5 Things You Need to Know About Collagen
1. Collagen is the ‘Glue’ That Holds the Body Together
Collagen is a protein that’s best described as the ‘glue’ that holds the body together. In fact, the word collagen is derived from the Greek word ‘kolla’ which literally translates as glue. It is the most important component of connective tissues, and is tough, fairly rigid and delivers structural support and a mechanical resistance to stretching.
2. Collagen is the Most Abundant Protein in the Body
Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals; it represents approximately 70% of cartilage, 25% of the whole-body protein content and 5% of the entire body mass. Collagen is found in cartilage, bones, teeth, skin, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, internal organs and even the cornea of the eye.
3. Collagen is Produced Naturally in the Body & Production Declines with Age
Our bodies produce collagen from building blocks found in protein foods called amino acids. Collagen contains 19 different amino acids; it has a particularly high content of proline, which is a major component of collagen. Silicon is a trace mineral that’s not generally accepted as an essential nutrient but is known to have beneficial effects, especially on connective tissue and bone formation. This is likely due, in part, to the fact that silicon is a cofactor of the enzyme ornithine aminotransferase, which is responsible for the formation of proline from ornithine. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production too, hence why a vitamin C deficiency causes the connective tissue disease scurvy.
Collagen production decreases naturally with age, from about the age of 25 onwards, and this decline seems to be more pronounced in women following menopause. Some estimates suggest that we may lose up to 50% of our collagen by the age of 60. Clearly visible outward signs of collagen decline are wrinkles and sagging skin, but the same is also happening on the inside of the body too, to the myriad of connective tissues that we can’t see. Supporting our body’s collagen production processes is crucial, especially as we age.
4. Common Diet & Lifestyle Factors Damage Collagen
As well as collagen production naturally declining with age, there are many common diet and lifestyle factors that can actually damage collagen; one of the most obvious visible examples of this is the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays on our skin. In addition, alcohol, smoking, high sugar diet, stress, lack of sleep and low dietary intake of vitamin C can damage collagen. In contrast, a diet rich in a wide variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, supplying optimal amounts of vitamin C and key antioxidants can help to protect collagen and support its production too.
5. Collagen Can Be Taken in Supplement Form
You can take collagen in supplement form to help provide the body with the raw ingredients needed to produce it. This is best supplied in the form of collagen hydrolysate; a form of collagen that has been broken down into peptide fragments. Collagen hydrolysates are considered to be able to cross the intestinal barrier, reach the circulation and therefore become available for metabolic processes.1 Orally consumed collagen hydrolysate has been shown to be absorbed intestinally and to accumulate in cartilage.2,3
1. Wang L, Wang Q, Liang Q, He Y, Wang Z, He S, Xu J, Ma H. Determination of bioavailability and identification of collagen peptide in blood after oral ingestion of gelatin. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2015 Oct;95(13):2712-7.
2. Mumby SM, Raugi GJ, Bornstein P. Interactions of thrombospondin with extracellular matrix proteins: selective binding to type V collagen. The Journal of cell biology. 1984 Feb 1;98(2):646-52.
3. Kuettner KE, Memoli VA, Pauli BU, Wrobel NC, Thonar EJ, Daniel JC. Synthesis of cartilage matrix by mammalian chondrocytes in vitro. II. Maintenance of collagen and proteoglycan phenotype. The Journal of cell biology. 1982 Jun 1;93(3):751-7.
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