Collagen 101: Everything You Need to Know About this Beautifying Protein

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM July 06, 2020 0 Comments

Collagen 101: Everything You Need to Know About this Beautifying Protein

Want to know the secret behind the youthful-looking skin of celebs such as Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, and Halle Berry? Believe it or not, they swear by the beneficial effects of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body. If you want to enjoy its beneficial effects just like these stars do, then read on to learn more about the wonderful substance that is collagen.

What is Collagen?

As mentioned, most of the proteins in the body – 1/3 of them – are collagens. Collagens serve as the body’s building blocks, as they help preserve the structure of the skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. 

They work by 'gluing’ everything together. This is why they were named collagens – after the Greek word “kólla” meaning glue.

Where does Collagen Come From? 

All the collagens in the body start as procollagens. They are synthesized by combining two amino acids, namely glycine and proline, with some help from Vitamin C. 

Types of Collagen

There are four main types of collagen in the body. They are:

  • Type I

90% of the collagen in the body falls under the type 1 category. It is made of heavily-packed fibers, and as such is often found in the teeth, connective tissue, fibrous cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. 

  • Type II

This is made of loosely-packed fibers that make up the elastic cartilage that surrounds the joints. 

  • Type III

This type of collagen makes various bodily structures, including that of arteries, organs, and muscles.

  • Type IV

Type IV collagen helps with the filtration process, and as such is often found on the skin.

Benefits of Collagen

Since collagen is plentiful in the body, it benefits the body in many ways: 

  • Helps prevent bone loss
  • The bones are mostly made of collagen. Since the production process decreases as you age, your bone mass is affected too. As such, collagen is important to prevent bone breakdown, which can further lead to osteoporosis. 

  • Strengthens the joints
  • Collagen also makes up most of the cartilages in the body. As collagen supplies diminish, the joints tend to degenerate. The usual result is osteoarthritis, among many other related disorders. 

  • Improves muscle mass 
  • As much as 10% of the muscles are made of collagen. With that being said, this protein can help maintain the strength and functioning of the major muscle groups. 

  • Enhances the skin 
  • Collagen is an important component of the skin. As you age, less collagen is produced in the body. The skin gets less elastic, which results in a dry and wrinkled surface. 

  • Promotes heart health 
  • As mentioned, collagen provides structure to the arteries. Without enough collagen supply, the arteries can become weak and fragile. Such can lead to atherosclerosis or the narrowing of the arteries. Unfortunately, this can result in worse complications, including heart attack and stroke.

    How to Boost your Natural Collagen 

    Unfortunately, you lose more and more collagen in the body as you age. This is why as you get older, your cartilage becomes weaker – while your skin becomes less supple and less elastic. Although this is the case, these following supplements can help jumpstart more collagen production in the body: 

    • Vitamin C

    As mentioned before, Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of procollagens, which are transformed into collagen. According to a study, it can also accelerate the creation of collagen, which equates to better skin, bone, joint, and muscle health. 

    With that being said, it is important to eat citrus fruits or take Ascorbic Acid supplements to help boost collagen production in the body. 

    • Zinc 

    Zinc is a mineral found in oysters, red meats, whole grains, and dairy products. Apart from promoting wound healing, a study has shown that it may help improve collagen production as well. With that being said, eating a zinc-rich diet – or taking supplements – may help increase collagen levels in the body.  

    • Green Tea

    As an antioxidant, green tea can help delay collagen aging. As such, this drink could delay its imminent breakdown. In a nutshell, green tea can make your collagen proteins last longer – which gives your body enough time to synthesize more. 

    What Damages Collagen? 

    Even if you take all the supplements that can help boost collagen production, it will all be useless if you expose yourself to factors that damage collagen. The results can be devastating, as diminished collagen production can lead to wrinkles, weakened muscles, and painful joints, to name a few.

    If you want to prevent the above-mentioned events from happening, then you should limit your exposure to the following: 

    • Ultraviolet light 

    Sun is good for the skin, but only in limited amounts. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light will not only lead to melasma and skin cancer, but it can reduce your collagen stores as well. If you don’t want this to happen, you should limit your sun exposure as much as you can. Wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and hide under the shade. Avoid sunbathing and UV tanning beds as much as you can. 

    • Smoking

    Smoking is a vice that is harmful to health. It can lead to a variety of conditions, including bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. Unfortunately, smoking can decrease collagen production as well. The result? Ugly wrinkles and delayed wound healing, to name a few. As such, if you want to maintain healthy, youthful-looking skin, you need to stop smoking right now. 

    • Foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates

    Sugary, high-carb foods have been linked to obesity, mood disorders, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Unfortunately, the intake of such fare can take a toll on collagen production. Sugar, after all, can get in the way of collagen's natural repair. 

    To keep your body collagens in tiptop condition, you need to minimize the consumption of foods rich in sugar and refined carbs. Instead, set your sights on fares that are rich in Vitamin C and Zinc – and drinks like green tea. Not only are they beneficial to overall health, but they can also help improve collagen production.

    In a Nutshell

    Collagen is a vital protein for the skin, bones, joints, cartilages, and other parts of the body. While production can be enhanced with the help of certain nutrients, exposure to damaging factors can affect collagen levels adversely. With that being said, the best way to keep the collagen production rate at the maximum is to observe healthy lifestyle practices.