May 6, 2021 0

Collagen - What is it and what do you need it for?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It has important functions, including providing skin structure and helping blood clot. In recent years, it has gained popularity as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in shampoos and body lotions. But what is collagen? And what is it good for? This article gives you a thorough overview of this important protein.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, making up about a third of its protein composition. It is one of the main building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other parts of the body, including blood vessels, corneas and teeth. You can think of it as the "glue" that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word "kólla," which means glue.

What does it do in your body?

There are at least 16 types of collagen. The four main types are type I, II, III, and IV (1Trusted Source).

Here are the four main types of collagen and their role in your body:

  • Type I: This type makes up 90% of your body's collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to your skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.
  • Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in the elastic cartilage that lining your joints.
  • Type III: This type supports the building of muscles, organs and arteries.
  • Type IV: This type helps with filtration and is found in the layers of the skin.

As we age, the body produces less and less of the lower quality collagen. One visible sign of this is skin that becomes less firm and elastic. Cartilage also weakens with age.

Nutrients to increase collagen production. All collagen begins as procollagen. Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids, glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C.

You may be able to help your body produce this important protein by making sure you get plenty of the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C: Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, peppers and strawberries
  • Proline: Large amounts are found in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus and mushrooms
  • Glycine: Large amounts are found in pork skin, chicken skin and gelatin, but glycine is also found in a variety of protein-containing foods
  • Copper: Large amounts are found in organic meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews and lentils
  • In addition, your body needs high quality protein that contains the amino acids needed to make new protein. Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, legumes and tofu are excellent sources of amino acids.

Things that destroy collagen

Perhaps even more important is avoiding the following collagen-destroying behaviors:

  • Sugar and refined carbohydrates: Sugar interferes with collagen's ability to repair itself. Minimize your intake of added sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Too much sun: Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Smoking: Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impede wound healing and lead to wrinkles
  • Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can also cause collagen damage.

Natural food sources

  • Collagen is found in the connective tissue of animal foods. For example, it is found in large amounts in chicken skin and pork.
  • A particularly rich source is bone broth, which is made by cooking the bones of chickens and other animals.
  • Gelatin is basically cooked collagen, so it is very high in the amino acids needed to make it.
  • But there is some debate about whether eating collagen-rich foods actually increases collagen levels in the body.
  • When you eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids and then recombined, so the collagen you eat does not translate directly into higher levels in your body.

Benefits of collagen supplements

Two types of supplements are becoming increasingly popular: hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolysate) and gelatin. Gelatin is made when collagen is cooked. They have already broken down the large protein into smaller peptides that are more easily absorbed in the body.

There are not many studies on collagen supplements, but those that do exist show promising benefits in the following areas:

  • Muscle mass: A 2015 study in older men found that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo.
  • Arthritis: Another study provided supplements for people suffering from osteoarthritis. They experienced a significant decrease in pain over the 70-day study, compared to those who had a placebo
  • Skin Elasticity: Women who took the supplement showed improved skin elasticity in a 2014 study. Collagen is also used in topical treatments to improve the appearance of skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles
  • Some alternative medicine practitioners also advocate the use of collagen supplements to treat leaky gut syndrome.

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