Collagen: What You Need to Know

When most people think of collagen, they think of avoiding fine lines and wrinkles, anti-aging topical treatments, and costly facial creams. Of course, healthy aging is one of the most common reasons people want to take a collagen supplements but it is better to concentrate on having more of it in their diets. Collagen, has many other functions in the body, some of which are much more important than preventing wrinkles.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the body's most abundant protein, responsible for about one-third of its protein composition.

It's one of the bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments' main building blocks. In several other body sections, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth, collagen is also present.

You can think of it as the "glue" that holds together all these things. The word originally comes from the Greek word 'kólla,' meaning glue.

Types of Collagen

Here’s a closer look at the four main types of collagen and their roles in your body:

Type I. This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.

Type II. This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and found in elastic cartilage, which cushions your joints.

Type III. This type supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.

Type IV. This type helps with filtration and is found in the layers of your skin.

Our bodies contain less and less collagen as we age, which directly influences the manner in which our bodies age. Our bodies are expected to generate around one percent less collagen per year beginning about age 30. Our bodies contain 20 percent less collagen at age 50 than at age 30 by that rationale.

In addition, exposure to sunlight, environmental factors (such as pollution), and lifestyle choices (such as smoking) all lead over time to collagen breakdown within the body.

It's really no wonder if you think about it like that, that it takes longer to recover from injuries and our muscles and joints are sorer from overuse or exercise.

Natural Food Sources

Collagen is present in the connective tissues of animal food. For example, it is contained in chicken and pork skin in large quantities.

Bone broth, which is produced by boiling the bones of chicken and other animals, is one especially rich source.

Gelatin is essentially cooked collagen, so the amino acids required to manufacture it are very strong. There's controversy, however, about whether eating collagen-rich foods really increases the body's levels of this protein.

It is broken down into amino acids and then reassembled as you eat protein, so the collagen you eat will not convert directly into higher levels in your body.

What damages collagen?

Some factors can reduce the levels of collagen within the body. Avoiding them will keep your skin healthier for longer.

  • Genetic changes: can affect the extracellular matrix. The collagen that is produced can be lower, or it may be dysfunctional, mutated collagen.

  • High sugar consumption: Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. Minimize your consumption of added sugar and refined carbs

  • Smoking: Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles

  • Sunlight: Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure

  • The aging process: causes collagen levels to deplete naturally over time. There is no way to prevent this.

To Sum It Up

Collagen is an essential protein that provides structure to many parts of the body.

Interestingly, the food and nutrients you consume will help your body produce this protein.

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