Do you know about the health benefits of collagen? Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up roughly 30% of the total protein content. It is the major protein in the connective tissues of the body and plays a key role in maintaining the structure of many tissues and organs. Collagen ensures the integrity, elasticity and strength of skin, cartilage and bones, maintaining their form and function.
The health benefits of collagen include helping the body’s connective tissue, joints, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair and nails stay as healthy as possible. Collagen is particularly rich in amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine.
When the gut becomes ‘leaky’ undigested food particles, viruses and bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream and over time this constant triggering of the immune system can cause food intolerances and autoimmune-related conditions. Collagen works on a cellular level to repair the cracks or fissures that Leaky Gut Syndrome comes with, helping to decrease intestinal permeability. A healthy gut lining is essential for good health and wellbeing.
Studies have shown that collagen can help aid digestion, reduce gut inflammation, heal stomach ulcers, and regulate acid secretion. The reason collagen peptides are able to help with all of these issues is because of their robust amino acid profile. The amino acids in collagen that help with gut health and digestion are:
• Glycine, which helps improve digestive health in the intestinal tract.
• Proline, an amino acid that can help heal wounds, support digestive health, increase metabolism and fight inflammation in the intestinal tract.
BONE & JOINTS HEALTH
As we age, we lose collagen in the connective tissue that bundles muscle fibres into a strong and functioning muscle. Ageing is therefore linked to decreased muscle strength and function, which affects our balance, gait and overall mobility.
Tendons are strong fibrous connective tissues that connect muscles to bones. During muscle contraction, the tendons’ role is to transfer forces and withstand tension. Tendons contain 85% type 1 collagen and also proteoglycans (another form of protein).
Wear and tear on the joint cartilage occurs with age. This results in joint discomfort, making it harder for us to stay active as we grow older. Joint cartilage is made up of cells called chondrocytes. These chondrocytes produce an extracellular matrix – a part of the tissue not made from cells – consisting of collagen fibres and proteoglycans (mainly aggrecan). Collagen makes up 70% of cartilage and is responsible for its structure and strength, while proteoglycans act as lubrication for the joint.
As collagen and bone mineral levels decrease, our bones become weaker. Gradually, this causes them to become more fragile and breakable. 90% of organic bone mass is made up of collagen. It provides the structural framework for calcium and other mineral deposits (i.e. it helps bones absorb important minerals better). Collagen fibres also provide bone flexibility.
Collagen constitutes about 80% of the skin’s dry weight and is a key component of the skin’s structure. Collagen fibres help retain elastin, which maintains skin elasticity, and hyaluronic acid, which traps moisture.
In our adult years, our bodies begin to produce less collagen, breaking it down at a faster rate than the body can replace. This process begins when we are around the age of 30 and accelerates in our 40s – leading to the inevitable visual and noticeable signs of ageing. The ability to replenish collagen naturally decreases by about 1.5% per year. This decline in the body’s collagen production can lead to saggy skin, the appearance of wrinkles, and weaker bones. Collagen loss is a natural process, but other factors such as exposure to UV, pollution, and lifestyle choices (e.g. stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, chronic sun exposure, alcohol and tobacco use) can lead to early or more intense signs of ageing.
Adding collagen peptides to a varied and balanced diet can help our bodies regenerate what has been lost or broken down. In essence, consuming collagen peptides increases our bodies’ collagen production. This causes our skin to look more youthful, plump and hydrated, strengthens our hair and nails, keeps our joints healthy and free of pain and inflammation, strengthens our bones, and speeds up muscle recovery while reducing sports-related injuries.
When we combine collagen peptides with a balanced diet and regular resistance exercise, we effectively increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat. Collagen peptides are also more satiating than common protein powders – think whey and soy – which assists weight management by keeping you fuller for longer.
All of these benefits are attributed to the very specific amino acid profile found in collagen.
Kleinnijenhuis, A.J., et al. Non-targeted and targeted analysis of collagen hydrolysates during the course of digestion and absorption. Anal Bioanal Chem.