What is collagen (and what does it do)?

Collagen is the new buzzword around the health and nutrition world in 2018, but do we really know what it is and why it is important to include in our diets? We tell you all about it!

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Firstly, we need to clear up what collagen actually is…

Collagen is a structural protein in our body that binds tissues and cells together. To make it more understandable, it is the “glue” that helps our body to maintain its shape and structure and if we didn’t have it then we wouldn’t be in the human form that we are in.

Research shows that approximately 30% of the protein in our body is collagen and with 16 types of collagen in our bodies, approximately 90% of the collagen found in the human body are types I, II, and III. Collagen types I and II are concentrated in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments, while type II is found primarily in the joints

Collagen also contains a variety of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, therefore foods that contain collagen contain these amino acids which our bodies need to build our muscles and keep us in shape.

Where is collagen found?

Bone broth as it is one of the only foods that contains bioavailable collagen, whereas most other founds aid in the synthesis of collagen in our bodies

Salmon as it contains zinc and omega-3s, known for its anti-inflammatory effects 

Green, leafy vegetables that have a high chlorophyll content, which is known to aid with the ageing process

Citrus fruits high in vitamin C as it is a naturally occurring drug with multiple desirable effects. With an excellent safety profile, it finds increasing use in photoageing, hyperpigmentation, tissue inflammation and promotion of tissue healing

Peppers and tomatoes that contain the antioxidant lycopene that protects the skin from sun damage to an extent

Egg yolk contains collagen and improves joint health

Avocados contain vitamin E, important for preventing the breakdown of collagen and has antioxidant benefits

Berries, either blueberries or raspberries that have antioxidant benefits and fight free radicals in our bodies, which damage our cells

Garlic that has a high concentration of sulfur, which aids collagen production in our bodies

Supplementation, although sometimes out bodies are not capable of absorbing all the nutrients in supplements which is why collagen powder should rather be added to a smoothie that contains some of the natural ingredients mentioned above.

We must also understand that there is no use in consuming foods high in collagen if we are still doing nothing on the environmental side to prevent collagen damage, which is counterproductive. Lifestyle choices that damage your collagen over time include smoking, high blood sugar, sun exposure, a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain and the consumption of foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, referring to foods such as sweets and fast foods. Eliminating these harmful habits from our daily lives will also aid in the protection of the collagen our bodies naturally produce.

Benefits of collagen

Due to collagen containing a host of important amino acids, it has a wide variety of health benefits for our bodies that cover everything from our joints to ageing and hair and nails to leaky gut.

Reduction in joint pain

Being important for anti-inflammation and connective tissue, collagen helps to reduce joint pain and keep our bodies healthy. A study has shown that athletes treated over 24-weeks with the dietary supplement collagen hydrolysate saw a reduction in joint pain. The results of this study have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in a high-risk group, although the sample size was small and there is still more research to be done in this area.

 

Improved skin elasticity and the reduction of ageing

Many health products claim to contain collagen and state that if you rub creams containing collagen into your skin that it can reduce the signs of ageing. The truth is that a study focused on treating elderly women with collagen saw that it positively influenced skin moisture and evaporation but the results were still not significant. It is difficult to really know the effects because our skin struggles to properly absorb the nutrients in creams and it would be better to seek natural food sources that contain collagen to positively impact you from the inside out. 

Collagen is also the major component of what makes up hair and nails, and so for strong nails and hair we should also ensure that we are consuming foods rich in collagen.

 

Helps with leaky gut

Leaky gut syndrome is an ailment that affects more and more people every day. Now that we know more about our gut bacteria and the micro biome that exists inside of it, we understand how important it is to solve this issue, and not only for our digestion. Collagen assists in curing a leaky gut because it helps to form connective tissue in the protective lining of our gastrointestinal tracts, thus preventing a leaky gut to become problematic.  

 

In summary

Collagen can be found all over our bodies and has been found to be important for our skin, digestion and reducing joint pain. We understand that, with most supplementation, it is better to get collagen from natural sources such as bone broth if you want to full benefits of what it offers. You may see a reduction in the visible ageing process, however, there are other environmental factors that influence how we age, as well as genetics.

Living a healthy lifestyle means cutting out bad habits such as unhealthy eating and smoking, as well as protecting our skin from the damage that the sun causes. Eating foods rich in collagen or foods that assist with the production and synthesis of collagen are many of the same foods that should be included in every balanced diet and therefore the nutrients we get from them are important for our health and nutrition. If we remain active and take care of ourselves and our diet, then we will all live a healthier life and our bodies will love us for it.

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