Collagen is a protein found within your body in large quantities. A good portion of collagen is protein, this is about one third the amount you have within your body naturally. Collagen is found in many parts of your body. Teeth, blood vessels, corneas, as well as bones, skin, tendons and muscles.
Collagen is actually a glue that holds your body together. It is a Greek word, ‘Kolla’, which does actually mean glue. Besides the four main types of Collagen, which we will go over, there are a total of 16 types of collagen. We will focus on the four main types and the benefits gained from these.
It is one function of your body to take two amino acids and combine them into one called collagen. These two amino acids, proline and glycine, use Vitamin C to produce collagen. Eating nutritional foods is key in helping your body to make its own collagen. The following 4 nutrients can be consumed daily, which helps your body.
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers and strawberries
- Glycine: Glycine is found in the skin of pork and chicken, and gelatin. It is also found in many protein rich foods.
- Proline: This amino acid is found in large quantities in egg whites, dairy products, wheat germ, asparagus, cabbage and mushrooms.
- Copper: Copper can be found in abundance within lentils, sesame seeds, organ meats, such as liver, cashew and even cocoa powder.
There are also things many of us partake in that can cause damage to collagen. Activities such as too much sun, and ultraviolet radiation reduces collagen production. Smoking also can reduce our bodies ability to produce collagen. Too much sugar is a big risk factor for collagen production. Sugars and refined carbs will also affect how your body produces collagen. There are also some auto-immune type diseases that will have an effect on collagen production.
Collagen is found in many of the foods we already eat. However, as we age, we do not consume as much as we once did. Besides, it is well known that any foods we consume are broken down in the digestive tract. So consuming protein rich foods is not actually adding to the amount of collagen in our bodies.
Although foods such as chicken skin, turkey skin, even bone broth have collagen, our bodies will take apart all the nutrients and then reassemble them in the form of what they needs. This is why there are supplements available.
Benefits of Supplemental Collagen
The market is overrun by people purchasing two supplements now. They want Gelatin and also Collagen Supplements. These two supplements are soaring in popularity due to the benefits. The producers have already broken down the large protein into the smaller peptides. These peptides are then absorbed into our bodies.
Through the few studies that have been done, or are being done, the results are looking great for Collagen supplement use. Some of the benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Muscle Mass: One study in 2019 showed that active men using collagen supplements versus a placebo, showed an increase in muscle mass. When the men used collagen supplements in conjunction with strength training, the increase of muscle mass was found.
- Skin Elasticity: Not to leave women out of the testing, research done in 2019, showed improvements of the skin elasticity and the appearance. This may assist in reducing skin wrinkles and lines over time. As we age, we do not produce as much collagen, this results in the appearance of our skin changing. You will develop wrinkles and lines. Many older people begin to get Crepey skin.
Taking collagen supplements may help improve skin hydration, minimize the lines and creases and increase elasticity in their skin. Taking these supplements may have an assisting quality to producing other structural skin proteins. These structural proteins are fibrin and elastin, it is believed that they may also help your body to produce more collagen itself. That point has not been proven as of yet.
- May Ease Joint Pain: Among the aging people, joint pain and discomfort is one of the leading complaints. Our joints have a cushioning around them, this is collagen. It softens the movements of walking and the way we move. Otherwise, we would all be in constant pain from the deterioration of the bones rubbing on each other. The collagen is a cushioning between bones, in our joints. It is now believed, according to the studies, that taking collagen supplements helps to ease inflammation in the joints.
In 2012, during a randomized testing, 80 people were given 2 grams of collagen daily and reported significant improvement in the ability to move and the amount of joint pain they felt. In 2008, using athletes as participants in the study showed dramatic joint pain reduction when given 10 grams of Collagen supplement daily.
Back in 2017 testing done on animals who had post traumatic osteoarthritis, the testing showed there may be a protective role against the disease’s development and it’s progression. This leads us to believe that there is a benefit to help arthritic patients and their levels of pain felt.
- Increased Nail and Hair Strength: Again, as you age there tends to be thinning of the hair and also of the nails. Collagen is the major structural component of creating hair and nails. As seen by research, collagen improved nail brittleness, increased how nails grow and also significantly reduced nail breakage.
Collagen also contains Keratin, a protein that has proven vital in hair growth. The collagen is believed to benefit the integrity of skin cells that decrease as we age. Collagen supplements can assist in keeping the skin cells and helping to rejuvenate them.
- Heart Health: There are many researchers who believe that collagen supplements are helpful in reducing and preventing heart attacks and strokes. Collagen is partly responsible for the structure of the arterial structure itself. If this structure is weak in any way, this can lead to weakened arteries, or arteries with severe plaque build up that could rupture, thus making a higher risk for cardiac issues.
In 2017, research was done involving 31 adults, these were each given 16 grams of collagen a day. There was vast improvement of the stiffness in arteries, as well as an improved HDL by 6% in those 31 adults. It is the HDL that is so important to good heart health.
- Bone Strength: Collagen is a major component in keeping your bones strong. As with so many other issues, bone density and bone strength will decrease over time, with age. This leads to cases of Osteoporosis. What happened to women that were taking 5 grams of collagen, combined with a calcium supplement, showed fewer of the protein compounds in their blood that lead to bone loss, versus those women who took only the calcium supplement.
In other research, collagen was shown to increase bone mineral density, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis and weakened bones. Now obviously, nothing is risk free. Collagen is made from fish and seafood, if you have an allergy to either, taking a collagen supplement is not meant for you. You must also be aware that people react differently to different things. What may work for you, may not work for others.
There have been no adverse side effects reported from people. As with all items, you may experience some side effects such as nausea or diarrhea, maybe a heavy feeling. The United States National Library of Medicine does state that collagen that is derived strictly from the cartilage of a shark, may produce higher levels of calcium in the blood.
As with all drugs and supplements, research is ongoing. It is possible that not every person will benefit from collagen supplements. However, there is plenty of data showing the potential of benefits on muscle mass, hair and nail growth, and heart health. Bone strength and joint pain relief.
Collagen does appear to be a low risk supplement for most people. As with any supplement or vitamins, speak to your physician before commencing a daily routine that includes collagen supplements. Collagen does have the potential to give some outstanding benefits for many people. As with everything, be cautious, take only as directed by your physician and if there happen to be side effects not mentioned on an information sheet, stop taking them until you are able to speak with your physician again. Safety is always our top concern!
If you choose to begin a daily routine with a collagen supplement, it is always highly recommended to look for one verified with a safety seal and verified by third party testing in regards to ingredients, quality and safety.
If your Physician and you agree, then begin a low dose. If there is no sign of relief in joint pain, the dosage can be increased. Again, always, speak to your own Family Doctor in regards to any new supplements you are thinking of adding to your health routine.