In recent years, collagen supplements have rapidly gained traction among health and beauty enthusiasts. Some enthusiasts claim that collagen is the ultimate anti-aging supplement. But what is collagen, and what does it do?
Collagen is an essential protein that keeps skin, muscles, and bones strong and healthy. As people age, their bodies produce less collagen, which can contribute to wrinkled skin, lax muscles, and fragile bones. Decreased production of collagen can also result from poor diet, smoking, high sugar intake, and over-exposure to UV rays.
Collagen: What is it?
Endogenous (produced within the body) collagen is a protein found in the tissue within the skin, hair, nails, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This hard, insoluble, and fibrous protein is the most abundant in the body and can make up 30 to 40 percent of protein in the body.
Also, it is largely consists of proline, glycine, glutamine, and arginine amino acids. These molecules are packed together to make long, thin fibrils. Fibrils act as support structures and hold cells together. Collagen is often referred to as the scaffolding and glue of the human body.
There are many different types of collagen, all with different functions. For example, type 1 mostly provides structure for connective tissues, skin, bones, and tendons. Type 2 collagen is in cartilage, which cushions joints.
Collagen Benefits: How Can it Help You?
The human body naturally creates collagen to help keep it functioning. The bodies production of collagen has many benefits that include:
- It’s important to your skin’s health. It contributes to its structure and elasticity. As people age, their bodies produce less collagen, which is why skin becomes dryer and starts to develop wrinkles. Collagen also helps the body to produce other proteins that are good for skin like elastin.
- Relieve joint pain because it keeps your cartilage, the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints and keeps them strong. Losing collagen with age has been linked to degenerative joint disorders like osteoarthritis.
- Give bones structure and makes them stronger. Collagen supplements can help inhibit bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.
- Makes up 1-10 percent of muscle tissue. It helps to keep the muscles strong and functioning. Supplements have been shown to help boost muscle mass among men with sarcopenia.
- Helps to maintain the integrity and structure of blood vessels. As we people age, the lack of collagen can weaken blood vessels and make them fragile. By providing much-needed collagen, supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions such as atherosclerosis.
To find out more, you can learn about the benefits of collagen here.
Collagen Depletion: What Causes Lower Levels of Collagen?
There are several factors that can lead to lower levels of collagen in your body. It is recommended that you avoid the following to keep your skin, bones, and connective tissue healthy:
- Consuming an excess amount of sugar: If your diet is high in sugar, it will increase the rate of glycation, which is the process of blood sugars attaching to proteins to form new molecules called advanced glycation end products. This will make the collagen dry, brittle, and weak.
- Smoking: Nicotine narrows the blood vessels on the outer layers of your skin. Smoking compromises your skin health by reducing the nutrients and oxygen that is delivered to your skin.
- Sunlight: The ultraviolet rays from sunlight causes collagen to break down more rapidly, which leads to the collagen fibers becoming damaged.
In addition, the aging process will cause your collagen levels to naturally deplete overtime. While there is no way to prevent this, there are steps you can take to help slow the process down and increase your collagen levels.
Supplements: How Do They Work?
Collagen occurs throughout the body; however, the production declines as you age. Other factors that can contribute to the loss of collage include smoking and exposure to UV light. However, you can now start taking collagen supplements to help with your body’s collagen depletion.
Exogenous (synthetic) collagen is usually called peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, meaning the collagen has been broken down through hydrolization. When hydrolyzed, collagen is easier for the body to absorb. Synthetic collagen is widely available in the form of tablets, capsules, and powders.
Collagen supplements are water-soluble, so they dissolve in both hot and cold liquids. They are also tasteless, making them easy to blend into a smoothie or add to a drink without affecting the taste and texture.
Change you will see
By incorporating a collagen supplement into your diet, you will see these changes:
- Skin health: Collagen supplements have been shown to slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness. Collagen supplements are able to stimulate your body to produce collagen on its own.
- Joint pain: As you age, your joints start to break down. Collagen supplements can help prevent the deterioration of the cartilage in your joints.
- Hair: Collagen makes up a large percentage of the structure of your hair follicles called extracellular matrix. Collagen supplements can help with reversing hair loss as well as hair regrowth.
- Nails: Collagen supplements can make your nail stronger and less likely to break as well as help them grow faster and longer.
Collagen supplements can also help prevent bone loss, maintain a healthy gut, weight, improve your mood, and promote a healthier cardiovascular system.
Of course, collagen cannot stop the aging process—nothing can. However, taking collagen supplements can help ease the process. Because collagen has so many benefits, many people find it well worth it to incorporate collagen supplements into their daily lives. If these benefits appeal to you, talk to your doctor about adding collagen supplementation to your routine.