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March 02, 2021 3 min read

What is collagen and why is it essential for your health?

Think of collagen as a ‘Glue’that holds stuff together in our bodies.

Or, as a board-certified dermatologist very accurately describes,‘Ropes of protein in the skin’.

Collagen is one of nature’s spectacular compounds that is present throughout our bodies for support, structure, firmness and elasticity.

But what is it really?

What is collagen?

In simple terms, collagen is a protein. Although the most plentiful one - It makes up as much as one third of the protein found in our bodies.

It is a very strong and insoluble protein that is also flexible at the same time. Some types of collagen fibres are even stronger than steel when compared gram-for-gram.

Since proteins are the building blocks of life, collagen is found in many parts of our bodies, including bones, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels. Even our skin, cornea and teeth also contain collagen.

Collagen has as many as 16 types. However, almost 90% of collagen occurring in our bodies is type I, II, and III.

  • Type I - most abundant form of collagen found in skin, tendon and bone tissue
  • Type II - found in cartilage, bone and tissue
  • Type III - abundant in soft tissue like muscles, organs and arteries

What is collagen good for? 

If you’re familiar with the skin care industry then you may have already heard about how great collagen is for our skin. It gives the skin its structure and helps with hydration while improving skin elasticity and firmness.

But the benefits of collagen aren’t limited to skin only.

Collagen also promotes strong and healthy hair by providing a much-needed supply of amino acids to produce keratin (the hair building protein).

Collagen may also help with arthritic joint pain by supporting the formation of cartilage which is the rubber-like tissue protecting our joints.

It can help boost heart health by strengthening the walls of our blood vessels. This consequently prevents arterial buildup that leads to deadly heart illnesses such as the coronary heart disease. 

Collagen peptides can also increase bone strength by enhancing the bone mineral density. 

They’re also great for those suffering from a ‘leaky gut’ where one’s intestinal lining is compromised which leads to inflammation in the body.

No wonder this is the most abundant protein in our body!

What happens as we age? 

As we get older, our bodies naturally produce less collagen that is also of lower quality. This takes a toll on our existing collagen reserves thereby causing various skin, hair and other health concerns.

Beginning from our 20’s, we lose approximately 1% of our collagen each year!

How fast collagen degenerates can depend on a number of factors including genetics, lifestyle and diet.

Environmental factors such as increased exposure to sunlight and pollution is our biggest enemy in this regard. These produce free radicals that break down collagen in our bodies.  

Can we naturally boost collagen? 

As mentioned earlier, collagen is a protein. This implies that if you want to maintain healthy collagen levels then you should consume a protein-rich diet. Foods such as eggs, fish, dairy, mushrooms, beef, organ meat and lentils are some great sources of protein.

Other nutrients that help collagen production are Vitamin C, zinc, copper and hyaluronic acid. 

How can collagen supplements help?

Supplements such as marine collagen (also known as fish collagen) are great for a number of reasons.

Supplemental collagen contains smaller peptide chains. This means that although they are made up of the same amino acids as collagen, they are more easily absorbed into our bodies than natural collagen which contains bigger molecules. 

Collagen supplements are also generally safe to use and don’t have side effects.

They may offer health benefits such as improving skin and hair, increasing bone density and relieving joint pain.

Additionally, it may be difficult to incorporate all the collagen-rich foods you know about in your diet. Whereas more research is required to establish if the collagen in food sources actually replenishes the collagen reserves in your body.

Which is why collagen supplements are worth giving a try.

Have you considered using collagen supplements? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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