So, what is so great about collagen?
Long hailed as the ‘beauty booster’, collagen protein isn’t just a pretty face (so to speak). Often used in beauty products to help make your skin look shiny and youthful, collagen can do much more for your health, including help relieve the pain in your joints.
From reducing inflammation and osteoarthritis symptoms to preventing bone loss and healing gut problems, this wonder protein offers a bevy of wonderful benefits for the body.
Let’s discover more about this intriguing part of our system called collagen.
What is collagen?
Like the wooden framework that creates the structure for your home, collagen is a naturally occurring protein that gives your body strength and form. It’s found in your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and skin and makes up 30 to 40% of proteins in the human body.
You can think of collagen like the glue that holds everything together in your body. The word itself actually comes from the Greek word “kolla”, which means glue. Your bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and skin? They’re all given structure with the connective tissue provided by collagen.
Unfortunately, this powerful body scaffolding starts to break down after the age of 30 causing annoying little problems like nagging joint pain and sagging skin.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Taking a collagen supplement can help repair body tissue by restoring the protein in your body.
The main types of collagen
There are at least 16 types of collagen but types 1, 2 and 3 account for 80 to 90% of the body’s total. Here are the most common types of collagen and what they can do for your body:
Type 1 – This type makes up around 90% of all the collagen in your body. This is the ‘beauty collagen’ that helps support healthy skin and keeps tissues and cells together in your bones, teeth, tendons and fibrous cartilage.
Type 2 – Your best friend if you have arthritis and joint pain, type 2 collagen is found in cartilage and helps to cushion your joints.
Type 3 – Like type 1, this collagen is found in porcine (pig) and bovine (cattle) collagen. It supports the structure of organs, arteries and muscles and also improves skin elasticity.
5 Ways Collagen Can Improve Your Health
1. Relieve Joint Pain
As we creep up the age ladder, the spongy cartilage in our joints starts to wear away. This is how osteoarthritis sets in. The cartilage, which provides a kind of lubricant between our joints and bones, is full of collagen. “As the amount of collagen in your body decreases, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.”, according to Healthline.
Some studies have indicated that taking a collagen supplement may help improve osteoarthritis symptoms and reduce joint pain. One study involved 73 athletes taking 10 grams of collagen every day over a 24-week period. The athletes reported a significant reduction in joint pain while walking and at rest, compared with a placebo group that did not take collagen. (1)
The good news for arthritis sufferers is that one of the most effective benefits of collagen is how it can help improve arthritis symptoms. “… it is likely that collagen taken orally diminishes the molecules that lead to inflammation and disease”, says scientist Brooke Russell. Reduced inflammation can help lessen the pain associated with arthritis.
Another study proved that a hydrolyzed collagen supplement containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine helped reduce the pain in the joints of arthritis patients and improved walking ability. (2)
What type of collagen helps joint pain?
Type II collagen provides the most relief for osteoarthritis pain. It’s the main protein in the cartilage of our bodies and contains 8 of the most essential amino acids.
How does it work?
If you take a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, the collagen peptides are absorbed in the digestive system and then make their way to the joint tissue where they create building blocks that trigger an increase in collagen production.
The fantastic thing about collagen for the joints is that it promotes cartilage lubrication and reduces inflammation in the synovial fluid. Collagen is a wonderful healer that comes to the rescue for the cartilage in our body.
Type II collagen is a marine collagen and is found in shark cartilage in a pure, bioactive form. Taking an all-natural shark cartilage supplement that does not use chemicals in processing such as South Australian Shark Cartilage is a natural way to reduce inflammation in your joints and relieve osteoarthritis pain. Not only that, but the collagen contained in shark cartilage has a whole bunch of other wonderful side benefits.
Read on to discover.
2. Prevent Bone Loss
Another benefit in collagen’s long list of superpowers is the strength and structure it gives to your bones. But just like cartilage, our bone mass also deteriorates with age. Low bone density causes bones to become weak and can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis.
Collagen has the ability to inhibit this bone breakdown and slow down bone loss. Some studies have been conducted to test this. One in particular involved 66 women taking 5 grams of collagen daily for 12 months and the results showed a 7% increase in the women’s bone mineral density (BMD).
3. Smooth Wrinkles and Boost Skin Elasticity
For the skin conscious out there, you’re probably already aware of the wondrous powers collagen can have for your epidermis. The most well-researched benefit of collagen is what it can do for your skin, including improving skin elasticity, helping to retain moisture and firming up your dermis by reviving the density of collagen fibres. Collagen gives strength and structure to key components of your body and the skin is no exception.
Scientists have gone to work to prove this with a number of studies including one which entailed a group of women taking a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks. The women experienced a significant reduction in wrinkle depth and improved skin hydration compared to a control group. (3)
Type 1 collagen is the one you should be looking out for when it comes to your skin. High concentrations of this type can be found in marine collagen supplements.
4. Support Heart Health
If you’re wanting to keep your heart healthy and ticking away for as long as possible, collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.
Collagen does its thing by again providing structure to your arteries. These vital blood vessels distribute blood from your heart to the rest of your body, like a tributary flowing out from the river, and without enough collagen they can become weak. This can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis which means the arteries become narrow and can potentially cause a heart attack or stroke.
A small study set out to test the effects of collagen on the arteries by getting 31 participants to take 16 grams of collagen every day for 6 months. At the end of the study, the group measured a significant reduction in artery stiffness and a reduction in a bad cholesterol called lipoprotein.
5. Promote Gut Health
Some health practitioners use oral collagen supplements to promote gut health and treat conditions such as leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Research has found that collagen levels are reduced in patients with these gut conditions. Collagen contributes to the connective tissue which makes up your colon and GI tract, so taking a collagen supplement to increase your levels could help to promote a supportive environment for your gut to heal. Essentially, collagen can help to heal and seal the gut by assisting the connective tissue in the intestinal lining.
Research has also found that sufferers of bowel conditions such as IBS have low levels of collagen type 4, which is necessary for a healthy digestive tract. (4)
While more research needs to be undertaken in this area, taking collagen peptides or a hydrolysed collagen are easily digestible and extremely helpful for gut issues.
Adding more collagen to your diet
If you’re thinking of investing in a collagen supplement, it’s important to first check with a health professional. If you have any kind of seafood allergies, you may have a problem with marine collagen. You’ll also need to investigate which type of collagen is best suited for your body and needs.
For the meat eaters out there, collagen is abundant in the parts of the animal we usually don’t consume such as the skin, bones and organs. You can up your collagen quota by boiling the bones and making a broth (or buying a pre-made broth from the supermarket). Chicken skin and feet are also full of this powerful protein.
Otherwise, the most effective way to increase your collagen intake is by taking collagen peptides. This is a hydrolysed form of collagen which means your body can absorb it more efficiently. Two scoops per day is a good dose and you can throw it into your smoothies or juices or just have it with plain water. To boost the effects, take your collagen in combination with a vitamin C supplement as this aids collagen synthesis.