Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the animal kingdom. Though nearly 28 types of collagen have been identified in the human body, types I, II, and III account for 80-90 percent. The function of collagen is to support the softer tissues and withstand stretching. The basic structure of collagen consists of a triple helix made up of three alpha strands formed mainly of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. The differences in collagen types is due to specific patterns of amino acids within the alpha strands that form the triple helix. Type I collagen is common in skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, vascular ligature and organs. Type II is primarily found in cartilage. Type III is found in skin, muscle and blood vessels.
Collagen loss begins between 18 and 29 years of age. By the time a person in 80 years old collagen production has slowed by 75% as compared to young people. Many signs of aging include loss of elasticity of the skin, stiff joints and muscle loss. Other signs of collagen deficiency may include excessive skin wrinkles, blood pressure problems, achy muscles, cellulite, dental problems, thinning hair and brittle nails.
Supplementing with collagen has been shown in studies to be beneficial for mitigating some of these effects of the aging process. One study showed that food-derived peptides increased in the blood within an hour of ingestion and reduced to baseline levels after 24 hours, illustrating the importance of a balanced diet or regular, daily supplementation.
Factors that damage collagen include sugar and refined carbohydrates, excessive sun exposure, smoking and some autoimmune disorders. Sugar interferes via glycation with the ability of collagen to restore itself, while UV exposure reduces collagen production. You can help protect your collagen by eating well and avoiding sunburns.
The main dietary sources of collagen are the connective tissues of most animal foods. Bone broth is a rich source. There is some debate over the absorption of collagen, however, research is showing that hydrolyzed collagen peptides are indeed well-absorbed and bioavailable.
5 Benefits of collagen:Skin
There is abundant research demonstrating the positive effects of collagen supplementation on skin physiology. In a double blind, placebo controlled study, women aged 35 – 55 were selected to either receive a daily dose of collagen, or a placebo. Their skin was objectively measured at the beginning and, by the end of the study, the groups that were taking the collagen supplement had a measurable improvement in terms of elasticity.
In another study, oral collagen peptide supplementation significantly increased skin hydration after 8 weeks of intake. The collagen density in the dermis significantly increased and the fragmentation of the dermal collagen network significantly decreased after 4 weeks of supplementation. Both effects persisted after 12 weeks.
A metastudy encompassing 8 studies with 805 patients concluded that hydrolyzed collagen peptides had a favorable outcome on wound healing and skin aging.
As we age, collagen levels decline, especially from our connective tissue. This results in some loss of cushioning and regenerative abilities. The collagen peptides and free amino acids obtained through supplementation of hydrolyzed collagen do accumulate in joint cartilage. This helps to support joint health and mitigate joint deterioration. A study involving 147 athletes showed that joint pain was significantly reduced compared to placebo.
Arthritis causes collagen to break down faster than it can be replenished and a 2017 study found that oral supplementation of collagen reduced joint pain due to osteoarthritis.Bone
An additional benefit of supplementing with collagen was observed in a research study focused on post- menopausal women that found a positive shift in bone markers following collagen peptide supplementation indicating increased osteoblastic activity and reduced osteoclastic activity.Gut
The benefits of supplemental collagen extend beyond skin, joint and ligament support. Leaky gut can be improved through collagen supplementation as evidenced in this study that was supported in part by the USDA. Improvement in tight junctions decreased gut permeability.Muscle
Collagen peptide supplementation in a group of elderly sarcopenic men resulted in increased muscle mass and muscle strength with an improved body composition. The researchers suggested that collagen may stimulate creatine synthesis and promote muscle growth after exercise.
Up to 10% of muscle tissue is composed of collagen. Because amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue it makes sense that supplementing with collagen peptides will benefit muscle repair. Taking a look at the amino-acid profiles of most collagen types, however, reveals an incomplete picture. This makes it important to ensure that the collagen supplements you choose are combined with a full-spectrum protein source.
A complete-protein collagen source, such as hydrolyzed beef, combines hydrolyzed collagen peptides derived from bone with complete protein from the attached meat. Beef-derived collagen offers up to 97% protein by weight with 80% as collagen peptides and the remaining 20% as complete meat protein. Beef-derived collagen is abundant in types I and II.
Choosing a supplement that offers a complete amino acid profile is optimal. At the very least one should combine complementary supplements with a composite, complete amino-acid profile in mind in order to fully realize the many benefits of supplementing with collagen.
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