What Exactly is Collagen
One of the fastest growing supplement products in the world right now is Collagen. It's the most abundant protein in your body.
You've no doubt heard of it or the amazing and somewhat magical benefits it offers from any number of close friends and influencers. What exactly is it? Why is it so popular and what benefits does collagen actually provide?
What is Collagen
Collagen is the major protein in our body. It's a strong, springy, fibrous substance that is woven throughout the tissue all over your body. It makes up about a third of the protein inside is and is the primary structural component of connective tissue like skin. The body naturally makes its own collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids.
You get collagen by eating a balanced diet of protein-rich foods (chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and whole grains, for example) and a variety of fresh produce.
Types of Collagen
There are 28 different types of collagen, with 90% of the collagen in our bodies being Type 1, 2 or 3. What exactly do they do and how do they benefit our bodies?
- Type 1. 100% found in marine collagen, and in smaller amounts in bovine and egg collagen, it's the strongest type because it’s made of fibers densely packed together. It’s a structural component of bones, skin, tendons, cartilage, teeth, and other connective tissue.
- Type 2 is found in chicken and bovine collagen and supports and provides cushioning in your joints.
- Type 3 can be found in small amounts in porcine and bovine collagen. This collagen is most abundant in our body tissue—specifically those with elastic properties such as skin, lungs, intestinal walls and walls of blood vessels. It is valuable for building muscle and wound healing.
Benefits of Collagen
There are numerous studies citing that collagen can provide a number of health benefits. These are primarily improving skin health, relieves joint pain, prevent bone loss, supports muscle mass, promotes a healthy heart and strengthen hair and nails.
Preventing Collagen loss
As we age, the body produces less collagen and it decreases by about 1% per year from age 25. There are a number of ways you can help the body produce collagen through your diet. Nutrients that may help include:
- Proline: In egg whites, meat, cheese, soy, and cabbage.
- Anthocyanidins: In blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and raspberries.
- Vitamin C: In oranges, strawberries, peppers, and broccoli.
- Copper: In shellfish, nuts, red meat, and some drinking water.
- Vitamin A: Occurring in animal-derived foods and in plant foods as beta-carotene.
Avoiding things like a high-sugar diet, smoking and UV rays from the sun will help to reduce the amount of collagen depletion in your body. Daily use of sunscreen and moisturisers containing retinoids, retinol, ceramides or salicylic acid is also an effective way to keep the skin hydrated.
Should you be taking a collagen supplement
If you suffer from visible skin inflammation; dermatitis, psoriasis, melasma, UV damage, eczema or want time to improve joint health and reduce joint pain, improve your skin, nail and hair health and reduce the signs of aging then it is something you could consider. Collagen supplements are generally safe, quite easy to use, and worth trying for their potential benefits.
There are a number of brands on the market so it pays to do your research and understand which 'type of collagen' their product caters for (e.g. Type 1, 2, or 3). It's also good to bear in mind when looking at the collagen products available that cosmetic lotions that claim to increase collagen levels are unlikely to do so, as collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.