Importance of Collagen & Its Benefits to Joint, Skin, Muscles and Digestive Health

Collagen is one of the most important proteins your skin needs. Collagen is found in our blood vessels, muscles, skin, bones, tendons, and even in the digestive system. Collagen is responsible for giving strength and elasticity to our skin. It also replaces the dead skin cells throughout the body. It is the glue that holds the joints and tendons together in the body, basically holding the body together. While the body produces collagen naturally, the process begins to slow down as we age. This degeneration of collagen is why we start seeing the common signs of aging such as fine lines, sagging skin, wrinkles, and joint pains. It is important that with age we increase our collagen consumption to keep reaping the many benefits of collagen. Today we take a look at how collagen boosts your body’s muscle, skin, and gut.

Importance of Collagen

Collagen can today be found in not just creams and cosmetic products. It is found in pills and powders as well. In fact, probably in most health products, you will find collagen included.

But why is collagen so important for our health? The answer lies in the fact that collagen is the most abundant fibrous protein in the body. It is required by the body for many crucial biological processes. It is considered to be the building block of healthy nails, skin, hair, tendons, cartilages, ligaments, bones, and much more. To put it simply, collagen is the scaffolding that provides the structure to our bodies and holds the body together.

The reason you want to increase your collagen levels is that collagen is required for:

  • Promoting healthy skin and boosting skin elasticity
  • For holding your bones and muscles together
  • For protecting your organs
  • For providing the correct structure to your tendons and joints

While the body naturally produces collagen on a regular basis, this process slows down as we age. Furthermore, poor lifestyle habits may also stop the production of collagen before time. These may include:

  • Too much of exposure to UV rays
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Without sufficient levels of collagen, you will start noticing the signs of aging make an appearance, including wrinkles, joint pain, and sagging skin.

Apart from an unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits, there are also certain underlying health conditions that start depleting the reserves of collagen in the body.

Collagen is required for your muscles, your skin, and even your gut. Let’s take a look at the benefits of this important protein.

Benefits of Collagen

Helps Give Relief from Joint Pain

With age, the body’s cartilages start to deteriorate and weaken. This may make you feel stiff and also have painful joints. Many people even start to suffer from arthritis as old age approaches.

A study done at the School of Medicine at the University of California Davis, in California, in 2009 showed that taking type II collagen supplements for 90 days reduced the symptoms of osteoarthritis by 40 percent and the severity of these symptoms also went down by 33 percent. The type II collagen supplements were produced from chicken necks.

Another older study hailing from 1993, done with the same type of collagen supplement, showed that people suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis experienced a significant reduction in the swelling and tenderness affecting their joints. In fact, out of the 60 participants of this study, four experienced a complete remission. The supplement used contained amino acids that were not broken down, meaning they were undenatured. This 1993 study was conducted by the Department of Medicine at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

Since then, many studies have effectively shown that collagen can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis and also give relief in joint pain.

Helps Reverse the Signs of Skin Aging

The most important benefit that collagen is most known for is the benefits this protein has for the skin. It is responsible for promoting a glowing, radiant, and vibrant skin, adding elasticity to the skin. Increasing the elasticity of the skin makes it appear healthier and more youthful. With age as collagen production declines, you will start to see the appearance of fine lines, loose and sagging skin, and dryness creeping onto your skin.

Increasing the intake of collagen through the use of supplements has shown to improve the elasticity of your skin. A study was done by the University of Kiel in Germany and the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, showed that over a period of four weeks, participants taking a collagen hydrolysate supplement experienced a significant improvement in the elasticity of their skin, as compared to the participants who were given a placebo.

Another study done by the same universities in 2014 using the same collagen supplement found that just eight weeks of taking a collagen hydrolysate supplement significantly reduced the appearance of wrinkles in the participants.

Collagen Helps Burn Fat and Build Muscle Mass

Collagen is one of the most proteins in the body. It is one of the biggest components of your muscle tissue. This is why collagen has a big role to play in the building of muscle mass. Collagen is also made up of a concentrated amount of glycine. Glycine is an amino acid that is involved in the process of creatine synthesis. Creatine provides the muscles with the fuel it needs for powering through an exercise routine or workout.

A study done by the University of Freiburg in Germany in 2015 explored how collagen supplements help with building muscle mass. The study focused on 53 elderly men who were suffering from sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a condition where a person starts losing muscle mass due to the natural aging process. The study found that after 12 weeks, the men taking collagen supplements and indulging in resistance training witnessed an increase in muscle strength and also an increase in fat loss.

Collagen Helps Improve Digestion

Collagen is present in the connective tissues of your gut. Collagen present in the gut helps strengthen and support the protective lining present in the digestive tract. The presence of collagen helps prevent the occurrence of a condition known as a leaky gut syndrome. It stops the passing of particles from the intestine into the bloodstream. If this is not prevented, it may cause inflammation and other problems.

Studies have also shown that people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease tend to have lower levels of collagen. Owing to this discovery, it is being theorized that an increase of collagen intake can help build stronger tissues that line the digestive tract, thus promoting better gut health.

How to Increase your Intake of Collagen?

Here are some ways in which you can increase your collagen intake:

Bone Broth: Simmering bones for some time not only helps extract the flavor from these bones, but it also extracts the helpful nutrients. This is one of the best ways of getting collagen. It makes the broth tasty and is also one of the easiest ways of adding collagen to any soup and stew. It is possible to make bone broth at home or you can also buy it in a powder form, easily available in most stores.

Collagen Peptide Supplements: Collagen peptides is an easy option of increasing your intake of collagen. There are many brands which sell hydrolyzed collagen peptides. This means that in this form the collagen can easily be broken down by the body and absorbed and digested.

Powdered Gelatin: Gelatin is basically known to be the cooked form of collagen. Powdered gelatin is a convenient way of increasing your collagen consumption as it can be mixed into any liquid foods, such as soups, broths, and stews.

Conclusion

Simply by adding collagen supplements to your diet does not guarantee that you will reap its benefits. This is because a lot also depends on your individual condition, your eating habits, as well as your overall lifestyle. Research definitely supports the intake of collagen supplements for gaining benefit in arthritis and skin conditions. However, if you do not follow a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, it is unlikely that taking collagen supplements will benefit you.

Also Read:

References

Bello, A.E. and Oesser, S., 2006. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Current medical research and opinion, 22(11), pp.2221-2232.

Graumlich, J.F., Blough, L.S., McLaughlin, R.G., Milbrandt, J.C., Calderon, C.L., Agha, S.A. and Scheibel, L.W., 2003. Healing pressure ulcers with collagen or hydrocolloid: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 51(2), pp.147-154.

Udenigwe, C.C. and Aluko, R.E., 2012. Food protein‐derived bioactive peptides: production, processing, and potential health benefits. Journal of food science, 77(1), pp.R11-R24.

Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T. and Prawitt, J., 2015. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo‐controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 14(4), pp.291-301.

Zague, V., 2008. A new view concerning the effects of collagen hydrolysate intake on skin properties. Archives of dermatological research, 300(9), pp.479-483.

Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N. and Venkateswarathirukumara, S., 2015. A double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), pp.702-707.

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