What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s the main component of connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, skin and muscle. Collagen gives skin its structure and elasticity. It’s also present in all smooth muscle tissue, blood vessels, the kidneys, the heart, the gallbladder, the digestive tract, and the bladder. Collagen is also a major structure of your hair and nails.
Types of Collagens
There are 28 types of collagens but the four most common are:
- Type I: most common, found in all connective tissues
- Type II: found in joints and invertebrate disc
- Type III: main component of reticular fibers, found in skin and blood vessels
- Type IV: found in the kidneys, inner ear and eyes
Aging & Collagen
As we age, our collagen production slows, giving way to dry, wrinkled skin. This loss of collagen is also responsible for tendons and ligaments becoming less elastic, leading to stiff, achy joints. Hair and nails become dry and brittle. Skin becomes thinner and is easily damaged.
Foods that Contain Collagen
Beef bone broth, sardines, pork bone broth, skin-on chicken, and organ meats are all excellent sources of collagen. Adding these foods to your diet may have an impact on collagen levels and collagen production. But unless you love scarfing down tiny, canned fish and liver there is a better way.
Supplementing with collagen offers a plethora of health benefits. Benefits that are backed by scientific research and won’t have you eating sardines and organs daily. Supplementing with collagen may also help stimulate your body to produce more collagen on its own.
Health Benefits of Collagen
Improves Skin Health
Collagen gives skin its strength and elasticity. Supplementing with collagen slows the aging of skin by improving hydration thus reducing dryness and wrinkles. It also promotes the production of other proteins like elastin and fibrillin, further improving skin structure.
Relieves Joint Pain
Collagen helps maintain the integrity of cartilage, the tissue that protects your joints. As you age and your collagen levels are reduced, you are more likely to develop degenerative joint disorders like osteoarthritis. Supplementing with collagen may help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis and overall joint pain. Supplemental collagen accumulates in the cartilage and is responsible for lower inflammation, increased joint support and reduce pain.
Prevents Bone Loss
The loss of collagen as we age may also contribute to bone mass loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. Studies have shown that supplementing with collagen may inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis. A similar study showed that supplementing with collagen led to a significant increase in bone mass density.
Promotes Heart Health
Collagen provides structure to your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries can become stiff and less elastic. Using collagen supplements can give arteries the structure they need to remain flexible and elastic. Additionally, collagen supplementation can increase HDL “good” cholesterol further reducing a person’s risk of heart disease.
Healthier Hair and Nails
Taking collagen increases the strength and appearance of hair and nails by reducing brittleness and improving hydration.
While collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body, its production is slowed as we age. This can lead to dry, thin and wrinkled skin, increased joint pain due to loss of cartilage, a reduction in bone density, decreased flexibility of arteries, and lifeless, brittle hair and nails. Collagen can be increased through diet, but the amount of food required makes that a challenging endeavor. Collagen supplementation is not only practical, but its benefits are also backed by scientific research. Make sure the collagen supplement you choose is comprised of type I and type III as these types make up 90% of your bodies needs. Also, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C as this is required for collagen production.