You might not know too much about collagen, but you really should - it’s an important part of almost every part of your body! It gives your body its structure, supports the minerals that make up and heal your muscles, joints, tendons, and skeleton, and makes up 1/3 of your protein. If your collagen production breaks down, so will your body!
You can thus imagine how important collagen is for your skin. Collagen and essential amino acids are crucial for healthy, strong skin, and supplements can boost your production.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is created by special cells called “fibroblasts”, which uses amino acids and vitamin C to make little subunits called procollagen. This procollagen is then woven together to form a complete collagen molecule, and these molecules come together to create fibrils, which form the fibrous anchors of skin. Collagen is so integral it makes up 75% of the dry-weight of skin, and it has a tensile strength superior to steel. There’s a lot of construction work going on under the surface!
Collagen helps to heal and repair wounds, knit damaged tissue, and keeps your joints and muscles in good shape. This includes your skin, the body’s largest organ and the first victim of a large amount of natural damage. We’re not just talking about superficial damage like bumps and scrapes, though it can help speed up repair and even diminish the look of scars. Simply being out in the sun or sitting in traffic can hurt your collagen production.
Those strong collagen fibres act as a base for new skin cells to replace old and dying ones. As we age, our collagen production significantly declines – 1% per year after around the age of 20, with exfoliation decreasing 28% over the duration of our twenties – weakening the skin’s elasticity and causing sagging, wrinkles, and thinning. On top of that, sun damage from UV rays deforms collagen formation and warp your skin’s “architecture”, causing clumps of elastin (the membrane on which collagen gets its support) to form and causing wrinkles and weaker skin. The two combined can cause many problems both visible and invisible, making it necessary to get enough collagen in your diet to support healthy skin.
The Three Types of Collagen & Vitamin C
It’s important to know the collagen that might be in your supplements, as your body needs different collagens for different things. There are at least 28 types of collagen in your body, made by different processes to do different things. The first three types are the most common, and will probably be the ones you see on any supplement labels. They are:
- Type I: This one mostly makes up skin, tendons, organs, and bones. It’s the most abundant type in your body.
- Type II: This type you’ll find in supplements for joint pain, as it’s found in cartilage.
- Type III: Often paired with Type I, this fibrillar collagen is found in the skin, lungs, uterus, intestine, vascular system, and other connective tissues.
When looking at supplements for your skin, they’ll usually be Types I and III. However, these won’t be enough: you need ascorbic acid – better known as vitamin C – to reduce damage, too! This essential nutrient is found in both the dermis (the tissue that contains nerve endings, blood capillaries, and other structures of which collagen is one of the main parts) and the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). It’s important because vitamin C is turns three essential amino acids – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – into collagen. Without vitamin C performing this important function in your body, collagen creation is disrupted and your basic structure can fall apart.
The best way to get vitamin C? Your diet! Dark, leafy greens, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, cabbage, and (of course) citrus fruits are all great sources of ascorbic acid. Orange juice might seem like the easiest idea, but it’s better to get it from whole food sources, as there’s far less sugar.
Where to Get Collagen
So you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet easily enough; but what about sources of collagen? You need to find foods rich in the three aforementioned amino acids that are combined to make collagen. These are essential in that they your body can’t make them, and they have to come from your diet.
- Bone Broth: Bone broth has the amino acids necessary to help collagen development, is very versatile, and can be added to other protein sources like soups or gravies to make it complete.
- Meat and Eggs: Organic protein sources are traditional, sure, but they can be the best ways amino acids that make up collagen. Make sure to eat the skin if you’re cooking chicken!
Collagen supplements can be effective. There are two types: bovine collagen and marine collagen.
- Bovine Collagen: This is collagen isolated and broken down into smaller, more soluble proteins (hydrolyzed) from cow bones, skin, and connective tissue. While it does have the same amino acids as gelatin, its chemical makeup is different and thus it provides a different benefit. It’s been proven to help fibrils and fibroblast density, stimulating the production of collagen and improving the condition of skin.
- Marine Collagen: It has been shown to do pretty much what bovine collagen does: enhance fibroblasts and fibrils and stimulate collagen formation to make skin healthier. It doesn’t have all the same effects of bovine collagen in regards to joint health, but it’s still a great skincare supplement. So keep those fibroblasts blasting with collagen and the right proteins! They can be important to strengthen your skin, help it glow, and reduce the effects of aging and environmental damage.
Author: Steve Spriensma is a blogger and researcher with Goodness Me! Natural Food Market. Check out their blog for more information on healthy living!