Why is collagen popular, and why is it important?
Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in your body, and your body is built to create it. We all break dietary protein down into amino acids, some of which are then repurposed into collagen.
Collagen is vital for our bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and it acts like glue for joints. It’s our skin’s strongest ally, working in tandem with elastin to create resilience and elasticity.
However, starting in our mid-to-late 20s, we start to lose 1% of our collagen every year. It decreases even more in women after menopause. Collagen also decreases with other factors such as smoking, sugar and ultraviolet rays.
What can be done to increase collagen?
Aside from avoiding sugar and UV rays, supplementing with collagen peptides may be helpful. Although collagen is a protein, getting what we need isn't as easy as eating more protein-rich foods in our diet.
Collagen isn’t a simple protein. It is composed of three cross-linked polypeptide chains made primarily of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. All of these are amino acids, and one (hydroxyproline) isn’t found in any other proteins.
It’s difficult for your body to break these chains down so the collagen can be absorbed in a useful way. So while eating collagen-rich foods like chicken, fish and eggs is certainly beneficial, it may not be enough to counteract our natural loss of collagen
This is where collagen peptides (also referred to as hydrolyzed collagen) supplements come into play. “Hydrolyzed” means the collagen’s amino acid chains have been broken down into smaller parts. These small peptides are more easily digested.
Collagen peptides are commonly found as capsules, liquid formulas and powders that you can mix into drinks or stir into food.
You can also find collagen peptides in skin creams for topical application. As we age, and especially in our 40s, the depletion of collagen acting as scaffolding in our skin leads to visible signs like sagging or crepe-like skin around the face, arms and neck. Results usually can be seen within 6 months of slathering on collagen cream, especially when combined with other skin-friendly supplements and topicals.
Collagen isn't just for skin – bones and joints need it, too. Studies show collagen supplements may improve bone mineral density. This study even showed that it may be beneficial in ankle injuries in athletes. Collagen is also a main component of cartilage, the rubbery tissue that protects your joints. So it’s no surprise that researchers have seen joint pain improve with collagen supplements, particularly in cases of osteoarthritis.
When you consider collagen’s potential to support our joints, bones and skin, it’s clear why this multitasking protein is becoming more and more popular.
Before taking collagen, remember to always consult with a health care professional to make sure it is right for you.
Photo from here, with thanks.