Collagen is the recent buzzword in the cosmetic and health industry. There is more to it when we talk about collagens apart from its benefits for the skin. The most prevalent protein in the human body is collagen. You would be surprised to know that collagen covers about one third of protein in the body and 75% of your skin. Isn’t it a lot? The good news here is that you can get your collagen through some natural collagen sources.
Collagen is responsible for holding the body together. It plays a major role in providing strength and structure. It is mostly present in bones, connective tissues, tendons, skin, muscles and ligaments. Collagen found in the body has multiple functions. Hence, its depletion leads to a number of health issues. This is the point where we need natural collagen sources to consume and provide the body.
This article will give you an overall science backed idea about the versatile benefits, depletion and sources of collagen. But let’s start with the basics.
To put it in simple terms, collagen is the glue that holds the body together. Collagen is protein and is made up of the building block of protein i.e., amino acids (majorly proline, glycine, hydroxyproline and arginine). It is a hard, strong, quite flexible and fibrous form of protein that the body needs.
Collagen has different types depending upon its role in the body. Out of which 4 are main types.
Type 1: Covers 90% of the body’s collagen. Compactly packed. Provides structure to connective tissues, bones, skin, tendons, teeth and fibrous cartilage.
Type 2: Lightly packed fibres. Present in cushion joints (elastic cartilage)
Type 3: Ropes the structure of organs, muscles and arteries.
Type 4: Present in skin layers. Assist with filtration.
Why do we need collagen?
By now you might have got a little idea about what collagen is. Let’s get a bit deeper.
Every year our body loses about 1% of collagen. Initially there would be negligible difference but it makes a huge difference when you reach your 40s. The rate of breaking down is more than the rate of replacing the collagen in the body. It means, the depletion in the collagen will lead to weakened organ protection, wrinkles, weaker cartilages, weaker bones, weaker muscle tissue. Overall, it affects the strength and structure of the body. Therefore, collagen is of utmost importance.
Benefits of collagen:
Let’s talk about a few most spoken benefits of collagen.
Skin hydration and elasticity:
Collagen is known to give skin tissues its texture, durability, rigidity and structure. When collages combine with elastics fibers it gives the skin resilience. Moreover, it helps in keeping the skin hydrated and reduces the wrinkles. One of the studies in the journal Antioxidants, stated that collagen can also protect the skin from UV damage.
Reduce Joint pains:
As mentioned earlier, Collagen starts decreasing with age increasing. And as you get older you are more prone to joint disorders. Collagen is said to maintain the integrity of a rubber-like tissue that helps in protecting your joint (cartilage). It has also been hypothesized that collagen supplements stimulate the collagen production in the cartilage. One of the studies mentioned in the Applied physiology, nutrition and metabolism journal states that collagen reduces inflammation, reduces pain and acts as a better support system for your joints.
Collagen promotes wound healing by regenerating skin cells. Also, it attracts new skin cells to the wound site to heal it faster. (First aids tips for cuts and wounds)
Prevent bone loss:
Our bones are mostly made up of collagen. This is what gives bone structure and strength. Consumption of collagen is shown to increase the bone mineral density. Thus, making it less brittle. (Foods for stronger bones)
Improve hair and nails:
Collagen is an important part of hair and nails too. They are responsible for increasing hair thickness, quality and scalp coverage. Moreover, they help in strengthening nails thus preventing brittleness. Furthermore, collagen stimulates the hair and nails to grow. (Healthy hair and skin foods)
Boost muscle mass:
Collagen is a structural protein in the muscles. It is required in order to maintain strong muscles and proper functioning. Researches indicate that collagen consumption improved the muscle mass that reduces with age. Also, it assists in synthesis of creatine (a muscle protein).
Promote heart health:
Surprising, right? Yes, researches mention that collagen may reduce the risk of heart related issues. Although this may be true as collagen is accountable to maintain artery stiffness and provide them structure. In addition to it, collagen also helps in improving the good cholesterol levels in the body.
Easily digestible protein:
The collagen that you get in the form of supplements are a bit different than that in the body. Supplements are usually made up of shorter chain amino acids and are hydrolyzed forms of collagen. This is the easily digestible form of collagen. This process also makes them easy to use in everyday foods.
There are several factors that damage or depletes the level of collagen in the body. If you wish to have healthy skin then avoid these factors.
Smoking: Reduces the collagen production. Damages skin elastin too.
Eating too much refined carbohydrates and sugar: Reduces collagens self-repair ability. Glycation (in which sugar attaches to protein to make a new molecule) damages protein. Brittle and dry collagen. (How sugar affects your skin)
UV rays: Excess of sun rays breaks the collagen. Decreases production. Irregular elastin build up. (Sunscreen tips)
Autoimmune disorders: Damages collagen.
Genetic changes and Ageing process: Cannot be avoided
Natural collagen sources:
There are some good natural collagen sources that you can consume if you do not wish to take supplements. One of the great things about collagens is that it is resorbable. It can be absorbed back into the body.
Procollagen is the initial step collagen formation. It uses up two amino acids viz., proline and glycine. The fact is that this can also be found in some foods.
Proline: Mushrooms, cabbage, egg whites, dairy products, asparagus, wheat germ, meat, soy
Glycine: Chicken skin, beans, nuts, seeds, salmon, legumes, watercress, spinach,
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli
Vitamin A: Carrots, squash, broccoli, fish, dairy products, salmon, spinach, sweet potato, egg
Copper: Cocoa powder, sesame seeds, lentils, cashew nuts, shellfish, nuts, green leafy vegetables
Zinc: Beans, lentil, nuts, seeds, fish, chickpeas, dairy products, whole grains, legumes
Anthocyanins: All bright Berries, cherries, Aubergine, red cabbage, dark chocolate, grapes, all red, purple and blue foods
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