What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals forming about 25% of the total protein content in the body. It is an essential part of the connective tissues in the body. The main components of collagen are 3 non-essential amino acids namely, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. The different arrangements of these amino acids results in different varieties of collagen leading to different functions and site of incorporation.
What are the types of collagen?
A collagen molecule is formed by twisting together 3 long chains of amino acids to form a tight coil giving it a great tensile strength. Many of these long collagen chains join together to perform their specific function. The way these chains join at specific sites results in different types of collagen giving it specific characteristics and functions. More than 20 types of collagen have been identified so far. Some of the common types of collagen are:
|Most abundant collagen of the human body; present in scar tissue, the end product when tissue heals by repair; found in tendons, the endomysium of myofibrils, and the organic part of bone
|Articular cartilage and hyaline cartilage
|Collagen of granulation tissue; produced quickly by young fibroblasts before the tougher type I collagen is synthesized; reticular fiber
|Basal lamina; eye lens
|Most interstitial tissue; associated with type I; associated with placenta
What are the functions of collagen?
Collagen in majorly secreted by fibroblast. It is sometimes referred to as the body’s scaffolding. The word collagen is derived from Greek and means “glue producer.”
Collagen fibers support body tissues, it is a major component of the extracellular matrix that supports cells. Collagen and keratin give the skin its strength, waterproofing, and elasticity. Loss of collagen is a cause of wrinkles.
Connective tissue consists primarily of collagen. Collagen forms fibrils that provide the structure for fibrous tissue, such as ligaments, tendons, and skin. Collagen also is found in cartilage, bone, blood vessels, the cornea of the eye, intervertebral discs, muscles, and the gastrointestinal tract.
How can I get collagen naturally?
Since collagen is found in connective tissues, foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are great sources of collagen. Collagen obtained by this method is usually broken down to individual amino acids and are used up for formation of other proteins. There are not enough studies to show if collagen levels increase in humans upon consumption of these foods.
Another natural source of collagen is gelatin, a substance commonly used in cooking and derived from cooking collagen.
What are the types of Collagen Supplements available?
Collagen initially became famous as injectable solutions to help tighten skin and remove wrinkles. This fell out of trend as it didn’t last long and incited allergic reactions.
However, in recent years hydrolysed collagen supplements have flooded the market. Hydrolysed collagen are collagen threads broken into smaller peptides and chains to aid in easy absorption. Hydrolysed collagen is available majorly as powders. It’s also seen in the form of skin creams or tablets.
A thing to note here is that these supplements are generally marketed as Type-I Collagen or any of the 20 odd collagen types but it doesn’t make a difference which one you pick. While this is talking about the location from which the collagen was extracted, the hydrolysed collagen is already broken and used to form the different forms of collagen as required by the body.
Who would benefit from collagen supplementation and does it really work?
Although the body naturally produces collagen, the rate at which it is produced drops as we age. After a point, the rate at which collagen is produced is not enough to keep up with the body’s demand. Since collagen forms an essential part of the connective tissue, there are multiple benefits for taking collagen supplements.
SKIN HEALTH: Collagen production reduces as you age and this leads to dry and wrinkled skin. Studies have shown that supplementing collagen has improved skin elasticity and reduced dryness. The general conclusion is that collagen slows down skin ageing however more studies are needed to confirm the sole role of collagen in this process.
Joint Health: Ageing leads to deterioration and breakdown of joints. Studies have shown that collagen supplementation not only helps promote joint health but also helps alleviate joint pain.
Muscle Mass: Collagen is also a part of the muscle tissue and forms about 10% of muscle tissue. Multiple studies have shown that people taking collagen supplementation while exercising tend to put on more muscle mass and strength.
Heart Health: Collagen fibres line the inner walls of arteries and are shown to lead to weaker arterial walls. Studies have shown an improvement in arterial wall elasticity and reduction in stiffness when supplemented with collagen.
Are collagen supplements safe to take for vegans?
Collagen for manufacture of supplements is majorly obtained from animal sources such as bone broth and protein. However, a few vegan and vegetarian alternatives have started appearing online.
- Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
- High Yield Orthopaedics. JavadParviziMD, FRCS, Gregory K.Kim MD Associate Editor. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-0236-9.00064-X
- Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(8):1237–1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810
- Proksch, E., Schunck, M., Zague, V., Segger, D., Degwert, J., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 27(3), 113–119. doi: 10.1159/000355523
- Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N., & Venkateswarathirukumara, S. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), 702–707. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6752
- Sibilla, S., Godfrey, M., Brewer, S., Budh-Raja, A., & Genovese, L. (2015). An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal, 8(1), 29–42. doi: 10.2174/1876396001508010029