Collagen is the human body’s structural protein that plays a very important role among our body’s structural proteins. It has the function to connect, support and nourish tissues and organs and can renew itself forever, and contributes to the health and elasticity of tendons, bones, and skin.
What is collagen
It is a valuable protein for the human body, confers resistance to the tissues, while elastin is responsible for their elasticity. Collagen is an essential component of bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, cornea, skin, and blood vessels.
In the bones, it is produced by osteoblasts and forms lamellae, which confer resistance to stretching. In cartilage, it allows the joints to resist traction forces.
Its decrease or its variation leads to diseases of various kinds. For example, mutations in type I collagen can lead to osteogenesis imperfecta or glass bone syndrome.
Types of collagen
Twenty-eight types of amino acids have been identified based on the amino acid sequence that constitutes it. It is divided into:
- type I collagen (approximately 90% of total collagen)
- type II collagen, essential for cartilage tissue
- type III collagen, present in the dermis and blood vessel walls
- type IV collagen has support functions and is a component of the basement membrane
It consists of 3 protein chains that bind together to form a triple helix. It consists of 3 types of amino acids, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which during life have the particularity of always renewing themselves only different times.
Almost a third is made up of glycine, 15 to 30% is made up of proline and hydroxyproline. The latter provides stability to collagen through hydrogen bonds with water molecules.
Collagen what it is for
It is a protein found in humans and animals and is the main structure of:
- cartilage tissue
- connective tissue
Aids in the healing and repair of bone and cartilage damage and the maintenance of strength and elasticity.
The integration of collagen, according to various scientific studies, is beneficial for:
- Joint pain, being an essential component of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. A decrease in osteoarthritis symptoms has been shown in people who have taken a type II collagen dietary supplement.
- Bones, especially in postmenopausal women. Taking a dietary collagen supplement increases bone density in the vertebrae and femoral neck.
- Skin and wrinkles, its intake as a hydrolyzate increase the skin’s elasticity and a decrease in wrinkles.
- Cellulite, due to the layer of fat under the skin that presses against the connective tissue, creating the typical appearance, called ‘orange peel,’ and present in 80-90% of women. Collagen supplements improve skin structure, help burn fat and build muscle, thanks to their high glycine concentration. This amino acid makes up creatine, the substance that powers muscles during exercise.
- Digestive system, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome, it seems that this protein helps rebuild the digestive tract tissues.
What makes collagen loss?
The decrease in collagen production begins as early as the age of 25. The most evident symptom is the more opaque and less compact skin of the face. Still, the body undergoes a sort of general decay at all levels: osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, aging of the organs’ tissues.
Collagen loss can be accelerated by:
- genetic factors
- unhealthy diet, especially high in sugar
- exposure to sunlight
- smog and environmental conditions
When Your Collagen Levels Decrease
There is no blood test or another way to measure the amount of collagen in your body, but you can tell when your body doesn’t have enough.
As you age, your body naturally makes less collagen. The slow-down can start in your mid-to-late 20s. That causes a variety of conditions that we usually accept as part of getting older:
- Skin loses elasticity. You form wrinkles, and your wounds heal more slowly.
- Tendons and ligaments are stiffer. You lose flexibility.
- Muscle mass decreases. You become weaker.
- Cartilage wears down. You develop joint pain or osteoarthritis.
- The intestinal lining gets thinner. You may have more digestion problems.
However, aside from aging, the top reason people don’t have enough collagen is a poor diet. Your body can’t make collagen if it doesn’t have the necessary elements, namely amino acids and the nutrients to process them.
The best way to replenish the nutrients your body needs to make collagen is through your diet. Eating animal products, like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs, will provide amino acids. So will beans and legumes, but one of the best foods for building collagen is bone broth. You can buy it in grocery stores or make it yourself.
Gelatin is another great food to boost your body’s ability to make collagen. Gelatin comes from collagen, so it naturally has what your body needs to turn it back into collagen form.
Some foods can stimulate with Collagen, it is better to eat with.
- Red peppers, rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant essential for the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin C is partially dispersed when the food is cooked, preferably taken raw.
- Tomatoes, rich in lycopene, is an antioxidant that protects collagen. It is also present in beets and cherries.
- Salmon, a source of omega 3 that is good for the heart and the skin because they soothe inflammation and help prevent the breakdown of collagen fibers caused by external agents.
- Potatoes contain selenium and vitamin A: This vitamin helps to have healthy skin and joints, stimulating collagen’s natural production. Also present in carrots, melon, mango.
- Turkey contains lysine, an excellent amino acid that helps the reform of collagen.
- Yolk, rich in choline, is a B vitamin that is then converted into glycine, an essential amino acid involved in collagen production. Choline is also present in chickpeas and beans.
- Wheat germ oil
- Oilseeds, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and related butter, are rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant that counteracts free radicals responsible for cellular aging.
Collagen: food supplements
It is naturally present in various foods that are no longer consumed or even forgotten today, such as homemade chicken or fish broth, bone marrow, jelly eggs, calf’s head, pig’s trotters.
This is why it is taken through food supplements. Most of the market brands offer hydrolyzed collagen peptides, in which the amino acids have been separated to be more easily digested and absorbed quickly.
Don’t expect miracles! Studies show that supplements work for the elderly and those suffering from diseases such as arthritis and osteoarthritis and help the skin regenerate in the event of burns. Healthy people who eat a balanced diet won’t notice any difference.
To combat aging, supplements are recommended that include the presence of this protein and that of vitamin C or arginine, ornithine and hydroxyproline a.
Attention. The use of supplements of this type should be avoided during pregnancy and in the subsequent breastfeeding period. They should not be taken even in case of renal insufficiency or nephropathies.
Collagen and hair
It helps repair the fiber (the cells that form the hair) of brittle, weak, and dull hair. It provides hydration, covers the cuticle (the outer layer of the hair) with a protective film, and thickens the outer coating, increasing its volume.
You can find various treatments based on this protein on the market, both of animal and vegetable origin (mainly obtained from yeast extracts).
How to use it on the hair
It can be used in two ways:
- To repair the hair fibers in-depth, apply a vial directly on the scalp after shampooing or wet hair. Gently massage and remove excess product with a comb. Dry your hair without rinsing, taking care to keep the hairdryer a bit away.
- As a revitalizing mask, leave the product on clean and wet hair for 15-20 minutes and rinse thoroughly.
Some hairdressers offer a straightening treatment with keratin combined with vegetable collagen to repair the straightener’s destructive action on the hair immediately. The protein is fixed directly within the hair fiber. Thanks to this technique, the hair is protected over time and remains in perfect condition, protected and repaired, for about six months.
Collagen and aging
Today it has become the protagonist of numerous beauty and anti-aging marketing campaigns: it is part of the composition of creams, serums, fillers, soft drinks, and various types of supplements. Its role in giving firmness and firmness to the skin and the fact that our body always produces it as we age has led it to be considered an effective anti-wrinkle product to be used in the fight against skin aging. In reality, it benefits the skin of the face and gives firmness and vigor to hair, nails, bones and joints, and muscles. However, we must know that the collagen proteins in our body decompose due to sun exposure, pollution, free radicals, and poor nutrition, in addition to the age factor.
Beneficial collagen against skin aging
It has the property of keeping the epidermis elastic and hydrated, slowing down the skin’s normal aging. It can reduce aging signs such as wrinkles, dull hair, and muscles, and osteoporosis.
Hydrolyzed collagen is obtained by bringing the type I protein to acid, alkaline and enzymatic thermal hydrolysis processes. This process has the purpose of promoting digestion and absorption, both topical and alimentary.