Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body and is synthesised by combining the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, the building blocks of proteins found in food. As we become older, our bodies make less collagen, but excessive sun exposure, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and a lack of sleep and exercise cause the most significant decline in collagen production. Connective tissue is formed using its fibre-like structure.
Types of collagen:
Collagen is of three major types.
- Type I is the most common collagen, which makes up 90% of the collagen in the human body. External sources include cows, fish, and eggshell membranes. Type 1 collagen provides strength to your skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons.
- Type II is found in cartilage and is linked to anti-ageing properties. It’s also found in marine and chicken products.
- Type III is found in internal organs, blood vessels, and muscles. It supports skin and bone health and is a part of arterial walls, supporting cardiovascular health.
- Types I, II, and III collagen, which make up most of the collagen in the body, are present in most collagen supplements.
Benefits of Collagen
1. Collagen improves skin health:
Collagen makes up a significant portion of the skin. As we age, collagen production declines, making the skin lose flexibility. According to research, oral collagen supplements may be able to minimise the symptoms of skin ageing.
In a review published in the 'Journal of Drugs in Dermatology’ (2019), researchers examined 11 randomised, placebo-controlled studies involving more than 800 individuals who took up to 10 grams of collagen daily to enhance skin health. The outcomes revealed that the supplements increased collagen fibre density and improved skin suppleness and moisture-retaining capacity.
2. Collagen helps reduce joint pain:
Collagen, present in the cartilage between joints, acts as a natural cushion between bones. Reduced collagen in the joints, calcification, and other age-related degenerative changes inside the cartilage, are key factors responsible for the stiffness and discomfort associated with ageing joints and can potentially lead to the onset of osteoarthritis, a persistent degenerative joint ailment. A review of studies on people with osteoarthritis showed consuming collagen improved joint stiffness and osteoarthritis symptoms significantly.
Researchers have concluded that extra collagen may build up in the cartilage, stimulating collagen production in your tissues, lessening inflammation, improving joint support, and decreasing discomfort.
3. Collagen Reduces inflammation:
Collagen's anti-inflammatory properties are due to proline and glycine, which reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines. Collagen can also help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the action of enzymes that degrade cartilage.
4. Collagen Promotes healthy hair:
Collagen is beneficial for hair growth and regeneration- it has anti-oxidant properties and fights free-radical production. Free radicals are naturally produced in the body by various metabolic processes and damage the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. However, having enough collagen in the hair shaft strengthens the hair follicles and promotes hair growth. Consuming collagen for hair growth can also improve overall volume by increasing the diameter of each hair follicle.
5. Collagen Improves gut health:
Collagen promotes digestive health and gut health by supplying the amino acids glycine and glutamine that maintain a healthy blood-intestine barrier, preventing toxins and unwanted foreign bodies from entering and interfering with its functioning. Glutamine in collagen is ideal for people suffering from leaky gut and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
6. Collagen Prevents atherosclerosis:
Collagen gives shape to the arteries- blood channels that deliver blood from your heart to the rest of your body. If collagen levels are insufficient, arteries may lose their elasticity and flexibility.
According to a 2017 study, Collagen tripeptide supplementation may help treat and prevent atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque in arteries). Thirty-two healthy participants in the study took a collagen pill every day for six months. Along with other indicators of atherosclerosis, their HDL ("good") to LDL ("bad") cholesterol ratios improved.
7. Collagen Helps Increase muscle mass:
Collagen can help in muscle growth. In a 12-week research, 27 older men with sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass with age) were given 15 g of collagen while they exercised. They significantly increased their strength and muscle mass than those who exercised but did not take collagen.
Researchers have concluded that taking collagen could promote the synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine and increase post-exercise muscular development.
However, collagen protein is not more effective than whey protein at building muscle or strength because it has fewer branched-chain amino acids, crucial for building muscle. In whey protein, these amino acids are more prevalent.
8. Collagen Helps Keep bones healthy:
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, bone mineral density diminishes with age, especially after menopause. Participants who took collagen peptides for a year had higher bone mineral density than the control group in a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind experiment on 102 post-menopausal women. According to a study published in the Journal Nutrients (2018), collagen was the cause of improved bone mineral density since it expedited bone resorption and stimulated bone production.