Collagen – What You Need to Know
Collagen is a naturally produced protein within the body. It is the most abundant protein within the body and has several important roles in keeping us healthy.
Collagen helps our skin, bones, joints, heart, muscles, hair and nails; therefore, it is fundamental to maintaining overall good health.
Unfortunately, as we grow older the body produces less collagen. This is particularly noticeable in people over 50. In addition, the quality of the collagen produced by the body deteriorates as we get older.
For this reason, you might like to consider adding a collagen supplement to your diet.
What does Collagen do?
Collagen acts as a type of glue. It holds everything together. It gives our skin elasticity. It helps provide flexion and movement in joints. It helps wound healing. It speeds up tissue regeneration after injury or damage. It helps prevent the absorption of bacteria and toxins.
The structure of collagen proteins is exceptionally strong and are found within the cells that make up our bodies. Collagen makes up about one third of the proteins within the human body. It is the building support block for all body tissue. Rather like the bricks and mortar that hold a building together….it is worth looking after.
How do we get Collagen?
Collagen is produced by the body by combining amino acids (nutrients) that are contained within protein rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs and dairy produce. Natural collagen production also requires vitamin C, zinc and copper.
Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and most green vegetables., garlic, soya, avocado. Zinc can be obtained from milk, whole grains, red meat, oysters, beans, chickpeas and most nuts. Most of these also contain copper. Kidneys, liver, dark leafy greens such spinach and kale, prunes, cocoa, black pepper, potatoes, tea and yeast can be added to this list of copper sources.
What causes Collagen levels to fall?
Aging: as our bodies get older the collagen production process becomes less efficient; this is normal, and nothing can be done to reverse it. This decline starts at around age 20, becomes noticeable at 30 and becomes serious at 50 and beyond.
Smoking: you probably guessed it anyway – but smoking exacerbates collagen decline.
Sugar: excessive sugar intake will negatively affect the collagen production process.
UV rays: exposure to Ultra-Violet light from sun rays (and especially tanning equipment) will have a dramatic effect on collagen production and will be most noticeable on the skin.
Pollution, stress, caffeine and excessive alcohol are other negative influencers.
Symptoms of Collagen deficiency
- Dry wrinkly skin
- Joint pain
- Aching muscles
- Blood pressure problems (usually low BP manifesting itself as fatigue, dizziness, headaches, chest pains)
- Flat or thinning hair
- Hollowing of face and eyes
What can be done to improve collagen levels?
Diet Supplement: This is by far the most effective and quickest method of increasing collagen within the body. It is almost essential for people over 50. Please read the section below about Collagen supplements.
Massage: massage by a trained health masseur has been shown to stimulate collagen production.
Increase fatty acid levels, especially Omega-3: Surprisingly, as we have become obsessed with fat reduction due to poor diet. Some fats are good and are needed by the body to maintain sound health.
It is possible to go on a collagen diet. This is a specially construed diet aimed at boosting your collagen levels by focussing on eating collagen rich foods and other ingredients that stimulate your natural Collagen producing system. It should only be done under medical supervision by a doctor, health professional or qualified dietician.
Some collagen boosting programs include the injection of collagen into the bloodstream. This must be undertaken by a specialist licensed health professional.
By far the safest way to boost collagen levels is by taking a dietary supplement.
Collagen Supplements – important information
Be suspicious of cosmetics that claim to contain collagen because it is good for the complexion. Collagen is good for the complexion but applying it to the skin in the form of oils, creams , moisturiser or ointment is a waste of time (and your money) because the structure of collagen molecules will not allow them them to pass through the skin into the bloodstream where they are needed. They don’t tell you that on the label.
Because it is now known how important collagen is for the body, many businesses have jumped on the bandwagon and will try to sell you collagen in all sorts of forms and guises. Beauty companies are notorious for making weird and wonderful claims about how their product will enhance your looks because it contains collagen. These claims are baseless and show a fundamental misunderstanding of the science behind collagen.
There are several types of Collagen, over 30 have been identified by research but only six are significant for most people. Type I, II, III, IV, V and Type X. Other collagen types are more significant in animals.
Type I is the strongest and is found within the skin.
Type II is also strong and is good for joints and bones: it is found within cartilage.
Type III is similar to Type I and is a fibrillar protein found in body organs and skin.
Type IV is less common: found in the kidneys and other organs; also in skin layers; helps wound healing. Difficult to find in supplement form.
Type V is fibre like and found in skin, hair, eye cornea and placenta tissue.
Type X is less common and helps strengthen the skin.
Let’s think common sense here. Any collagen taken through a dietary supplement is going to be helpful in replenishing your natural required level of collagen, so don’t agonise too long over Types I, II or III which account for 90%-95% of human collagen.
The important thing here is to ensure you buy it from a reputable and trusted source that produces good quality pure collagen.
Getting it into your system is the most vital element. By age 50 your natural level of collagen will have depleted to such a level that you need to replenish it quickly and safely.
Dietary experts agree that any collagen supplement must have the following qualities:
- It must be hydrolysed. This means it can be absorbed into the body more easily. Look for the term Collagen Peptides to confirm this.
- It should be grass fed, natural and free from artificial additives.
Type I & Type III Collagen should be taken just before or immediately after eating.
Type II Collagen is best taken on an empty stomach to allow quick absorption.
Avoid over marketed ‘Multi-Collagens’. They will not contain the concentrations of pure collagen required to have a positive impact. Thy will also most likely contain ‘fillers’ that sound as if they might be good but, in reality, are a cheap way of generating more profit.
Collagen usually comes in powder form and can be added to warm or cold drinks though there are tablets or chewable options available. Collagen supplements are generally regarded as safe; collagen supplements are usually tasteless and will not affect the flavour of any drink they are mixed with. Some chewable options sometimes have orange, blackcurrant or lemon added to give an acceptable flavour. There are few reported side effects; the most common ones being – a feeling of fullness, bad taste in mouth, mild heartburn or acid reflux.
Much has been written about Collagen in the past 10 years as it is now understood how important this protein is for the body.
As with any dietary supplement it is wise to run the issue past your doctor or health professional.
Try to understand the basic fact that ……………..if you construct a building using weak or contaminated cement…………..it will fall down and collapse many years before it was meant to.
Failing that ……..remember the story of the 3 Little Pigs.