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Collagen 101 – What it is and What it Does

If you’re looking for information about collagen, congratulations! You’ve arrived at your destination.

Collagen is one of the big buzzwords tossed around these days regardless if you’re talking about health, fitness, beauty or bodybuilding. There are collagen supplements, supplements to improve collagen, collagen creams, lotions, and even foods you can eat to boost collagen.

Collagen is literally everywhere it seems. But what is it, what does it do, and why does everyone seem to be interested in it lately?

We’re here to answer those questions and many more in this complete guide to all things collagen.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, especially type 1 collagen. It’s composed principally of the two amino acids, glycine and proline. As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is present in your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and even the digestive system.

Collagen is what gives the skin elasticity and strength. In essence, collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together!

Unfortunately, as we age, the amount of collagen produced by the body gradually declines, as with most other things in life. In addition to aging, a number of other factors can impact your body’s collagen levels and production. Prolonged exposure to the sun and excessive sugar consumption have both been shown to reduce collagen synthesis, as do activities such as drinking and smoking. [1,2,3]

To further complicated things, there isn’t just one type of collagen present in the body either. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that there are in fact SIXTEEN (16) different kinds of collagen found throughout the body. [4]

Now, types I, II, and III accounts for the vast majority of the collagen in your body (around 90%), but nevertheless, that’s a LOT of different types of collagen floating around inside you.

Benefits of Collagen

Collagen has become a hot commodity in recent years due to the wide range of benefits it offers:

  • Improves the health of hair, skin, and nails

    Seeing as that collagen is the main structural protein of the body, it makes perfect sense that it would improve the quality and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails. Research has shown that supplementing with collagen can help reduce signs of aging by reducing the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles as well as improve skin elasticity. [5,6]

    If you suffer from brittle nails or thinning hair, consuming collagen may help there too, as the protein is a primary component in the structure of your nails and hair. [7] A 2015 study noted that there are “essential relationships between extracellular matrix (ECM) and hair follicle regeneration”[7], and suggest collagen supplementation could be beneficial for treating hair loss and skin-related diseases.

  • Preserves joint integrity

    Collagen isn’t only important for your external structures, but also your internal ones, especially your connective tissues, including cartilage and tendons.

    Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when there is a significant breakdown of the entire joint complex — cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. This continual degradation leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling, which limits range of movement, significantly impacting quality of life.

    Joints naturally degrade over the years, but intense physical activity also contributes to wear and tear of the joints. As such, collagen supplements aren’t used by just the elderly, but also athletes, bodybuilders, and even recreational lifters. A comprehensive review of the literature found that collagen supplements can be extremely beneficial for improving signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. [8]

  • Combats leaky gut

    Collagen is a crucial cog in the function and integrity of your digestive system. For starters, collagen regulates the number of gastric juices released into the stomach, preventing an excessive amount of stomach acid, which can lead to heartburn, stomach ulcers, and other painful GI issues. On top of that, glycine and proline, the two primary amino acids of collagen, can help heal the lining of the stomach, preventing ulcers from forming. Finally, low levels of collagen are associated with certain GI illnesses, including inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Supplementing with collagen can help raise collagen levels in the body, which promotes gut health and contributes to the structural integrity of the entire GI tract. [9]

  • Accelerate injury recovery

    Collagen has also been studied for its ability to enhance recovery following traumatic injury, wounds, skeletal muscle injury or burns. [10,11] From collagen-based wound dressings to orally consumed collagen supplements, researchers are exploring the many different ways by which collagen can accelerate the recovery and rehabilitation process both in the internal structures and external appearance of the body.

  • Better sleep

    Consuming collagen 30 to 60 minutes might help with sleep too! This is due to the fact that collagen is very high in glycine, which has been shown in research to reduce fatigue, improve mental clarity the morning after taking glycine. Additionally, it’s also been shown to accelerate how quickly you fall asleep and how “deep” your sleep is. [12,13]

  • Supports liver health

    Collagen supplementation can also improve your body’s ability to detox, thereby enhancing its ability to stave off sickness. One of the biggest contributors to liver function and health is the amino acid glycine, one of the primary building blocks of collagen. Glycine is essential to glutathione production, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. [14]

    It’s also required for something called “phase 2 detoxification” which is one of the two pathways involved in detoxifying the body. Phase 2 detoxification involves converting fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble chemicals that can then be excreted out through bile and urine. This involves converting the fat-soluble toxic chemical and transforming the toxins into water-soluble chemicals. Then they are passed out through body fluids as such as the bile or urine. Deficiencies in glycine (or one of the other amino acids needed) can severely reduce Phase 2 detoxification, heightening your chances for illness and infection.

  • More Muscle

    Yes, collagen can even help you build more muscle, which is probably another reason lifters are shoveling down collagen by the spoonful. Research conducted in elderly men demonstrated that consuming collagen supplements in conjunction with resistance training increased mass and strength more than placebo. [15]

How to Increase Collagen

Given the litany of benefits that collagen has to offer, you’re probably salivating at the prospect of getting your hands-on collagen and adding it to your supplement stash. Before you resort to supplements though, there are a few things you can do with your current diet to ensure optimal collagen production in your body, namely consuming more of the following four nutrients:

  • Glycine

    The primary building block of collagen is found in vast amounts in chicken skin, gelatin, and pork skin. So, feel free to have some more of those skin on chicken breasts, thighs, and legs.

  • Proline

    The other major amino acid of collagen is found in high amounts in dairy products, asparagus, mushrooms, egg whites, and wheat germ.

  • Vitamin C

    Everyone’s favorite cold-combatting vitamin, the water-soluble vitamin can be found in a great many foods, but some of our favorites are bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and of course everyone’s favorite — the orange.

  • Pantothenic Acid

    Also known as Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid is an essential nutrient that is required for the metabolism of dietary carbs, proteins, and fats consumed on a daily basis. Vitamin B5 is critical for the growth and differentiation of keratin and collagen.

Aside from diet, collagen supplements are becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible. While there are a great many options to choose from, our recommendation is to go with BioCell Collagen®, which is a main ingredient in Steel Beauty™. It’s the only form of collagen supplement on the market with several clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness at increasing collagen production in the body, improving symptoms of joint pain and discomfort, and accelerating recovery from exercise. [16,17]

For these reasons, and many more, BioCell Collagen® which is found in Steel Beauty™, is the clear front-runner when it comes to purchasing your collagen supplement.

Wrap Up

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, quite possibly the most important one too. It’s involved in just about every aspect of appearance, function, and health of the body, and it’s definitely one protein you don’t want to be lacking. If you’re suffering from achy knees and cranky elbows, looking to up your gains in the gym, or wanting to restore your youthful looks collagen can be a safe and effective means to enhancing your appearance and performance.

By supplementing with Steel Beauty™, you will maintain youthful looking skin and promote healthy, lustrous hair and strong, beautiful nails. Steel Beauty™ is physician formulated with clinical doses of the most cutting edge, research validated, patented ingredients known to boost collagen synthesis, improve skin hydration, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, strengthen hair, reduce oxidative stress and support cellular and tissue health.*

References

  1. Donejko M, Przylipiak A, Rysiak E, et al. Hyaluronic acid abrogates ethanol-dependent inhibition of collagen biosynthesis in cultured human fibroblasts. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2015;9:6225-6233. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S91968.
  2. Overbeek SA, Braber S, Koelink PJ, et al. Cigarette Smoke-Induced Collagen Destruction; Key to Chronic Neutrophilic Airway Inflammation? Hartl D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e55612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055612.
  3. Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(4):409-411. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018.
  4. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix.
  5. Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-119. doi:10.1159/000355523.
  6. Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2015;18(12):1340-1348. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0022.
  7. Chen P, Cescon M, Bonaldo P. Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth. J Invest Dermatol. 2015;135(10):2358-2367. doi:10.1038/jid.2015.187.
  8. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Curr Med Res Opin. 2006;22(11):2221-2232. doi:10.1185/030079906X148373.
  9. Koutroubakis IE, Petinaki E, Dimoulios P, et al. Serum laminin and collagen IV in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Pathology. 2003;56(11):817-820.
  10. Mathangi Ramakrishnan K, Babu M, Mathivanan, Jayaraman V, Shankar J. Advantages of collagen based biological dressings in the management of superficial and superficial partial thickness burns in children. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. 2013;26(2):98-104.
  11. Baar K. Minimizing Injury and Maximizing Return to Play: Lessons from Engineered Ligaments. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0719-x.
  12. INAGAWA, K., HIRAOKA, T., KOHDA, T., YAMADERA, W. and TAKAHASHI, M. (2006), Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4: 75–77. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x
  13. YAMADERA, W., INAGAWA, K., CHIBA, S., BANNAI, M., TAKAHASHI, M. and NAKAYAMA, K. (2007), Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5: 126–131. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x
  14. Ruiz-Ramirez A, Ortiz-Balderas E, Cardozo-Saldana G, Diaz-Diaz E, El-Hafidi M. Glycine restores glutathione and protects against oxidative stress in vascular tissue from sucrose-fed rats. Clin Sci (Lond). 2014;126(1):19-29. doi:10.1042/CS20130164.
  15. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810.
  16. Lopez HL, Habowski S, Sandrock J, Kedia A, Ziegenfuss T. Effects of BioCell Collagen® on connective tissue protection and functional recovery from exercise in healthy adults: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014;11(Suppl 1):P48. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P48.
  17. Schauss AG, Stenehjem J, Park J, Endres JR, Clewell A. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60(16):4096-4101. doi:10.1021/jf205295u.

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