This article tells you everything you need to know about collagen, including what it is, what it does in your body, and whether collagen supplements are worth it.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It accounts for about 30% of its total protein. Collagen is the primary building block of your body’s skin, muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments and other connective tissues. It’s also found in your organs, blood vessels and intestinal lining.
Structure of collagen
Collagen microscopically occurs in elongated fibrils. It is mostly found in fibrous tissues such as tendon, ligament and skin, and is also abundant in cornea, bone, blood vessels, cartilage, intervertebral disc and the digestive tract.
In muscle tissue, collagen serves as a major component of endomysium. 1 to 2% of the muscles are formed of collagen and around 6% of the total weight of muscles is formed of collagen. Gelatin used in food is collagen that has been irreversibly hydrolyzed.
What does collagen do?
Collagen’s main role is to provide structure, strength and support throughout your body.
Collagen’s specific roles include:
- Boosts collagen production and provides antioxidant support
- Antioxidant helps reduce free radicals formed in the body
- Improves skin hydration, keeping skin smooth and elastic
- Helps nourish the appearance of skin, hair and nails
With age, collagen production slows and the cells structures weaken. The skin gets thinner and is easier to damage, hair gets lifeless, skin sags and wrinkles, tendons and ligaments become less elastic, joints get stiff etc.
What causes collagen loss?
As you age, your collagen production naturally declines. Additionally, collagen becomes fragmented and more loosely distributed.
These changes lead to the characteristic signs of aging, such as wrinkles and dry, sagging skin. The integrity of the collagen found in the skeletal system decreases with age as well, leading to reductions in bone strength. While collagen loss and damage as you age are inevitable, certain dietary and lifestyle factors can accelerate this process.
For example, smoking cigarettes is known to degrade collagen and cause skin aging, wrinkles, and loss of elasticity. Excessive drinking has also been shown to accelerate skin aging by reducing collagen production and damaging skin repair mechanisms.
Collagen is one of the main structural proteins in the human body and represents around a third of all protein found in the body. Collagen provides much of the structure to the skin and supportive connective tissue in joints.
Supplementing with collagen has been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity and may help with skin aging. It has also been shown to help reduce joint pain slightly in athletes and may improve pain associated with osteoarthritis