What is Collagen & What are its Benefits?

By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND

Let’s talk Collagen! 

Is collagen just a fad, or is there actual benefit? I can confidently say that there are certainly benefits for collagen! Let’s first talk about what collagen is. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in our body.  Like a protein powder, collagen peptides, are made of different amino acids and are a good source of protein. 

There are 3 types of collagen found in our body:

  1. Type 1 Collagen: most abundant form of collagen found in our body – skin, tendons, blood vessels, organs, bone matrix…etc

  2. Type 2 Collagen: the least abundant in our body, found in the cartilage of our spine

  3. Type 3 Collagen: found in our skin, tendons, intestines, reproductive organs, blood vessels

Type 1 and 3 collagen are commonly found as a powder/supplement from a marine (fish) or bovine source. It is important to understand the source of the supplement you buy as not all of them are pure or of the same quality. When looking for a collagen powder, look for a hydrolyzed collagen. The process of hydrolysis makes sure that the amino acids remains intact and is more easily absorbed in the body.

Best food source of collagen comes from bone broth – which can be made at home, or store bought. Make sure to check the ingredients to ensure that there are no unnecessary ingredients!

Benefits of collagen: 

  1. Skin, hair, nail health: the most common reason people turn to collagen is for slowing down aging, wrinkles, hair loss, brittle nails. Collagen helps with aging by retaining water and keeping your skin hydrated and hence increasing skin elasticity. Furthermore, after receiving collagen from external sources for a while, the body’s ability to create internal collagen on its own increases. 

  2. Bone Health: As you age, the production of collagen in our body decreases, which also impacts our bone matrix. Collage is a large component of our bones and hydrolyzed collagen can strengthen joints, bones, and prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis. 

  3. Heart Health: Collagen is a key component of our arteries. It gives our arteries structure and integrity. Supplementation with collagen may prevent the arteries from being too frail and building up plaque. There are also some studies that show that collagen may increase our “good” HDL cholesterol.

  4. Gut Health: our intestinal walls are made up of collagen and create the integrity of our gut-lining. Inflammatory bowel disease or other digestive concerns result in a loss of that integrity and can reduce the absorption of essential vitamins and nutrients from the gut. Collagen supplementation, along with reduction of  overall inflammation, might help re-build that gut lining and support tissue growth and cellular repair. 

  5. Injury repair: Type 1 and 3 collagen is highly involved in the repair process of the tissues after an injury. It creates cross-links and stabilizes the repair site. Studies suggest that tendon injuries and wounds may have a shorter time to recovery after collagen supplementation, given that collagen is the primary building block for these tissues. 

Collagen might be a good addition to your diet and daily routine, but before starting on any new supplementation, make sure to talk to your health care provider to see if this is safe and effective for you!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206255/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813844/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/

  6. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/0016-5085(87)90134-X/pdf

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7671527

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4915461/

  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29601617

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