Collagen – Part I

WHAT IS COLLAGEN? 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and a major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles. Because it makes up so many critical parts of our bodies, collagen is not only beneficial but essential for good health. There is a lot of evidence that collagen helps maintain hydrated skin and lessen osteoarthritis pain but some of the other claimed benefits are still being researched. Collagen is produced naturally in the body but as we age our bodies start producing less and less collagen, so it might be beneficial to, at some point, start thinking about taking a collagen supplement or adjusting the diet to include foods that contain collagen. 

TYPES OF COLLAGEN 

The jury is still out on this question and while some claim there are 28 types of collagen, others would argue that there are actually only 16. The truth is, we don’t know for sure and the research continues. However, there are plenty of research and evidence supporting the existence and benefits of the following most common types. 

Type I accounts for about 75% yo 90% of body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth. It is found in Marine Collagen and also in smaller amounts in Porcine and some forms of Bovine Collagen. This type of Collagen is considered to be the best for skin and beauty applications minimizing wrinkles and improving the skin’s health and hydration. It is also essential in wound healing. 

Best sources of Type I collagen are found in the form of: Fish collagen, Egg whites, Bovine collagen, Bone broth. 

Type II Collagen is made of more loosely packed fibers and is present in elastic cartilage cushioning your joints. If taken as a supplement, the main purpose of taking it is for the treatment of joint pain and or a dietary protein source. Type II Collagen makes up 10% of the total collagen in the body and 50-60% of the protein found specifically in our cartilage.   

Best sources of Type II Collagen are: Bone broth, Chicken collagen, protein rich food like chicken. 

Type III supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries. It is most commonly found in Porcine and Bovine Collagen. It is the second most abundant type of collagen in tissues, present in skin, lungs, fibrous protein in bone, cartilage, tendons, and other connective tissues. This type of collagen facilitates the synthesis of blood platelets, and is vital to the process of blood clotting. There is also evidence that type III collagen can enhance exercise performance. Since type III collagen is the one most commonly found in the muscles, utilizing type III collagen, you can more efficiently work at building lean muscle mass. 

Best sources of Type III Collagen are: Bovine Collagen, Protein rich food like beef and fish, Bone broth, Egg Whites 

Type IV aids in the filtration of the kidneys and other organs. It exists naturally as building blocks in different layers of the skin, surrounding muscles, organs, and fat cells. In one research, a drop in type IV collagen levels was linked with digestive disorders but more studies are needed to determine if type IV collagen is an effective answer to digestive issues. 

Best sources of Type IV Collagen are: Egg whites, Protein rich foods 

Type V collagen is a fiber-like collagen found in some layers of skin, hair, and most importantly the tissue of the placenta. Placenta is vital to providing growing embryos with nutrients and oxygen, and type V collagen is considered an essential protein to neonatal development. 

Type V collagen is also found in the cornea of the eye and deficiency of this type of collagen may impact vision and overall eye health. 

Best Sources of Type V Collagen are: Protein rich foods, Egg whites 

BENEFITS OF COLLAGEN 

Skin health – Since collagen is a major component of the skin, it plays a significant role in strengthening skin, and adding hydration and maintaining elasticity. As we age, out bodies start producing less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles. Taking 2.5–5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks could lead to dryness in the skin and a significant increase in skin elasticity, hydration and reduction in wrinkle depth. As mentioned earlier, Type I collagen is most beneficial for skin. 

Relieves joint pain – The amount of collagen in our body decreases as we get older, so the risk of developing degenerative joint disorders increase significantly. At this point, taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain. It is suggested to take about 8-12g of collagen daily to reduce pain and inflammation in joints, and again, Type II collagen might be the most beneficial for this issue. 

Improves bone health – Out bones are made mostly of collagen. Again, as we age, the bone mass deteriorates over years leading to conditions like osteoporosis and higher risk of bone fractures. Several studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have effect on inhibiting bone breakdown but more studies are needed to confirm this.  

Improve muscle mass – Out muscle tissue is partially composed of collagen and several studies have shown that increased intake of collagen can help boost muscle mass in people who start experiencing loss of muscle mass with age. Taking about 15g daily would be ideal for this type of issue.  

SOURCES OF COLLAGEN 

As we age, the existing collagen in our bodies starts to breaks down, and it gets harder to produce more. When this happens, there are two routes you can take. One is, turning to collagen supplements or, the other, becoming more mindful of your diet making sure it is packed with healthy foods. 

When it comes to naturally boosting our collagen synthesis, it is a question of a debate and more research is needed on this topic. Namely, when we eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids in the body and then reassembled so the collagen we eat might not directly translate into higher levels of collagen in our body. Still, it can’t hurt to focus on eating foods rich in protein as well as nutrients that are essential for the process of collagen formation such as: vitamin C, proline, glycine, and copper.  

Collagen in food is found in the connective tissues of animals. The best sources being chicken, pork, and beef skin as well as fish. Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, also provide collagen. Other foods beneficial for natural collagen production include: leafy greens, eggs, turkey, soy, avocados, garlic.  

Other nutrients beneficial for collagen synthesis include:  

  • Proline – which is found in egg whites, mushrooms, asparagus 
  • Glycine – abundant in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin 
  • Vitamin C – most common in citrus fruits and bell pepper 
  • Copper – found in cocoa powder, sesame seeds, lentils, and some nuts 
  • Zink – sourced from beef, pork, lentils, cheese, nuts and seeds 

When it comes to collagen supplements they come in several forms and most are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen has been broken down, making it easier for our bodies to absorb. There are many different brands on the market today with various forms of collagen supplements and when it comes to choosing the right one for your particular issue, the best way to go about it is looking at the type and source of the collagen supplement.  

You can help your body preserve and protect collagen by avoiding behaviors that damage it like eating excessive amounts of sugar, smoking, and spending too much time exposed to ultraviolet radiation.  

BOTTOM LINE 

Collagen is a structural protein found in connective tissues throughout the body including the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. As we age our body starts producing less collagen and losing the existing one at which point it is extremely beneficial to focus on altering our diet to help prevent loss of collagen by introducing more protein rich food and food rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, zinc, and copper. Alternatively, a collagen supplement may be beneficial as well helping improve skin quality, muscle function and reducing joint pain.  

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Published by Ella

A dog mom. Fitness enthusiast. Amateur cook.

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