You might have heard about collagen. Health experts are starting to talk more and more about it. About 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content is collagen. So, what is it all about?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the structural proteins present in the connective tissues. It is present in the muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, and tendons. Our skin gets its strength, elasticity from collagen. Moreover, it helps in replacing dead skin cells.
There are 16 different types of collagen in the human body. About 90% of collagen in the body which composes the skin, tendon, vascular ligature, organs and bone is Type I. The rest of the 10% is Type II, III, IV, and V which makes up the cartilage, reticulate, and cell surface. Food like bone broth, fish, lean meat, milk products provides protein which makes up collagen.
9 Key benefits of Collagen
Benefits of collagen are numerous. There so many of them that it would take too much space to present them all. So, instead, we are going to focus on the most important ones. This section is presenting 9 key benefits of collagen.
1. Improve gut health
Collagen increases amino acids to help proper Bifidobacteria growth. This bifidobacteria promotes good digestion and boosts the immune system. Moreover, the bacteria produce lactic and acetic acid that controls intestinal pH. Hence, this protects the liver and helps in detoxification and bile acid production.
2. Healthier joints and bones
Sore muscles and overworked tendons and ligaments take a long time to heal. Intake of a dietary supplement containing collagen hydrolysate reduces joint pain and inflammation. Foods that contain amino acids like fish and animal meat are a good source of collagen. The main protein in cartilage is a Type II collagen, made from amino acids.
If you have frequent knee pain after performing squats or similar movements, then you should look into improving your collagen production.
3. Blood Sugar Regulation
Glycine supplements impact insulin secretion and blood sugar levels in diabetics. Glycine is a nonessential amino acid, which it is not required in most diets because your body makes its supply. Diabetic patients often suffer from energy spikes caused by the irregular production of insulin. Luckily, collagen helps to stop the breakdown of fatty acids which end up in the bloodstream. Thus, it increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood triglyceride levels. Intake of collagen-rich food help to stabilize blood sugar levels more than other proteins.
4. Natural skin care
With the growing age, the skin starts losing its elasticity and firmness, taking away the glow. So an increase in the collagen levels will help the skin look smooth and firmer. Further, collagen helps the skin cells to renew and repair on its own. The anti-aging properties of collagen also help in decreasing dimple formation.
5. Prevent Insomnia
As we said, glycine is a non-essential amino acid. It helps excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission. The collagen hydrolysate contains Glycine, which can relieve stress and reduce anxiety. It promotes therapeutic alteration in the body and decreases stress, anxiety, and depression. Glycine content affects neurotransmitters, helping in a better and quality sleep.
And having good sleep quality is very important for several reasons. For men, one of the most important goals of sleep is to keep their testosterone production to a healthy leve
6. Keratin treatment
Collagen is a polypeptide which contains a mixture of amino acids like proline and glycine. It makes up 70% of the protein in the skin and influences the keratin and its growth. Hair and nails contain Keratin, a fibrous structural protein. Brittle nails, breaking of hair or even frizzy hair indicates that the body is in need of proteins. So, lean meats, fish, yogurt and low-fat dairy are rich in amino acids that can make collagen.
7. A Healthy heart
Fat buildup on the walls of the arteries causes arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries). Proline, an amino acid present in collagen, helps the artery walls release fat buildup. This keeps the bloodstream clear and minimizing fat buildup. Moreover, collagen found in the joints prevents effects of vibration or shock.
8. Removes cellulite
The buildup of fat cells and unwanted dead cells beneath the skin is cellulite. In other words, it is the lumpy, dimpled flesh on thighs, hips, and stomach which makes the skin loose. However, collagen created inside the body reduces the appearance of cellulite. It rebuilds and repairs the fibers that connect the skin to the tissues.
9. Collagen softens skin thickness in men
Men have a tougher skin texture than women. A man’s skin is typically 25% thicker than a woman’s. Androgen, or testosterone stimulation, is the main reason behind the increase in skin thickness. But then again, collagen helps in softening of the thick skin. It is popular for removing acne and scars as well.
Where to get Collagen
Our body can derive collagen from a regular diet if we can include enough of proteins and vitamins. So fruits that are rich in Vitamin C like oranges, lemons, and strawberries are easy sources of collagen. The best supplement for collagen comes from:
- Vitamin C
- Coenzyme Q10
- Hyaluronic Acid (Hyaluronan)
- Ceramide (waxy lipid molecules)
- Amino Acids
Simple ways of increasing collagen in the body
There are a few simple ways of increasing collagen in the body:
- Dark green leaves like spinach, cabbage, and kale contain antioxidant. This boosts skin hydration and elasticity, which, in turn, stops skins from wrinkling. But do not think that dark green leaves purpose is limited to collagen production. A lot of dark green leaves vegetables have so many health benefits that they are considered as superfoods.
- Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene. Lycopene aids the formation of collagen in the body. The antioxidants found in red vegetables help to build up under the skin creating extra UV protection. Lycopene is also known to prevent prostate cancer. The best sources of lycopene are the watermelon and tomatoes.
- Soy-based products like cheese and soymilk contain genistein. This helps in the formation of collagen and block enzymes that tend to break down and age the skin. That being said, it is not the best choice for men as soy products are known to have a negative impact on testosterone levels.
- Free radicals are the main cause of the breakdown of healthy skin tissues. However, prunes consist of antioxidants that help to neutralize the free radicals.
- Nuts and fish are the best sources of Omega Acids. Omega-3 acid creates the perfect environment for the production of collagen.
Supplements for Collagen can have Side-Effects
The benefits of collagen coming from natural sources are numerous and risk-free. Unfortunately, the dietary supplements that restore collagen levels have several side effects.
1. Loss of appetite
Collagen supplement tablets often are a key reason behind the loss of appetite. Minerals and chemical compounds in the tablet sit in the stomach pouch. As a result, it makes it feel full all the time.
Some individuals are allergic to bovine, porcine, fish, shellfish or chicken. Pacific mackerel is a crude source of collagen for supplement tablets.
The calcium level in the body should range between 8.5 to 10.2 mg/dl. Levels beyond 10.2 mg/dl may cause hypercalcemia, which leads to constipation, bone pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abnormal heart rhythms.
4. Lingering taste in the mouth
Oral collagen supplements leave behind a bad taste in the mouth. Collagen supplements made from marine products have a bad taste and foul smell. Taking the tablets with acidic fruit juices, like orange, apple, grape, and tomato, may lower the effects.
In brief, unless a doctor prescribes you to take the collagen supplements, try to avoid them.
ConclusionCollagen is an essential building block for skin, bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Further, it is essential to maintain a healthy level of collagen for the skin to look firmer and glowing. Men, in particular, need more collagen since they usually have thicker skin. So a mindful selection of fruits, vegetables, etc can help in restoring collagen. Lastly, it is a good idea to avoid taking artificial supplements which usually have side-effects.