Collagen: Basics and Benefits for Hair, Skin, Nails, Joints & Bone
What is Collagen?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the animal kingdom; more than 20% of all protein in our body is collagen. Collagen can be seen as the “glue” that holds the body together and it makes up some 80% of all connective tissue in the body and up to 1 to 2% of all muscle tissue.
- Skin is 70 to 80% collagen (by dry weight)
- Bone is 33% collagen
- Cartilage is 60% collagen
- Ligaments and tendons are almost totally comprised of collagen
Collagen consists of amino acids banded together to form triple helices of elongated fibrils.
There are some 28 types of collagen identified to date. The most abundant types of collagen in the human body are type I and type III collagen. These forms of collagen are building blocks for, and give strength and flexibility to, our skin, bones, tendons, muscles, organs, blood vessel walls, and other connective tissue.
The Function of Collagen
Collagen serves many functions:
- It gives structure and support to all tissues.
- It gives flexibility to skin and other connective tissue.
- It hydrates skin and other connective tissue.
- For bone, collagen is the core material of living bone matrix—giving it flexibility and strength. This helps explain why 80% of people fracture without osteoporosis; it’s not just the mineral density of the outer cortical segment of the bone, but the collagen matrix of the inner trabecular structure that gives strength.
- It gives support, fluidity, and structure to joints in the form of cartilage.
- It gives strength and elasticity to connective tissue, arteries, etc.
Collagen Decreases with Age
After age 25, our collagen production decreases by about 15% per decade. The impacts of reduced collagen production are most easily seen on the skin through lines, wrinkles, and a lack of elasticity. With age, the skin becomes thin, the lips and cheeks lose their plumpness, skin/entire body loses its tone, and joint stiffness increases. Bone can also lose collagen as we age.
Enhancing Our Internal Collagen Production
All collagen starts off as procollagen. Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids: glycine and proline. This process requires vitamin C, and thus having adequate vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen. Consuming ample amounts of these amino acids is important.
- Glycine is abundant in pork and chicken skin, bone broth, and gelatin, as well as other animal-based proteins found in poultry, fish, eggs, meat, and dairy. Glycine is also found in plant foods such as beans, kale, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, banana, and kiwi!
- Proline is found in egg whites, gelatin, beef, chicken, fish, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, soy, asparagus, and mushrooms.
- High-quality dietary protein is essential for providing the basic amino-acid building blocks of collagen. In particular, hydrolyzed marine collagen provides easy to digest protein and delivers 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. It is especially rich in the collagen-building amino acids proline and glycine.
- Diets high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and spices deliver abundant antioxidants, which protect collagen from free radical damage.
- In addition, ample essential fatty acids, copper, and abundant water intake facilitate the development and maintenance of collagen.
Benefits of Supplementing with Collagen
There are many benefits to supplementing with collagen:
- High-quality collagen stimulates the body’s own collagen production and helps reduce the aging impacts of decreased collagen production.
- The research suggests that collagen can strengthen bone tissue. Collagen supplementation has been shown to stimulate action and differentiation of the bone-building cells (osteoblasts) to produce a new collagen matrix.
- Collagen supplementation has also been shown to strengthen the existing bone-collagen matrix while reducing the activity of the bone-breakdown cells (osteoclasts).
- Supplementing with collagen has been shown to increase skin hydration and elasticity, and to reduce wrinkles.
- Learn more if you should take collagen for osteoporosis
Collagen and Skin Health
- After 12 weeks of collagen supplementation, a placebo-controlled trial found significant increases in skin hydration and collagen density of the skin in those who took the supplement.
- Another randomized controlled trial found that oral supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen showed a significant improvement in wrinkle depth in those who took the supplement.
- A clinical trial found that a supplement combining marine collagen and skin-targeting antioxidants such as luteolin and selenium was able to improve skin elasticity, sebum production, and dermal ultrasonic markers after 2 months of supplementation.
Collagen Supplementation and Joint Pain
- Collagen therapy has long been used for joint health to increase the comfortable functioning of joints by enhancing collagen and cartilage in the joint tissue. Ensuring that these tissues are rich with collagen can help reduce pain and inflammation within the joints, especially in the elderly, who have decreased collagen production.
Collagen Supplementation and Muscle
- A 2015 study in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated the effects of collagen supplementation following strength training in elderly men with low muscle mass. Subjects supplemented with 15 grams of collagen per day, for 12 weeks. Those who supplemented saw a significant increase in fat-free mass (muscle), bone mass, and strength compared to those in the control group.
- Another study investigated the effects of 15 grams/day of collagen supplementation in premenopausal women. These women completed a strength training program 3 days/week for 12 weeks. The collagen group saw a significantly higher increase in fat-free mass compared with controls, as well as a significantly higher gain in handgrip-strength.
- Collagen supplementation has also been shown to enhance muscle building in recreationally active men. A 2019 study gave recreationally active men 15 grams of collagen post workout every day following a resistance training intervention. After 12 weeks, the collagen-supplemented group showed significant increases in bone mass and fat-free mass compared to placebo.
Marine (Fish) Collagen
The many special benefits of our Beauty & Bone Marine Collagen include:
- It is a superior collagen protein source with higher bioavailability and better amino acid absorption than collagen from land animals.
- It provides 8 of the 9 essential amino acids, with 9.4 grams of protein per serving with no sugar and only 38 calories.
- It is rich in types I and III collagen, which promote:
- Elasticity and hydration of the skin;
- Strength of the bones, hair, and nails;
- Flexibility and comfort to the joints.
- Marine collagen has been documented to stimulate the bone-building osteoblast cells while inhibiting the bone-breakdown osteoclast cells.
- Marine collagen is environmentally friendly. With low-inflammatory and/or allergy-inducing potential, it is the safest form of collagen presently available.
- It easily dissolves in any hot or cold liquid or soft food.
- It is non-gelling with no odor and a pleasant neutral taste, suitable for addition to any soft food, smoothie, or liquid.
Dr. Brown’s Special Tip on Using Our Beauty & Bone Marine Collagen
Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of healthy collagen, so consider adding a bit (¼ to ½ teaspoon) of Alkalini-C to your collagen drink to enhance collagen production!
Our Collagen-Enhancing Lineup
Beauty & Bone Collagen: Type I & II Marine Collagen
Advanced Collagen Generator: ch-OSA® (choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid)
Alkalini-C Ascorbate Vitamin C