of collagen in your body decreases with age, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases (15). Collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall (16). In one study, adults took 2 grams of collagen daily for 70 days with a significant reduction in joint pain and improved mobility (17).
Prevent bone loss
Consuming collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of bone disorders like osteoporosis. They have the potential to help increase BMD (a measure of the density of minerals, such as calcium, in your bones ) and lower levels of proteins in the blood that stimulate bone breakdown. Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and strength. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis (18). Studies have shown that, 5 grams of collagen may lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown (19) (20).
Improved muscle mass
Research has shown that consuming collagen supplements increased muscle growth and strength in people with age-related muscle mass loss.
Taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk factors associated with heart conditions such as atherosclerosis. Collagen provides structure to your arteries, without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile (21) (22)
Hair and Nails
Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails and preventing brittleness and may stimulate growth for both hair and nails (23).
Collagen supplements are used to treat intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
Mood and anxiety improvement
Some amino acids found in collagen such as GABA and Tryptophan may help relieve anxiety and improve mood.
The high protein in collagen helps reduce cravings and keep you full longer.