Collagen 101: What Is Collagen?

Collagen 101: What Is Collagen?

Within the realm of health, wellness, and beauty, collagen has emerged as a pivotal player. Its health benefits have skyrocketed collagen's reputation, making it a vital component in dietary and supplement regimes. 

In this article, we will answer the question: "What is Collagen?" and explore its benefits, the effect of ageing on collagen levels, and ways to boost collagen levels in our bodies.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen, derived from the Greek word 'kolla', meaning 'glue', is the most abundant protein in the human body, constituting approximately one-third of our total protein content. It's an essential building block of our skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen can also be found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.

Composition & Types of Collagen

Collagen is a complex structural protein that consists of various amino acids. Strung together in a triple helix structure, these amino acids form the basis of collagen's strength and flexibility. The primary amino acids that constitute collagen are glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.

While over 16 types of collagen are present in the body, three types - types I, II, and III - are the most abundant and critical to human health and function.

Type I Collagen

Type I collagen is the most abundant form of collagen in our bodies, making up about 90% of the body's total collagen content. Type I collagen is incredibly dense, providing structure and strength to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth. It's essential for healing wounds and maintaining the integrity of skin structures.

Type II Collagen

Type II collagen is primarily found in cartilage - the protective tissue that cushions our joints. Its more loosely packed fibres and elastin provide a supple, elastic texture necessary for absorbing shocks and facilitating smooth joint movement. Ensuring an adequate supply of type II collagen helps maintain joint health and may prevent conditions like osteoarthritis.

Type III Collagen

Type III collagen is typically found alongside type I collagen in the body, primarily within our skin, blood vessels, and internal organs. It helps maintain cardiovascular health, the flexibility of blood vessels, and the elasticity of the skin.

The Benefits of Collagen in the Body

Collagen, the most abundant protein in our bodies, is crucial to our health and well-being. Below we discuss five prominent health and wellness benefits of collagen.

Skin Health

When it comes to skin health, collagen acts as a critical building block. It promotes skin elasticity and hydration, reducing wrinkles and dryness. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles. Several studies suggest that collagen peptides or supplements can slow skin ageing by reducing wrinkles and dryness.

Joint and Bone Health

Collagen provides structure to our joints and bones. Its decline with age can lead to degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall. 

Collagen is also a major component of bones, and taking it as a supplement can improve bone density, potentially reducing the risk of bone fractures.

Digestion and Gut Health

Collagen can have a positive effect on digestion and overall gut health. Collagen is in the gut's connective tissue and can help support and strengthen the protective lining of your digestive tract. This is important because alterations in the barrier function of your intestine, also known as leaky gut syndrome, can allow undigested food particles and waste products to pass through the lining into the bloodstream, resulting in inflammation. 

Hair and Nails

Beyond skin and bones, collagen benefits your hair and nails by keeping them strong and healthy. Some evidence suggests that collagen supplements can prevent nail brittleness and increase the strength of both your nails and hair, promoting growth and vitality.

Improved Exercise Recovery and Increased Muscle Mass

Collagen is also beneficial for increasing muscle mass and strength in people with muscle mass loss. It comprises up to 10% of muscle tissue and can contribute significantly to its growth and function. 

Collagen can promote the synthesis of creatine in the body, providing muscles with the fuel needed to power through workouts. It can also help with exercise recovery by repairing proteins in the body, making it a key component in overall health and physical performance.

How Ageing Affects Collagen Levels

Ageing is an inevitable process that brings about various changes in the body, including a reduction in collagen production. This natural occurrence begins around the mid to late twenties and continues to decrease as we grow older.

Collagen production slows down by approximately 1% per year after the age of 20. This reduction in collagen synthesis means that the body cannot replace collagen proteins at the same rate they are broken down, leading to a net loss. This decrease is often associated with many visible signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, sagging skin, and joint pain.

Many other factors can also contribute to the rate at which collagen production decreases, including environmental factors like exposure to sunlight and pollutants, poor diet, and lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol, or high sugar consumption.

How To Increase Collagen Levels

You can enhance your body's collagen levels by incorporating certain foods into your diet, like bone broth, chicken, fish, and egg whites, all rich in collagen.

On the supplement front, collagen supplements have gained popularity due to their convenience and effectiveness. Collagen supplements are generally derived from bovine or marine sources. As discussed earlier, numerous scientific studies have backed their efficacy, demonstrating benefits such as improved skin health and increased muscle mass.

Types of Collagen Supplements

As the demand for collagen supplements has increased due to its many health benefits, various types have emerged. These types differ based on the source of the collagen.

Marine Collagen

Marine collagen is derived from fish and is particularly rich in type I collagen, the type that's abundant in our skin. Due to its high bioavailability, meaning the body can absorb and utilise it efficiently, marine collagen is often a popular choice for skin, hair, and nail health. 

Marine collagen is also a sustainable choice, as it utilises parts of the fish that are typically discarded, thereby reducing waste. For people with dietary restrictions, it's important to note that marine collagen is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen is sourced from cows, specifically their skin, bones, and muscles. It's rich in type I and type III collagen, making it a popular choice for skin, hair, nail, and bone health. Bovine collagen is also a great source of proline and glycine, amino acids necessary for collagen production in the body. 

Vegan Collagen

Vegan collagen supplements typically contain plant-based ingredients, like specific amino acids, vitamins, and other nutrients, designed to boost the body's natural collagen production. Vegan collagen supplements are an excellent choice for individuals adhering to a vegan lifestyle. 

Bone Broth Powder

Bone broth powder is another popular collagen supplement. It's made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals, including chicken, beef, or fish, to release collagen and other nutrients. The broth is then dehydrated and ground into a powder. In addition to providing a rich source of easily digestible collagen, bone broth powder can also contain other beneficial compounds like hyaluronic acid, minerals, and chondroitin sulphate. 

While all these collagen supplements can support collagen levels, the best choice depends on your dietary needs, preferences, and health goals.

Collagen Supplement Side Effects

While collagen supplements are generally considered safe for most people when taken at the correct dosage, as with any supplement, it's crucial to consider potential side effects before adding them to your health routine. Fortunately, side effects from collagen supplements are relatively rare. However, some sensitive individuals may experience digestive issues like feelings of fullness, heartburn, or bloating. Some people might also have a sensitivity or allergy to the source of the collagen, such as fish or bovine, which can lead to additional side effects like rashes or difficulty breathing.

Remember that collagen supplements are not a magic bullet. They should not replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, both of which are essential for overall health and well-being, including the health of your skin, joints, and gut. 

Always do your research, and consult with your healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a health condition. Finally, make sure you choose a high-quality product from a reputable brand such as Planet Paleo’s Pure Collagen.

Collagen 101

Collagen is a fundamental protein in our bodies, comprised of various amino acids, with type I, II, and III being the most significant.

Collagen supports skin elasticity, joint and bone health, digestive health, hair and nail growth, and enhancement of muscle mass. 

Remember, collagen production decreases with age, causing visible signs of ageing. Environmental impacts, diet, and lifestyle choices can exacerbate this decline.

To boost collagen levels, you can incorporate certain foods and supplements into your daily routine. These include bone broth, chicken, fish, and collagen supplements, available in various forms, such as marine, bovine, vegan collagen, and organic bone broth powder. Each type of collagen supplement serves specific needs and caters to different dietary restrictions.

Collagen plays a crucial role in health and wellness. Through mindful dietary choices and possible supplementation, individuals can harness the benefits of collagen to enhance overall well-being and combat ageing.