Collagen is the most abundant, naturally-occurring protein found in the human body and is the building block for your cells, tissues, and organs, making it essential for healthy bones, joints, skin, hair, and nails. As we age, we naturally lose collagen, and modern diets are less abundant in collagen, leading to stiffness, swollen joints, sagging skin, wrinkles, and more. Increasing your body’s reserves with hydrolyzed collagen can improve joint health, digestion, brain health and give you more youthful-looking skin, thicker, healthier hair, and stronger nails.
The benefit of hydrolyzed collagen is that it has been broken down into shorter chains, called peptides. The resulting powder has no additives and has a mild, natural taste consistent with other bovine collagen products.
Many believe that to maintain beautiful and healthy skin long after a certain age, it is necessary to take collagen every day.
In response to this need, we often see numerous advertisements for collagen products (creams, lotions, masks, among others) for skincare and supplements based on this substance (in the form of powders, capsules, tablets).
But do we know what collagen is, what it is capable of, and how we can benefit from it? We talk about it in the following lines.
What is collagen?
The collagen is the primary protein structure of the various connective tissues such as skin, bones, cartilage, and tendons and includes about one-third of the total protein in mammals. It is found in abundance in the skin and bones and is therefore linked to bone cells, cartilage and skin. It is “the most important protein in the body” and states that its function is to provide the tissues with elasticity, support, and resistance.
It consists mainly of glycine (about 33%), proline (12-14%), 4-hydroxyproline (<14%) and 4-hydroxylysine (1.5%). Collagen is a protein naturally produced by the dermis. It has the great advantage of making the skin elastic and counteracting the onset of wrinkles, acting as a glue between cells and tissues.
UV radiation, cigarette smoking, stress, and an unhealthy diet lead to the degradation of collagen’s natural structure. With advancing age, it slowly decreases, resulting in the progressive loss of elasticity, which can be hindered by choosing the right foods.
Among the foods, the richest foods are oranges, watercress, kiwi, and blueberries, good sources of vitamins C and A, and polyphenols. There are also lipid foods such as olive oil, mackerel, and eggs on the list.
What happens when we take collagen?
By taking collagen, the body does not produce this substance but divides it into its components (amino acids) to produce any protein. Therefore, when we take a collagen supplement, we are not helping the body to generate it. In other words, when we take a collagen supplement, it doesn’t go directly to the scar we want to get rid of or the knee joint we want to improve. It breaks down into amino acids that remain free in the body and can be used both to form cartilage on the toe (to generate a nail, for example) and to grow hair.
Taking collagen daily: 7 benefits
It is believed that the consumption of collagen supplements can provide health benefits. So let’s see what is generally associated with the daily consumption of collagen supplements in the context of a healthy life.
1. It can help nourish the muscles.
It is believed that to have a healthy, lean, and well-toned body, one must take collagen to offer the muscles additional nutrition. This may make it easier for you to regain energy after more intense workouts. However, there is no evidence that such benefits can be obtained through taking collagen supplements. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain good lifestyle habits and follow the doctor’s instructions.
2. Improve skin health
It is also believed that taking collagen promotes the generation of new cells, and, in doing so, it would perhaps be possible to remove more recent scars that may be present on the skin. However, as stated earlier, the collagen taken does not target exactly the area a person wishes to “repair.” A study about Cosmetic Dermatology published in 2015 concluded that consuming supplements containing specific collagen peptides by mouth can improve skin health and texture.
3. Improve bone and joint health
According to some beliefs, taking collagen supplements (without a doctor’s advice) could help maintain joint flexibility and lubrication. Nevertheless, some disagree.
Some believe that, if the doctor prescribes them, supplements could help to take care of the muscles, bones, and joints, but always in the context of a balanced diet and an appropriate exercise routine, and never if taken alone.
4. Taking collagen every day would help maintain skin elasticity
As the body ages, it loses collagen. For this reason, you should start taking it (through supplements) to prevent the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes.
However, it must be remembered that consuming this protein is not the solution to aging. For this, it is necessary to follow good habits of life. Supplements can help maintain skin elasticity, but they cannot 100% prevent wrinkles from forming.
5. It can contribute to the feeling of satiety.
Since it is a protein, it is believed that its consumption (as part of a meal, breakfast, or snack) would help satisfy the appetite, avoiding snacks between meals and unhealthy foods, such as snacks, baked goods, and sweets.
6. It would maintain the elasticity of the blood vessels.
According to some hypotheses, the consumption of collagen could contribute to maintaining the elasticity of blood vessels and, in general, the health of the cardiovascular system. For this reason, some think that perhaps it could reduce the risks of suffering from blood pressure problems and heart disease.
7. Taking collagen would help vision health.
Ultimately, it is believed that taking collagen should maintain eye health (specifically the cornea) and prevent vision-related diseases. However, for this to be possible, it is essential to follow other good habits of life. Collagen alone cannot prevent or cure eye diseases. That is why it must always be taken in the context of a healthy lifestyle.
Collagen is mainly represented in the animal world; it is introduced into the body primarily through meat foods. High percentages of collagen reduce food’s digestibility and explain the more excellent digestibility of fish than meat, which is richer in connective tissue.
The body synthesizes collagen from the individual amino acids that compose it. From a nutritional perspective, it is particularly rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, lacking in sulfur amino acids. Precisely because it is rich in these amino acids necessary for its synthesis, food collagen, after being digested and broken down into the individual amino acids that compose it, it can stimulate or, in any case, favor its re-synthesis in the body.
Composition of Collagen Supplements
Of course, the main ingredient of collagen supplements is represented by this precious protein which, however, being large, is difficult to digest.
To overcome this drawback, in the supplements that contain it, collagen is often present in the hydrolyzed form (hydrolyzed collagen ) – therefore partially digested – in such a way as to favor intestinal absorption, reducing its gelling power (much appreciated in pastry). The collagen used in these products derives largely from animal bones, skins, and connective tissues, such as cattle, pigs, and horses; even if, nowadays, many producers prefer to resort to marine collagen of fish origin.