What is collagen and what’s in it?
In animals, collagen is the most prevalent structural protein, which is a protein that helps your cells and tissues maintain their structure or framework. Collagen is primarily made up of the amino acids hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline, which are arranged in three strands to produce the triple-helix structure.
Collagen is produced and maintained by connective tissue cells called fibroblasts, and as individuals age, their collagen fragments and the fibroblast activity deteriorates, which results in a decrease in collagen synthesis. These changes, together with the loss of another important structural protein called elastin, are responsible for causing drooping skin and wrinkles.
Why do people use collagen?
Collagen provides stiffness, texture, structure, and toughness to human tissues. It protects the skin by forming a strong barrier and offering it strength and resilience when combined with elastic fibres.
When collagen levels in the body decline and the skin begin to disintegrate, you may feel tighter tendons and ligaments, fine lines and wrinkles, joint discomfort, weaker muscles, and digestive issues.
People use it because research shows that ingesting up to 10 g of collagen peptides per day can assist increase collagen density, suppleness, and moisture in the skin. In fact, owing to its antioxidant properties, hydrolyzed collagen helps protect against UV-induced melasma, a skin condition characterised by areas of discolouration on the face.
Your body can lose collagen over time - here’s why
Apart from the natural process of ageing, collagen loss can happen prematurely as well. Let’s take a look at why your body can lose collagen over time.
- Age - Collagen synthesis normally slows as you get older, becoming fractured and dispersed, and fine lines, dry and sagging skin, and wrinkles are all symptoms of ageing as a result of these changes.
- Dietary alterations - Glycation, a process that slows collagen turnover and interferes with collagen's capacity to interact with surrounding cells and proteins, can contribute to accelerated ageing. This can happen if you follow a diet heavy in added sugar and ultra-processed meals.
- Drinking or smoking - Excessive smoking and drinking can destroy collagen, resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, and a lack of suppleness in the skin.
- Excessive sun exposure - Excessive sun exposure also reduces collagen production, therefore avoiding it and applying sunscreen will help you avoid the appearance of premature skin ageing.
These foods are the best sources of collagen
The best sources of collagen are animal parts like skin and joints, among other animal sources:
- Animal parts like ligaments, bone broth, skin and joints.
- Seafood like jellyfish and the skin of fish.
Your body can produce collagen naturally from the amino acids found in proteins, which is why protein-rich foods can help your body produce collagen:
- Poultry meat
Additionally, vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, which is why you should consume adequate amounts of vitamin C-rich foods:
- Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons
- Green vegetables
What about collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements can be found in the market in various forms:
- Liquids - Collagen drinks that are pre-made can be purchased and these contain the dissolved powder in water or other liquids. These little beverages can be drunk alone or combined with other items to enhance their taste.
- Powders and pills - There is some evidence to show that hard oral collagen supplements, especially the form of collagen contained in powders, are effective in reducing the look of ageing.
- Oils and creams - These include synthetic collagen, which traps moisture into the skin and gives it a plumping effect, but research on how to effectively incorporate collagen into topical treatments is lacking.
Are there any proven benefits of collagen supplements?
There have been some studies that established the benefits of taking collagen supplements:
- Your skin - Collagen supplements, according to research, may enhance various elements of skin health, such as hydration, suppleness, and the appearance of wrinkles.
- Your bones - According to some research, using collagen supplements for a long time may help raise bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, who are at a higher risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Collagen may also help with osteoarthritis symptoms like stiffness.
- Your hair - Even though there’s less research in the area of how collagen benefits hair, you may notice less damage, slower greying, less thinning and an overall shine after taking collagen supplements.
Are there any side effects to these collagen supplements that you should watch out for?
While supplements containing solely collagen are unlikely to have any negative side effects, it's critical to read the labels on products and understand the risks associated with supplements containing collagen in combination with other substances that may be present in the supplement.
If you're on any other medicines, or if you're pregnant or nursing, talk to your doctor before starting to take supplements to avoid unnecessary health complications.
Can you prevent collagen loss?
Although it is difficult to stop all age-related collagen loss, it is feasible to slow it down if you make the below alterations.
- Lifestyle changes - Avoiding smoking and high alcohol use as part of a healthy lifestyle may assist to prevent age-related changes in collagen and minimize indications of ageing such as wrinkles.
- Dietary adjustments - Avoiding or limiting some meals and beverages while increasing your intake of others may aid in collagen maintenance and overall skin health. Increase your consumption of high-quality protein and plant foods like fruits and vegetables, which include elements that promote and maintain collagen.
- Wear sunscreen - Avoid overexposure to the sun and always use sunscreen, even if it's raining. This can aid in the prevention of collagen loss caused by UV radiation.