Collagen has increasingly become a top-selling supplement that is sold to improve skin, hair, nails, joints, and more. Our bodies do produce collagen, but the quality and amount reduce as we age.
Is collagen really a fountain of youth or is it just a marketing scam? What does the research say?
Are you wondering what collagen is and whether or not you should be taking it?
Let's take a look at some of the benefits, risks, and types of collagen out there.
The History of Collagen
For decades, scientists were puzzled over the molecular and packing structures of collagen. It wasn't until the mid-1930s that the first evidence emerged of a regular structure at the molecular level.
Collagen has been used by humans for thousands of years. The Egyptians used collagen adhesive about 4,000 years ago. In fact, the oldest glue in the world was found to be made of collagen after it was discovered near the Dead Sea northwest of Mt. Sedom in Israel.
These days, collagen is used for a wide variety of applications. It is used for medical purposes for procedures such as burn surgery and cosmetic surgery. It is also used for culinary purposes, such as the casings for sausages.
What is Collagen?
The most abundant protein in your body is collagen. It plays a number of crucial roles in your health, including helping your blood clot and providing structure to your skin. It has become increasingly popular as an ingredient in body care items as well as in nutritional supplements.
Collagen is one of the major building blocks of skin, tendons, bones, ligaments, and muscles. It can also be found in your teeth, corneas, and blood vessels.
What Are the Different Types of Collagen?
Researchers have found that there are at least sixteen different types of collagen. Let's take a look at some of the main types of collagen and the roles that they play in your body.
Type 1 collagen makes up 90% of the collagen in your body. Composed of densely packed fibers, it provides structure to your bones, teeth, skin, tendons, and more.
This type of collagen is found in elastic cartilage. It is composed of more loosely packed fibers and helps to cushion your joints.
Type 3 collagen helps to support the structure of organs, muscles, and arteries. This is the second most prevalent type of collagen in your body after type 1.
This type of collagen isn't as common as some of the others listed here. It helps your kidney and other organs with filtration.
This type of collagen is found in the layers of your skin. This fiber-like collagen also helps to compose the tissue of the placenta was well as your hair.
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While the human body produces collagen on its own, the quality of our collagen production goes down as we age as well as the amount. You can notice this effect if you've ever noticed that your skin has become less supple and firm with age.
Let's take a look at some of the benefits of collagen supplements for your health.
Studies have found that skin elasticity and appearance can be improved with collagen supplementation. Many topical treatments also exist that utilize collagen to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Pressure ulcers, which are also known as bedsores or pressure sores, are typically caused by prolonged pressure on an individual's skin. One 2006 study found that a collagen protein hydrolysate supplement could double the speed of pressure ulcer healing.
The term 'cellulite' refers to textural changes in skin that often affect the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. It is thought that taking supplementary collagen might help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Brittle Nail Syndrome
One of the noticeable effects when you start taking collagen supplements is that your nails seem to grow faster and appear healthier. For people who suffer from brittle nail syndrome, supplementing with collagen might help to improve the appearance of their nails.
There is a growing body of evidence that collagen hydrolysate can aid in the treatment of osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis, and it occurs when protective cartilage wears down over time.
Bone Density and Osteoporosis
Since collagen is by far the major constituent of your body's bone mass, it makes sense that taking the supplement could be useful in building bone density. Osteoporosis can be caused by collagen loss, so supplementing might help to prevent or treat this condition.
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Joint Pain and Exercise
Joint pain can wreak havoc on your daily activities, not to mention your exercise regime. Some people have started supplementing with collagen to help reduce joint pain and to help increase muscle mass.
This type of arthritis causes swelling, pain, loss of function, and stiffness in your joints. Studies have found that type 2 collagen can help to ameliorate this type of arthritis in animals.
This condition occurs when a joint has been forced to move beyond its normal range of motion. Caused by defects in collagen, it is thought that supplementation might help to give some relief to people who suffer from this disorder.
Type 2 Diabetes
This chronic condition is caused by having too much sugar in the bloodstream. Since people with diabetes lose collagen faster than the average person, supplementation can help to reduce the effects of accelerated aging that occurs in diabetic people.
What Does Collagen Do?
The best way to think about collagen's role in your body is to think of it as the glue that holds everything together. In fact, the word collagen has its roots in the Greek word "kolla" which actually means glue.
Medical and Cosmetic Uses
Collagen is used for many different purposes. Let's take a look at some of the medical and cosmetic applications of this protein.
Collagen is used in wound dressings for pressure ulcers, surgical wounds, second-degree burns, and other types of wounds. These wound dressings work by stimulating cellular migration and also help with new tissue development.
Collagen is used in injectable fillers to help correct scarring, depressions in the skin, or wrinkles. This procedure involves injecting collagen into the skin to fill up or plump the treatment area.
Guided Tissue Regeneration
This procedure is a method used to repair periodontal defects. It is thought that collagen membrane can be used in this procedure to help improve cortical bone repair.
You can find collagen skin rejuvenation services available at spas and other wellness spots. This treatment can be used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, scars, large pores, and more.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis
A number of trials have found that collagen can help to help to reduce pain for people with osteoarthritis. More studies need to be done, however, to learn more about how we can use collagen to treat this condition.
Collagen Usage and Doses
You can work to incorporate collagen into your diet with natural sources or you can supplement with the protein.
Collagen powder can be purchased and easily incorporated into your meals. It can be added to soups, smoothies, drinks, or baked goods.
How Much Do You Take?
There are no official guidelines on collagen dosage from health authorities. If you're taking collagen powder, it's recommended that you take between 2.5 grams and 15 grams.
Nutrients That Increase Collagen Production
The collagen in your body begins as procollagen. The combination of glycine and proline creates procollagen. There are a number of nutrients that might be able to help your body in the production of this important protein.
You can find glycine in gelatin, chicken skin, and pork skin.
Proline is found in wheat germ, egg whites, cabbage, dairy products, mushrooms, and asparagus.
Vitamin C is a part of the process of making procollagen. You can find it in large amounts in citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers.
Vitamin B6 can be found in fish, poultry, bananas, chickpeas, and potatoes. It can also be taken as a supplement.
You can find sulfur in cruciferous and allium vegetables, dairy, and animal proteins. It's also found in nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Hydroxyproline can be found in eggs, gelatin, meat, fish, and dairy products. For nonanimal sources, you can look to citrus fruits and alfalfa sprouts to name a few.
Copper can be found in liver, oysters, spirulina, and shiitake mushrooms. It's also present in nuts and seeds, lobster, leafy greens, and dark chocolate.
Anthocyanins and Antioxidants
You can find anthocyanins in berries, kidney beans, red onions, acai, tart cherry, and other foods. Antioxidant-rich foods include spinach, broccoli, potatoes, dark chocolate, and blueberries.
Things That Can Damage Collagen
Supplementation isn't the only thing you should be thinking about when it comes to collagen. Let's take a look at how to avoid damaging the collagen in your body.
High Sugar Intake
Eating too much sugar can get in the way of collagen's ability to repair itself.
Your production of collagen can be impeded by smoking. This can lead to wrinkles and impair wound healing.
Collagen can be damaged by some autoimmune disorders such as lupus.
Collagen production can be reduced by ultraviolet radiation.
A number of genetic disorders and changes can lead to a reduction in collagen production by affecting the extracellular matrix.
The Aging Process
Your body starts producing less collagen as you age. The collagen it does produce is also normally of lower quality.
Collagen in Natural Food Sources
Collagen can be found naturally in the connective tissues of animals. Two common food sources of collagen are bone broth and gelatin.
Bone broth can be made by boiling the bones of animals such as chicken. This is a particularly rich source of collagen.
Gelatin is very high in the amino acids needed to produce collagen.
Why Collagen Supplements Can Benefit You
At this point, there need to be more studies about the effects of collagen supplementation. However, there are a number of areas where collagen shows a lot of promising benefits.
Animal studies have found that collagen supplements could play a protective role in the development and progression of arthritis.
One study from 2019 found that strength training in combination with collagen peptide supplements could increase strength and muscle mass.
Studies have found that collagen can improve skin elasticity as well as reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
Risks and Side Effects of Collagen
The side effects of collagen include heartburn, sensations of heaviness, and a lingering unpleasant taste. However, if you are allergic to the source of the supplement, it's possible that you could have an allergic reaction.
Incorporating Collagen Into Your Daily Routine
Incorporating collagen into your daily routine is actually quite simple. You might choose to put a scoop of powdered collagen in your coffee in the morning, or you can add it to a smoothie. You can also work to incorporate natural sources into your daily diet, including bone broth and gelatin.
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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Be sure to check out our disclaimer here.