Why Collagen is important
What is Collagen
Collagen has become very popular in the world of beauty and cosmetics; and considering its properties and the role it plays in supporting beautiful and healthy skin, this obsession is totally warranted.
Collagen is a structural protein that can be found in the skin and bones of all mammals including human beings. It is commonly used in the medical, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries due to its properties. In simple terms, you can think of collagen as the skin’s mattress and elastin with the coils that hold it together. Collagen which is a fibrous protein provides the structure of connective tissue such as skin, arteries, tendons, bones, teeth, and cartilage. In the body, collagen protein accounts for almost half of all protein. It is a large molecule that is mostly made up of only 2 amino acids; glycine and hydroxyproline. Collagen is known to provide the organic matrix upon which bone minerals crystallize and as such plays an important role in supporting bone health.
Many forms of collagen are found in the body but only four types account for over 90% of all the collagen in the body. These are Type 1 Collagen; the most abundant and for a long time the only one known, Type 2 Collagen; the main collagenous protein of the cartilage, Type 3 Collagen; the type which accompanies type 1 collagen in different ratios in almost all tissues and Type 4 Collagen which is the mainstay of the cell membrane.
How Collagen is Made
Collagen production in the body reduces as we age and after the age of 20, a person produces 1 percent less collagen each year. As a result, the amount of collagen in the body reduces significantly with age and the skin becomes thinner and fragile with age.
The production of collagen in the body requires a lot of effort. The initial step involves the production of procollagen which is made with the two amino acids, glycine, and proline. Vitamin C is involved in the production of procollagen which is later converted to collagen. The conversion involves a reaction (hydroxylation) that substitutes a hydroxyl group (OH), for a hydrogen (H) atom.
Because of the role Vitamin C plays in the collagen production process, a lack of vitamin C can cause weak and brittle arteries and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease because of lowered collagen production.
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Where collagen comes from
There are different sources of collagen supplements on the market depending on where the collagen is obtained from. The sources of collagen supplements are;
Bovine Collagen – Obtained from the bones, skin, and cartilage of cows. The generally provides Type 1 and 3 collagen.
Chicken Collagen – This is obtained from the bones, skin, and gristle of chicken. Chicken collagen is generally rich in Type 2 collagen.
Fish Collagen – Fish collagen comes from the bones and skin of fish and is generally rich in Type 1 collagen. Fish collagen is popular with higher bioavailability which means it is easier for it to be absorbed into the body.
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Why Collagen is important
Collagen and keratin which is another fibrous protein, are known to be responsible for maintaining the skin’s elasticity. The reduction or degradation of collagen in the body leads to skin wrinkling and sagging. The lack of collagen in the body results in
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Regular cuts and abrasions
- Slower wound healing
- Brittle nails
- Unhealthy hair
- Smaller and weaker muscles
- Decreased bone density
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There is significant scientific research and evidence that supports the importance and benefits of collagen in the body. For example, a research study that looked at the Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis concluded that 4 patients in the collagen group had complete remission of the disease with no side effects. Another research reported that type I fish collagen hydrolysates have beneficial effects on skin quality
Axe, J., n.d. The collagen diet.
Blake, S., 2011. Vitamins & minerals demystified. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.