What is Collagen?
Not so long after bone broth took the spotlight, collagen made a comeback. While insiders have seen this as a natural progression, many are wondering what the hype is about and what collagen is. It's no surprise that bone broth fans are also collagen fans.
Many health food shoppers, or those who watch for new natural beauty products in the marketplace, have heard the buzz about collagen's skin support components, particularly elasticity. Dr. Josh Axe, a burgeoning figure in the supplement marketplace, devotes an entire article to Collagen.
"Collagen," he says, "also reduces cellulite and stretch marks. When skin loses its elasticity as a result of decreased collagen, there’s another side effect: more visible cellulite. Because your skin is now thinner, cellulite becomes more evident — no more hiding what’s happening below the surface. Improving your skin’s elasticity through collagen helps reduce that dimpling on your skin."
Did you know that the word collagen comes from the Greek word kolla meaning glue? Once we look at collagen this way, we can start to understand it so much better. While collagen can support our skin health, collagen is also vital to our whole body. Here you are, a lovely human body made up of bones, tissue, organs, blood and more. Part of that "more" (a whopping 20% of body mass) is protein. Of that 20%, almost a third is from collagen. While there are 16 kinds of collagen, you are made up of mostly type I, II, and III.
Crystal Structure Of The Collagen Triple Helix Model
Photo source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Structure
Let's take a deeper look.
Where is collagen found in the body?
Skin, bones, connective tissue.
What does collagen do?
Skin gets its structure and strength from collagen. It also is an integral part of the process of replacing dead skin cells, and to support the strength of teeth and nails. Collagen is also necessary for healthy joints, bones, and believe it or not, metabolism!
Does my body's ability to produce collagen change in my lifetime?
Our body's production of collagen declines with age. Other factors that could inhibit or slow down production include: smoking, overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet light, high sugar consumption, and other environmental factors.
What is the difference between Type I, II, & III, and how do I know which one I need?
According to National Center for Biotechnology, Type 1 collagen is "skin, tendon, bone, ligaments, dentin, interstitial tissues."
"Type II is the major collagen in cartilage."
Type III's representative tissues are "skin, muscle, blood vessels."
As you can see from the breakdown above, the type of collagen you select is based upon your needs. Type I is the most abundant form in our bodies and is a key to building strength in our skin. Type III is also related to skin. Those looking for joint support may focus on Type II.
When supplementing, collagen brand Neocell, says "Collagen Type 1 & 3 and Collagen Type 2 should not be combined due to them having different amino acid profiles."
What are collagen supplements made of?
Generally collagen supplements are derived from the bones and connective tissue of animals such as cows, pigs, and sheep. You will also find fish sources, as well, which is derived from the skin, fin, bones and scales. Bovine (cow) collagen is generally Type I & III. Chicken is generally Type II. Fish is generally Type III.
Is this why Bone Broth is trending?
It's one reason why. Bone broth is made from the bones of cows and chicken (depending on variety). When the bones are boiled, collagen is released into the broth.
Is there a vegan alternative for collagen supplements?
Yes and no. Since collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body of humans and animals, it is not possible to source from a non-meat source. Garden of Life shares "You can’t build collagen by eating collagen. Collagen is a protein that is broken down by the digestive system. What you can do is feed your body the necessary co-nutrients needed for building collagen."
Nutrients that may support the building of collagen include: Proline, Vitamin C, Copper, Vitamin A, Anthocyanidins (found in a variety of berries and cherries). Garden of Life also combines nutrients into an easy supplement for those looking for convenience in their mykind Organics Plant Collagen Builder.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information says, "Vitamin C (VitC) plays a critical role in the maintenance of a normal mature collagen." Ester-C in particular, is a form of Vitamin C that is "supported with naturally-occurring metabolites. Metabolites help enhance the absorption of Vitamin C by white blood cells, an important part of our immune system," according to American Health.
If you can't build collagen by eating it, why take supplements or consume bone broth?
While you can't build collagen by consuming collagen, eating bone broth and supplementing with collagen helps support adding collagen into your body (adding opposed to building).
What is hydrolyzed collagen? Hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen hydrolysate, breaks up the proteins into small units. This is a process used by companies like Neocell to "break the large collagen molecules into low molecular-weight peptides that are both bioavailable and bioactive in the body."
They also go on to say, "Persons taking hydrolyzed Collagen Type I & 3 will experience 90% absorption into the blood stream where cellular changes occur."
If I put collagen in my lotion, will it help my skin?
While we continue to learn more about how collagen works, right now it seems that the consensus is that collagen works from the inside out. Topical application does not appear to be supportive.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products and statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.