What is Collagen: Definition, Health Benefits, and Essential Facts
Proteins form a vital part of our organism as they are essential for muscles, skin, joint and bone health, and other important aspects of our general wellbeing. One of the most plentiful proteins in mammals is collagen. It plays a significant role in several biological functions, including those aimed at providing structural support to muscles, skin, and connective tissue.
The natural production of collagen in the human body slows down over time, leading to the onset of wrinkles and other problems caused by the lost skin elasticity. Unfortunately, we cannot get enough collagen only through foods rich in this protein (bone broth, for example), but we need additional collagen supplements.
Collagen supplements are an excellent addition to a person’s regular diet since they enhance the protein intake and prevent the issues provoked by collagen deficiency. This article will provide more useful information on what is collagen and explain its benefits to people’s health.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is considered one of the most abundant proteins in the human organism. It forms the connective tissue throughout the body, from the skin to bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which makes it one of the most vital aspects of our general health.
It makes up 80% of our skin, and since it works with another protein called elastin, it keeps our skin elastic. However, its production is reduced as we age, and our body cannot replace it that quickly. Therefore, we need a good supplement that accelerates the collagen levels, making our skin look young and fresh.
Types of Collagen
There are 16 different collagen types, but only four of them are considered the most prominent. Let’s take a look at them and their roles in the body:
- Type 1: This type is made of densely packed fibers, and it accounts for about 90% of our body’s collagen. It provides structure to skin, tendons, bones, cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
- Type 2: This type consists of more loosely packed fibers, and it is found in elastic cartilage that cushions your joints.
- Type 3: The third type supports the structure of arteries, organs, and muscles.
- Type 4: This type is vital for filtration, and it exists in the layers of your skin.
Signs of Collagen Deficiency
As we age, our body naturally produces less collagen, which is why we may start to feel inconveniences provoked by its deficiency. Apart from the aging process, which directly influences reduced collagen creation, overexposure to pollution, smoke, and sun rays can also lead to deficiency.
Here are some signs that may indicate the lack of collagen in your body:
- Wrinkling, especially on the face
- Aching muscles
- Flat or thin hair
- Dark circles around eyes.
Lousy lifestyle habits, eating too much sugar and refined carbs, and autoimmune diseases are other common factors that affect collagen production.
Collagen Supplement: Overview
Collagen supplements have recently become popular among people whose natural collagen production has been significantly reduced. They come in the form of peptide powders, capsules, or liquid, and they are sold both online and in-store.
This type of supplementation has a lot of health benefits, and it can be easily added to your daily diet, regardless of the form you have chosen. Its most significant advantage is the ability to absorb easily in the body, bringing positive results more quickly and efficiently.
Collagen supplements can be found in three primary forms:
- Collagen peptides: This form consists of small protein fragments called amino acids.
- Gelatin: The collagen you find in gelatin is partially broken down into amino acid.
- Raw: In raw forms, the collagen stays intact.
What is Collagen Peptides?
Collagen peptides, also known as collagen hydrolysate, are a versatile protein source and an essential element of healthy nutrition. They promote the health of bones and joints while improving skin elasticity and freshness.
Collagen peptides are pretty small molecules that are easily absorbed and highly soluble in cold water. They contain vital amino acids rich in proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, which are the components vital for improving skin, joint, and bone health.
Due to their low molecular weight, collagen peptides are often used in food, beverages, and supplement formulations, such as collagen powders.
What is Collagen Made Of?
Essentially, most collagen supplements are made from the bones, skin, and connective tissue of the animals – cattle, fish, rabbits, or poultry. Therefore, the majority of products are not vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
A collagen supplement is also enriched with amino-acids and other vitamins that bring significant benefits to human health.
The two most commonly used protein supplements are marine (fish) and grass-fed (bovine) collagen. The marine type is a great source of type 1 collagen, which is essential for the skin, while grass-fed collagen nourishes the entire body and has more benefits to a person’s optimal health.
What is Grass Fed Collagen?
Unlike marine collagen, which is made from fish or any other ocean source (jellyfish, shellfish, or sharks), high-quality grass-fed collagen is sourced from cattle. It is extracted from the animals’ hides and undergoes quite a similar manufacturing process to fish collagen.
The key phrase that describes bovine collagen is “grass-fed.” It refers to how animals were raised, and it implies a more natural and healthier way of manufacturing than, for example, grain-feed animals. Bovine collagen is rich in types 1 and 3 collagen, the two most plentiful types of protein in our body, and it promotes the health of the gut, joints, bones, skin, hair, and nails.
Collagen Powder: Crucial Facts and Health Benefits
Collagen powder is the most commonly used form of protein supplements for many reasons. It often consists of collagen peptides, which are easily absorbed in the body, and which allow various combinations with foods and beverages.
Collagen powder is an excellent source of protein. One tablespoon has the protein content of one large egg (6g), so it is recommended to incorporate it into your regular diet and boost the protein intake in a healthy way.
The use of collagen powder has many health benefits, including:
Promotes Skin Health
Collagen is an essential component of your skin, considering the fact that it promotes elasticity and hydration. Supplements containing collagen can help slow your skin’s aging and reduce wrinkles and dryness, retrieving the skin freshness and youth.
The collagen protein found in adequate supplements encourages the body to produce collagen on its own while promoting the creation of other proteins vital for your skin health – elastin and fibrillin.
Alleviates Joint Pain
Collagen deficiency usually leads to increased joint stiffness, preventing us from performing any recreational or everyday activities. Athletes that consume collagen for joints feel reduced pain while walking, resting, or exercising, whereas adults who take it engage in physical activity more effortlessly.
Collagen powder encourages the accumulation of natural collagen in cartilage, stimulating your tissues to produce it, as well. It is also efficient for lowering inflammation, supporting your joints, and reducing pain.
Prevents Bone Loss
Weak bones may lead to osteoporosis and many other health inconveniences that affect your everyday life. Therefore, you should nourish them with essential nutrients and proteins, including collagen.
Collagen supplements prevent the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis, especially when taken with calcium supplement that also plays a vital role in bone health.
Boosts Muscle Mass
About 1-10% of muscle tissue consists of collagen, whose role is to keep your muscles strong and functional. Therefore, it can help build muscle mass and encourage creatine production while stimulating muscle growth after exercising.
Both athletes and adults with age-related muscle mass loss can take collagen supplements to strengthen their muscles and gain mass.
Improves Hearth Health
Collagen intake can prevent many heart-related conditions by providing structure to your arteries. It also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, promoting optimal heart health and increasing the so-called “good” cholesterol.
More Benefits of Collagen
Collagen has a broad range of health benefits, meaning that it can help you improve the following aspects of your general wellbeing:
- Hair and nails: Collagen stimulates the growth of nails and hair while strengthening them.
- Gut health: The collagen consumption can alleviate the leaky gut symptoms.
- Brain health: Collagen can significantly reduce the signs of anxiety and improve your mood.
- Weight loss: Collagen supplements often promote weight loss and faster metabolism, which leads to a healthier and happier life.
3 Critical Tips for Choosing the Most Versatile and High-Quality Collagen Supplement
It is vital to know that not all collagen supplements are equally organic and natural. Your health should always come first, which is why you must be careful when choosing collagen vitamins.
Consider the following concepts when going shopping for protein supplements:
Buy Collagen from Reputable Source
It is critical to buy collagen from a reputable source, primarily because it is an animal product. Always look for grass-fed powder free of any additives or fillers that could affect your health and reduce the effect of collagen.
Ensure the manufacturer is transparent about the collagen processing and sourcing, and it is certified by a third-party testing company that guarantees safety and reputation.
Choose Flavorless Powder
It is always better to stick with flavorless and odorless powders since they are generally more versatile than those with a specific taste. A flavorless powder can be combined with any foods, beverages, smoothies, or soups without interfering with their original taste.
If you want to consume collagen with foods and drinks, make sure you choose one with excellent solubility and dispersibility. A highly-soluble product will lower the risk of dust when dissolving, which makes it a perfect ingredient for any dish or baked goods.
Avoid Gummy Supplements
Supplements come in many forms, including gummies. Although their compelling shape may attract you, these are not recommended for daily use. Gummies are often sugar-based and have additives and fillers our body doesn’t need – hence, it is better to avoid them and go for sugar-free powders or capsules.
Also, read the labels carefully before buying any supplement. Make sure your powder has no artificial colors or sweeteners in order to get the best results without harming other essential aspects of your organism.
Potential Side-Effects of Collagen Supplements
Collagen peptides are generally free of side-effects. However, you shouldn’t take them if you are allergic to the supplement source.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your doctor prior to taking collagen.
How to Boost the Collagen Intake Naturally?
Supplements should be an addition to your regular diet, which means that you shouldn’t exclude foods rich in collagen from it. That being said, you should eat more:
- Bone broth: Since it is made of bones and connective tissue, bone broth is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, collagen, amino acids, and other nutrients.
- Chicken: Chicken is a great protein source, especially white meat.
- Fish: Apart from being rich in collagen, fish has a significant number of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Egg whites: Egg whites have large amounts of proline, the amino acid necessary for collagen production.
- Citrus: Vitamin C has a vital role in collagen production, which is why you should eat more oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.
- Tropical fruits: Mango, kiwi, pineapple, and guava are also rich in vitamin C.
- Berries: Apart from being rich in vitamin C, berries are also high in antioxidants, protecting the skin from damage.
- Garlic: Garlic is high in sulfur, which helps prevent the breakdown of collagen.
- Leafy greens: Greens are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, they are high in antioxidants, and they positively affect a person’s overall health.
- Beans: This high-protein food contains amino acids necessary for collagen synthesis.
- Cashews: Apart from being incredibly tasty, cashews are high in zinc and copper. These vitamins are critical for boosting the body’s ability to create collagen.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great vitamin C source and contribute to collagen production.
- Bell peppers: Bell peppers have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which is why they should be a part of your regular diet.
By embracing high-collagen foods, fruits, and vegetables, you significantly help your body produce more collagen. On the other hand, frequent consumption of sugar and refined carbs can damage collagen and provoke inflammation, which is why you should reduce their intake.