Collagen powder is one of the most popular supplements on the market right now. Along with collagen powders that you can mix into hot or cold drinks, the supplement is also available as tablets and capsules.
Regardless of how you use collagen, it can have significant benefits. The following are six things to know about adding it to your routine.
1. What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the primary component of our connective tissue. It’s also a main protein in our muscles, bones, cartilage, and skin. Essentially, collagen is found throughout our bodies, and it’s like glue holding us together.
Lifestyle factors like toxin exposure, genetics, and poor diet can lead to more rapid collagen depletion. Some people don’t get enough of it from their diet alone, and that’s also because our modern diet doesn’t include organ mean and collagen-rich tendons like our ancestors’ often did.
Collagen is the most abundant structural protein we have, and it creates the framework of our tissues and cells. There are 28 known forms of collagen. Type I collagen makes up 90% of what’s in our body. Collagen is made up of amino acids, like glycine, hydroxyproline, and proline.
The protein plays an essential role in tissue repair and cellular maintenance, cellular communication, and immune response. Our fibroblasts and connective tissue cells produce and subsequently maintain collagen. As we get older, our fibroblast production can become impaired, so our collagen levels decline.
That change, along with the loss of another protein—elastin—can lead to the visible signs of aging we may notice, like wrinkles and sagging skin.
2. Collagen Uses
Your body can naturally produce collagen, and you can also get it from your diet. Fish skin and chicken skin, in particular, have high amounts of collagen. Supplements are another option.
There are oral collagen products that people put directly on their skin to combat the signs of aging, or as mentioned, you can buy collagen powders, capsules, and liquids.
Possible benefits of collagen supplements include:
- Supporting skin health: Research shows that taking collagen supplements can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and increase elasticity and hydration.
- Bone health: Some studies have found that collagen peptides increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. There are also studies showing collagen supplements reduce osteoarthritis symptoms, including stiffness.
- Body composition: If someone takes collagen to preserve muscle or reduce fat, they could see benefits. When paired with resistance training, collagen supplements could help beneficially affect the proportion of fat to non-fat, which is body composition.
In a small study of premenopausal women, participants taking a collagen supplement had a greater increase in fat-free body mass and a reduction in fat mass.
- Joint pain: Some people who suffer from joint pain find relief with collagen supplements. Collagen is a building block of cartilage.
Cartilage is the material covering and protecting bones that helps joints move smoothly. As we age, our cartilage production declines. If you have joint problems, collagen supplements could help.
- Heart health: Some people use collagen to help with the health of their heart, but there’s limited research as to whether or not this is effective. We have seen that collagen might help improve cholesterol levels and reduce risk factors for atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries.
3. Causes Of Collagen Loss
We’ve touched on above, but as you age, your collagen production will go down naturally. Collagen also experiences fragmentation, and it’s more loosely distributed. This is a big reason that you might see visible signs of aging like dry, sagging skin and wrinkles.
While everyone is going to inevitably experience some level of collagen loss and damage as they age, there are lifestyle factors that speed it up.
Smoking is one example of a lifestyle factor that can degrade collagen, as can excessive alcohol intake.
A diet high in processed foods and sugar can lead to premature aging because of something called glycation. Glycation interferes with collagen’s ability to interact with proteins and cells and reduces collagen turnover.
Excessive exposure to the sun can also degrade collagen production more rapidly.
4. Food Sources Of Collagen
Collagen is in all animals, and it’s especially concentrated in certain parts, like the skin and joints.
Collagen-rich foods include the bones, skin, and ligaments of animals. Certain types of seafood are rich in collagen, like the skin of fish and jellyfish, and bone broth made from bones and ligaments has a lot of collagen.
Since your body naturally produces collagen from amino acids, you can support its production with adequate protein from fish, beans, eggs, and poultry. Your body also needs vitamin C for collagen synthesis, so getting plenty of this can help your body make its own collagen.
If you have a diet high in antioxidant plant compounds, it can reduce inflammation which can protect you against collagen degradation.
5. Types Of Collagen Supplements
The following are some of the types of collagen supplements most widely available:
- Type I: The most prevalent type in our bodies, type I collagen, is good for your skin, hair, and nails. Our levels of type I collagen start to decline around the age of 25.
The declines in type I collagen we experience can lead to fine lines, thinning hair, and brittle nails. Type I collagen is part of organs, bones, and tendons too.
- Type II: While it’s less prevalent than type I, type II collagen is still important, and it’s one of the main components of cartilage. Having enough type II collagen is needed for a healthy skeletal system. If your primary reason for supplementing with collagen is joint health, look for something with type II.
- Type III: This type of collagen is in our bone marrow and reticular fibers.
6. Gut Health
Finally, one of the lesser-known reasons that some people use collagen supplements is to support gut health. Collagen can help improve digestion and repair the lining of the stomach. It’s often used as a treatment for conditions like IBS as well as leaky gut. When you add collagen to your routine, it can help you feel fuller for longer, which can help with weight loss.
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