What is collagen?

Collagen: Your Comprehensive Guide

Unlocking the Benefits of Collagen

In the quest for optimal health and radiant well-being, the buzz around collagen supplements has caught our attention. But is it worth supplementing and what are the potential gains? We delve into the science of collagen supplementation, exploring what the potential benefits may be of integrating it into your routine, considering the best dietary sources and types of supplements. 

What is Collagen?

Collagen is an essential structural protein that is abundantly present in our skin, hair, nails, joints, and connective tissues. Serving as a foundational element in the body, it brings strength, elasticity, and crucial support.

As we enter our mid-20s, a subtle but impactful transformation begins within the skin. Though not immediately visible, the natural ageing process unfolds, marked by a gradual decline in collagen production. This decline manifests itself in various ways, contributing to the emergence of ageing signs such as wrinkles, diminished hair and nail strength, and for some, discomfort in the joints.

How Does Collagen Work?  

We naturally produce collagen in the body from three amino acids - glycine, proline and arginine, which we consume or produce through our daily diets. Supplementing collagen can be used to provide additional collagen to the body where needed. Collagen supplementation is believed to stimulate the body's natural collagen synthesis. By providing additional collagen building blocks, such as amino acids like glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, supplements support the synthesis of new collagen. supporting the natural production and maintenance of this essential protein.

The body breaks down collagen taken in supplement form into individual amino acids and peptides during digestion. These smaller components are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to various tissues, where they contribute to collagen synthesis, stimulating the body's cells, particularly fibroblasts in the skin, to produce new collagen. This process helps improve the structure, strength, and elasticity of skin, as well as reducing the brittleness of nails and improving the strength and resilience of hair and nails.

Individual responses to collagen supplements can vary, and results may take time to become noticeable. Consistency in supplement intake, along with a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition, certainly contributes to optimal results.

Is Collagen Good for the Skin?

Collagen is a primary structural protein in the skin's extracellular matrix, providing a framework that maintains firmness and resilience. It acts like a scaffold, contributing to the skin's overall structure. It is integral to maintaining skin hydration and forms a barrier that helps prevent water loss and promotes a plump, moisturised complexion. Additionally collagen is crucial for wound healing and skin regeneration. It supports the formation of new tissue, helping to minimise scarring and promote a smoother skin texture. 

Supplementing with collagen may help to reduce the formation of wrinkles and fine lines promoting suppleness and smoothness, it can also support the skin's ability to stretch and return to its original shape, maintain a more moisturised complexion and aid skin regeneration. 

What Are The Best Dietary Sources Of Collagen?

Foods that are protein-rich are the best for aiding natural collagen production in the body, along with those foods rich in nutrients required for collagen production such as vitamin C, zinc and copper.

  • Bone broth is a nourishing and traditional source of collagen as well as being rich in gelatine and the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.
  • Meat, fish and seafood, rich in protein, especially chicken, beef, sardines and salmon can provide the amino acids needed for collagen production.
  • Egg whites contain proline, an amino acid that is a building block for collagen.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods such as berries, peppers, citrus fruits, can help to support collagen production.
  • Beans and legumes contain proline and glycine, two amino acids crucial for collagen synthesis.
  • Certain nuts and seeds, like sunflower seeds and almonds, contain collagen-boosting nutrients such as copper and vitamin E.

While these dietary sources contribute to collagen intake, it's important to maintain an overall balanced and varied diet for optimal health. Additionally, lifestyle factors like avoiding excessive sun exposure, staying hydrated, and not smoking also play a role in supporting collagen production and maintaining skin health.

Which Collagen Supplement is Best?

Both marine and bovine collagen offer similar benefits, as they contain the same types of collagen peptides (Type I and Type III). Here are some considerations for each:

Bovine: Derived from cows (usually the hides).

  • Rich in Type I and Type III collagen, which are particularly beneficial for skin, hair, and nails.
  • Often flavourless and mixes well with various beverages and foods.
  • The sourcing and production of bovine collagen can have environmental implications, so consider choosing products from sustainable and responsibly sourced cattle.

Marine: Extracted from fish scales, skin, or other fish parts.

  • Primarily consists of Type I collagen, similar to the collagen found in human skin. It is also absorbed more efficiently by the body compared to bovine collagen.
  • May be a suitable option for individuals with beef allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • A more sustainable option, as it often utilises by-products from the fishing industry that would otherwise go to waste.

Whilst the choice between marine and bovine collagen does depend on individual preferences and dietary restrictions, it is generally accepted that marine collagen is 1.5 times more bioavailable as it is broken down in smaller particles, and therefore a superior source. Whether you opt for bovine or marine selecting a high quality hydrolysed collagen supplement is key to maximising absorption.

What About Vegan Collagen?

As collagen is sourced from animal or fish-derived, vegan collagen provides a plant-based alternative. Vegan collagen brings together the building blocks required to naturally produce collagen in the body, incorporating a blend of key amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that support this process. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, known for its potential to enhance skin elasticity and hydration, are also included in many vegan collagen products.

Are Collagen Supplements Really Worth It?

Collagen supplementation is grounded in scientific principles related to the role of collagen in the body and the potential benefits of increasing collagen intake. The is evidence supporting the potential benefits of collagen supplementation is strong, though individual responses can always vary. Factors such as the type of collagen, dosage, and duration of supplementation may influence outcomes.

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