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7 Health Benefits of Collagen and Why You Need It

7 Health Benefits of Collagen and Why You Need It

Would you like to have younger looking skin and greater energy? Or perhaps you're trying to get leaner and stay fit year round? Collagen could be of great help.

According to multiple research studies, when collagen is consumed as part of a balanced diet, it can help slow down the signs of aging, stimulate hair growth, and improve digestion. Furthermore, it supports metabolic health, making it easier to keep the pounds off. 

As you age, your collagen levels drop. That's why health experts recommend eating collagen-rich foods, such as bone broth, gelatin, and fatty fish. To fully reap the benefits, consider taking collagen supplements or adding it to your daily meals and/or drinks.

First, let's see how collagen works and why it's so essential to your health.

What Is Collagen? 

Nowadays, everyone is talking about collagen creams and supplements. This may be one instance where the hype is backed up by solid research. 

Every cell and tissue in your body needs collagen to function at its peak. This substance is the building block of your skin, tendons, bones, and muscle mass. In fact, as much as 30 percent of your body's total protein is collagen. 

This compound maintains joint integrity, protects your organs, and keeps your skin flexible. It also holds together your muscles and bones. This protein makes up 70 percent of your skin and 90 percent of bone mass. Additionally, it's an integral part of your gut and blood vessels.

Its name comes from the Greek words kólla (glue) and -γέν (producing). Basically, it's the glue that holds your tissues together. Even the slightest collagen imbalance can affect your health and well-being. 

There are 28 different types of collagen in the human body, and each has unique properties. The most common ones include:

  • Fibrillar collagen (Types I-XI)
  • Non-fibrillar (Short chain, MACIT, Multiplexin, FACIT, etc.) 

Fibrillar collagen[1] makes up your skin, organs, tendons, bones, cartilage, reticular fibers, hair, and other tissues. Type I is the most abundant in the body, keeping your hair, skin, and nails strong and healthy.

Type II collagen is the primary component of your joints and cartilage. The third type is mostly found in the bone marrow and other reticular fibers. Other forms of collagen occur in smaller proportions. 

Gelatin vs. Collagen Peptides vs. Hydrolyzed Collagen

Collagen foods and supplements are becoming more and more popular. Understanding how they work will help you make an informed decision.

First of all, make sure you know the difference between them. Gelatin[2], for instance, is not the same thing as collagen -- even though they're often used interchangeably.

Collagen is found in animal skin, bones, and other tissues. During cooking, it transforms into gelatin. Bone broth, for example, is naturally rich in gelatin and can boost your body's collagen levels. 

Supplement manufacturers produce gelatin powder by hydrolyzing and drying animal tissues. They also create products that contain collagen peptides. This form of collagen is broken down into smaller proteins that are easier to digest and process by your body.

More intense processing can create hydrolyzed collagen, which boasts a high bioavailability. It provides the same beneficial amino acids as gelatin but has different chemical properties.

From a health perspective, gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen are very similar. Both have the same amino acid profile. The main differences between the two are how they are processed and how you use them.

Collagen peptides is another name for hydrolyzed collagen, which is often more convenient to use. All you need to do is take a capsule daily or add collagen powder to smoothies, fresh fruit juices, coffee and any food you like. Since the proteins in hydrolyzed collagen are smaller, you may find them easier to digest.

Collagen protein is what many refer to as "gelatin."  With a molecular weight higher than that of hydrolyzed collagen, it is frequently used in soups and desserts.  Gelatin offers the same amino acids as collagen peptides,  but it is not soluble in cold water. It needs warm temperatures to mix well.  Nevertheless, it is still a convenient way to get a great protein boost and balance your aminos.

What Are the Amino Acids Found in Collagen? 

Like any other type of protein, collagen is made up of amino acids[3]. The most abundant ones include lysine, glycine, and proline. They account for more than half of its amino acid content.

Glycine accounts for over 30 percent of the amino acids in collagen. It plays a key in metabolism, brain health, cognitive function, and muscle growth. This compound protects the stomach mucosa[4] and boosts immune function. 

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it may help relieve pain and accelerate wound healing. Furthermore, it scavenges oxidative stress and supports liver function. That's why medical professionals often prescribe collagen supplements in the treatment of stress-induced ulcers, liver disease, leaky gut syndrome, arthritis, and immune disorders.

Collagen is also an excellent source of proline and lysine. Proline supports skin repair, improves the body’s immune defense, and regulates inflammatory cytokine secretion[5]. It also promotes digestive health and eases joint pain.

This amino acid also acts as an antioxidant. When consumed in adequate amounts, it may slow down aging and promote cellular regeneration. Studies have found that it also enhances the body's ability to recover from stress[6] and boosts physical performance.

Lysine, another key amino acid found in collagen, supports immune function and bone health. Due to its antibacterial properties, it also helps clear acne and prevents herpes infections. Moreover, it improves calcium absorption into the bloodstream and raises serotonin levels, which helps relieve anxiety and other mental disorders. 

Collagen also provides arginine, an amino acid that keeps your heart healthy and aids in hormone production. Glutamine, leucine, histidine, alanine, and valine are all found in this protein. Your body needs these amino acids to build and repair tissues, fight stress, and produce energy.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Collagen

With its unique nutritional profile, collagen can boost your health on every level. Its benefits go beyond youthful skin and stronger nails.

Even though your body produces collagen on its own, this process slows down as you age. Additionally, certain factors can reduce your collagen levels. Smoking, poor nutrition, sun exposure, and nutrient deficiencies are just a few to mention. 

Taking dietary supplements is a great way to ensure that your collagen levels stay within normal limits. In clinical trials[7], subjects who took collagen peptides experienced significantly increased skin hydration within eight weeks. Other studies have found that taking as little as 2.5 grams of collagen daily for six months can dramatically reduce cellulite.

Need more proof? Let's take a look at the surprising health benefits of collagen!

Supports Skin Health

Remember the old saying beauty starts from the inside out? The studies conducted on collagen support this statement. 

This natural compound lows down the aging process, improves skin elasticity[8], and minimizes cellulite. It also increases hydration levels in the skin and prevents water loss. This leads to fewer wrinkles and fine lines.

Due to its ability to scavenge oxidative damage, collagen minimizes the harmful effects of UV radiation. As you probably know, exposure to the sun is the primary cause of aging. Once you increase your collagen intake, your skin will look younger and more radiant. 

Aids in Weight Loss

A diet rich in collagen could be the key to leanness. This protein increases fullness and suppresses appetite while helping preserve muscle mass. 

Researchers have found that collagen is up to 40 percent more filling than casein, whey, and soy protein[9]. Study participants who took collagen supplements ate 20 percent less at the next meal compared to those using other sources of protein. 

Other studies indicate that collagen increases leptin levels in the bloodstream[10]. Also known as the satiety hormone, leptin signals your brain that you're full.

Due to its ability to maintain lean mass, this protein keeps your metabolism up, so you'll burn calories around the clock. This is particularly important when you're following a diet. 

Promotes Digestive Health

If you had to choose just one supplement for digestive health, it should be collagen. This protein seals and heals the stomach lining while fighting inflammation. That's why is often recommended for the prevention and treatment of the leaky gut syndrome. 

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, collagen may help relieve the symptoms of IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive disorders[11]. At the same time, it helps prevent constipation by increasing water absorption within the intestines.

Keeps Your Bones and Joints Strong

This protein is an integral part of your bones and joints. Therefore, it keeps them strong and protects against the effects of aging. Moreover, it can help relieve joint pain and arthritis symptoms.

According to a 2009 study[12], osteoarthritis patients who took type II collagen supplements experienced a 40 percent reduction in their symptoms within three months. In another study, four out of 60 subjects with rheumatoid arthritis experienced complete remission[13].

Helps with Diabetes Management

People suffering from diabetes lose collagen at a faster rate compared to healthy individuals. Additionally, their bodies produce more AGEs (Advanced Glycosylated End Products) due to glycation, which accelerates the aging process. For this reason, supplementation is a must.

Collagen supplements can help slow down aging and relieve diabetes symptoms. They not only restore the body's collagen levels but also prevent bone loss and help repair soft tissue.

Studies conducted over the years indicate that collagen may help regulate blood sugar more efficiently than other proteins. On top of that, it contains glycine, which plays a vital role in glucose homeostasis and collagen synthesis.

Improves Sports Performance

Due to its ability to build and preserve lean mass, collagen boosts athletic performance and metabolic function. Exercise depletes your body's protein levels. That's why athletes take protein supplements post-workout. 

However, not all protein sources are equal. Collagen is particularly beneficial because of its high amino acid content. It supports muscle repair, prevents catabolism, and speeds up recovery time[14]

By strengthening your joints and ligaments, it decreases injury risk. At the same time, it improves joint function and flexibility[15], making you a better athlete. 

Restores Thyroid Function

Thyroid disorders are characterized by unexplained weight loss or weight gain, changes in appetite, fatigue, constipation, and mood swings. Collagen can help relieve these symptoms and restore thyroid health.

Low-collagen diets have been linked to higher cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, affects endocrine function. In the long run, it promotes fat storage, depletes your energy, and triggers muscle loss. 

Dietary supplements can prevent collagen deficiency and improve thyroid function. They also support mental health and keep your metabolism up, counteracting the debilitating effects of thyroid disease.

The health benefits of collagen don't end here. This protein boosts liver health[16], stops hair loss and prevents arteriosclerosis. It also keeps your brain sharp and improves your mood.

Are Collagen Supplements Safe?

Collagen supplements are safe for healthy individuals. Unless you have excessive calcium in the bloodstream, you shouldn’t experience any side effects.

Just make sure you choose a quality formula that has been tested and certified by third parties. Certain products are made with collagen from animal bones and tissues that may contain lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. Read customer reviews, research the manufacturer, and check the label.

In case you're allergic to fish, look for products that contain chicken, porcine, or bovine collagen. Marine collagen can trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to fish and its derivates. 

In rare cases, supplements may cause a bad taste in the mouth. Some people also experience heartburn or bloating. A premium formula made with the purest ingredients is unlikely to cause these side effects, so research your options before making a choice.

Health Starts from the Inside Out

Now that you know the benefits of collagen, try it yourself. This supplement can bring you closer to your weight loss goals, boost your performance in the gym, and keep your joints healthy until late in life. Your skin will look younger, your nails will get stronger, and your hair will grow faster.

Collagen has both short- and long-term benefits. Plus, it’s safe and convenient. For optimal results, take it as a daily supplement as part of a balanced diet.

 References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/

[2] https://blog.kettleandfire.com/gelatin-vs-collagen/

[3] https://www.livestrong.com/article/428024-amino-acids-to-produce-collagen/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12589194

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3750756/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20036181

[7] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12174

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19465192

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18319637

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14600124

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764342/

[13] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/261/5129/1727.long

[14] http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1703587

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22913202


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