Collagen is a major building block protein component of the extracellular matrix in various connective tissues in animal bodies. It is the most abundant protein in the mammals comprising of 30% of the body protein. It is concentrated in fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments and skin. Collagen tissues may be rigid (bone), compliant (tendon), or have a gradient from rigid to compliant (cartilage). It is also abundant in corneas, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, the gut, intervertebral discs, and the dentin in teeth. The fibroblast is the most common cell that creates collagen (1).
Refer to the above figure for detailed breakdown of the distribution of collagen in the human body. The name collagen comes from the Greek κόλλα (kólla), meaning “glue”, and suffix -γέν, -gen, denoting “producing”. This refers to the compound’s early use in the process of boiling the skin and tendons of horses and other animals to obtain glue (2).
Collagen is a fibrous protein consisting of three polypeptide chains wound around each other. Each of the three chains is a coil itself and the resulting protein structure is a fibril. There are over 20 types of collagen discovered to date and they differ from each other structurally. Over 90% of the collagen in the body is type I collagen (3).
Hydrolyzed collagen is a formed when collagen is reduced to small peptides and is also referred to as collagen hydrolysate, gelatine, gelatine hydrolysate, hydrolyzed gelatine, and collagen peptides. This form of collagen is very popular in the form of dietary supplement of functional foods taken in the form of a powder, capsule or a liquid. These supplements are ingested to aid joint and bone health, in addition to enhancing skin health. The ingested collagen peptides are transported into target tissues from the blood to help boost the production of new collagen fibers.
In food, collagen is mostly found in the skin, tendons, other odd bits and other gelatinous cuts of meat. However, upon cooking the collagen is hydrolyzed into gelatin. Since, these are the parts of the animals that our ancestors ate, but we typically throw away today, collagen peptide supplement can be very beneficial for the health (4).
There are many factors that affect the level of collagen in the body, ageing, diet and environmental factors being the primary influencers. These changes are not noticeable in the early stages of life, but become evident in the mature phase, in which food intake does not meet the recommended requirements as effectively (5). Collagen levels in the body start decreasing from the mid 20’s and the collagen production in the body starts to decline at a rate of 1.0% – 1.7% per year and is not replenished (3).
Studies have shown that prolonged intake of collagen peptide supplements is beneficial for the skin and bone health. An animal study showed significant increase in the diameter and density of a collagen fibril and an increase in the number of fibroblast upon incorporation of collagen peptide in the diet. Hence, it leads to an improvement in the mechanical properties of the dermis to resist external factors (1).
Several research studies with human and animal models concluded that prolonged intake of collagen peptide supplements significantly benefited Osteoprotective action, increased conservation of bone composition and strength, reduced joint pain and increased cartilage protection (5).
Collagen supplements have shown to boost overall health in several clinical trials conducted. Benefits witnessed from these clinical trials include improved gut health, decreased joint pains, diminishing wrinkles, stronger nails, hair, bones and hydrated skin (6).
These results are not exactly unpredictable since collagen is an abundant building block, protein of the human body. It seems to reason that an increase in the intake of this protein would immensely benefit the human body. As already discussed, the daily requirement of collagen required to reap these benefits is not met by a modern diet. Therefore, it calls for plenty of reasons why collagen supplements should be included as a booster in a well-balanced diet; meaning collagen supplements are definitely worth the hype!
1. Matsuda, N., Koyama, Y., Hosaka, Y., Ueda, H., Watanabe, T., Araya, T., Takehana, K. (2006). Effects of Ingestion of Collagen Peptide on Collagen Fibrils and Glycosaminoglycans in the Dermis. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 52(3), 211-215. doi:10.3177/jnsv.52.211
2. Carey, %. (2015, October 30). What is Collagen and Why is it so Important? [Web log post]. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://www.puori.com/blog/2015/09/30/what-is-collagen#
3. What is Collagen – The science behind collagen & anti-ageing. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://medcollbio.com/the-science-of-younger-looking-skin/what-is-collagen/
4. All About Gelatin and Collagen | Paleo Leap. (2017, February 24). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://paleoleap.com/all-about-gelatin-and-collagen/
5. Porfírio, E., & Fanaro, G. B. (2016). Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia, 19(1), 153-164. doi:10.1590/1809-9823.2016.14145
6. Team, S. (2017). Collagen – Pills, Protein, Powder, Peptides, Supplements & More. [online] Supplement Analyst. Available at: https://supplementanalyst.com/collagen/ [Accessed 7 Nov. 2017].
Figure:(n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from http://acner.org/care-and-prevention/collagen/what-is-the-role-of-collagen-in-the-bodyg/