Have you wondered about Collagen?

by Brian Low
Have you wondered about Collagen?

You have probably heard of collagen repeatedly - most often, in conjunction with cosmetic procedures. Recently, you also may have heard of athletes and healthy-lifestyle-enthusiasts taking collagen supplements. Have you wondered how effective it is taking collagen dietary supplements?

Imagine collagen as the glue that holds us together. It is the most abundant protein and a critical building block in the human body. Because the body naturally produces collagen, the question is often asked whether taking supplements makes sense. Are they worth the investment? Let's look at what collagen is, what it does, and what potential benefits supplementation includes, then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

What is collagen?

Scientifically, collagen is a long-chain amino acid consisting of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine. It is found throughout our bodies, in muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage and ligaments. Collagen holds muscles to bones, strengthening our joints by giving tendons strength and structure. It contributes to skin’s firmness and elasticity while promoting the healing and growth of new tissue. It is also essential in building strong hair, nails, and muscles. Collagen can be extremely strong and flexible. Studies show that some collagen molecules are five to ten times stronger than steel.

Collagen Sources

As we grow older, our collagen production diminishes. Beginning at the age of twenty, collagenproduction in the body steadily decreases. By the age of eighty, we have approximately one fourth of the collagen that we had at twenty. This reduction becomes visible through increased wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, as well as other signs of aging. Smoking, UV light, and some other factors can diminish natural collagen production even faster.

Collagen is found in some foods such as bone stock, fish, white meat, eggs and gelatin. This explains why drinking bone broth has also become a health and fitness trend.

While direct collagen sources are of animal origin, it is also possible to stimulate an increase our own natural collagen production with food sources rich in nutrients. For example, vitamin C is crucial for collagen production. A healthy diet with enough protein, unsaturated fatty acids, sufficient water, low in sugar, which makes skin age faster, will also help in natural collagen production.

Another option is to take special collagen mixtures, which can stimulate its synthesis. Dietary supplements usually contain hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolyzate) - this is a type made water-soluble by enzymatic processes. The collagen hydrolyzate is bioavailable and is easily processed by the body. 

Benefits and uses of collagen

Because collagen is the glue that holds us together, it's easy to understand why it has many benefits. In the medical field, collagen is used for healing wounds and for tissue regeneration. Studies suggest that collagen can also help in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Cosmetically, collagen is used in improving skin elasticity, hydration, reducing wrinkles, and smoothing rough skin. Although it is not a fountain of youth, many cosmetic products include it to replenish the skin and maintain or restore its elasticity. Most experts agree that the external use of collagen (as with lotions) may be in vain because its molecules are too large to be absorbed directly through the skin. However, studies suggest that oral collagen supplements may help to improve the visible signs of aging.

Many athletes take collagen in hopes of supporting muscle development, strengthening connective tissue, and relieving joint pain. Collagen has not been widely studied in sports applications yet, but early findings support its use.

by Brian Low


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