You likely know of collagen for its skin beautifying abilities, but did you know about its health benefits?
You see collagen in skincare products and in powders that promise clearer, plumper, and wrinkle-free skin on grocery store shelves.
But, collagen is used for so much more than keeping your skin looking youthful. Collagen is the single largest protein source in your body. It is necessary for the proper functioning of your cells, organs, muscles, and tissues.
Collagen has several health benefits that include:
- Increases elasticity and smooth skin that looks visibly younger
- Promotes healthy joint function
- Decreases inflammation throughout your body
- Repairs your intestinal barrier and plugs up the holes in a leaky gut
- Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and improves memory retention
- Lowers cholesterol levels and keeps your heart healthy
- Increases your bone density and keeps your bones strong
- Detoxes your body and supports your liver
What is Collagen?
This protein is the most abundant and the most vital protein for your body. Collagen is considered to be a complex protein. It’s actually made up of 19 different amino acids. And, it makes up 30% of all of the protein in your body.
Collagen is everywhere in your body:
- 90% of your sclera
- 80% of your tendons
- 75% of your skin
- 60% of your cartilage
- 30% of your bones
- 1 – 10% of your muscle mass
It essentially functions as glue for your entire body. It binds and supports the structure of your skin, muscle tissue, bones, and tendons. Even the word collagen comes from the Greek word “kólla” and the French suffix “- gene.” The word literally translates to glue producing.
This glue-like protein is especially concentrated in the extracellular matrix or the ECM. The ECM basically acts as a support system similar to the idea of a net that holds the cells together. It is also responsible for sending out signals to reduce inflammation and repair damaged cells.
There are 16 different types of collagen within your body. However, the majority of collagen is made up of the first type.
Your body is designed to make its own collagen when it is given all the nutrients it needs. However, this ability begins to decrease as you age.
Around age 35, your collagen production begins to slow. Once you hit age 40, your collagen diminishes faster than your body can produce it. By age 60, over ½ of your body’s collagen will be gone.
You can eat more foods with collagen and take collagen peptide supplements to slow this process though. Collagen supplementation is essential for us as we age and even while we are young since collagen is responsible for the functioning of so many parts of the body.
The Benefits of Collagen For Your Health
1. Collagen for Your Skin
Collagen is probably the most well-known for keeping your skin looking young and youthful. It actually used to be used as injections to fill in fine lines and wrinkles for plastic surgery. The benefits from injections are short-lived, so now it is actually recommended that you should ingest collagen to get its full benefits.
You’ve probably also seen several skin-care product lines with collagen in the ingredients. The collagen inside these products won’t help your skin much. The molecules from topical skincare products are actually too large for your skin to absorb and use. That’s why eating collagen is the best way to beautify your skin.
A recent double-blind study saw that when observing a group of people who took collagen peptides, their skin elasticity and skin moisture showed significant improvement. Women who were older showed the best results because their body isn’t producing enough collagen on its own.
Also, the foods we eat significantly affect our skin. Here are 10 foods to make your skin glow and help the production of collagen.
2. Collagen for Your Joints
You don’t have to have arthritis or be an athlete to experience joint pain. Healthy joints are essential for keeping our body mobile. Collagen will actually relieve knee and joint pain because it acts like oil on a rusted mechanism.
Collagen is made up of the amino acids glycine and proline. These acids have anti-inflammatory properties, will naturally lower your joint pain, and relieve any stiffness in your joints.
For a list of foods that support joint health, check out our full list here.
3. Collagen for a Leaky Gut
Before we can talk about how collagen can help repair a leaky gut. I’ll first explain how a leaky gut impacts your health.
Your intestinal barrier is like a gatekeeper. It makes sure that the nutrients, water, electrolytes, and minerals from your food are absorbed so that your body can use them.
A leaky gut essentially means that your barrier becomes loose. Toxins, microbes, and undigested food breaks through the intestinal wall and enters the bloodstream.
To repair your gut, you can take collagen. Your intestinal wall is made up of microscopic folds called villi. These folds are made of collagen. Collagen will seal those leaks to keep your gut healthy and allow you to absorb more of the vital nutrients from the food that you eat.
Collagen can also help and lessen the symptoms of those with other gastrointestinal problems such as IBS, acid reflux, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
4. Collagen for Your Brain
Higher levels of collagen VI can actually protect you against Alzheimer’s disease. Collagen shields the brain from amyloid-beta proteins. These proteins are believed to be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s.
Research shows that a deficiency in collagen VI leads to spontaneous cell death, higher rates of oxidative stress, diminished motor and memory task performance, and increased neurotoxicity.
5. Collagen for Heart Disease
Collagen can actually lower your cholesterol levels. It also works to prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries which prevents heart attack and stroke.
A recent study showed that when people were given collagen twice a day for six months, there was a substantial decrease in their cholesterol ratio. Collagen also reduced the buildup of plaque in their arteries.
6. Collagen for Strong Bones
When you think of bone health, you probably think of calcium. However, calcium isn’t the only aspect of healthy bones. Over 1/3 of our bones are made up of collagen. In fact, there is more collagen in your bones than calcium.
Your bone’s cells are always turning over. Collagen fuels bone-creating cells called osteoblasts. These cells help prevent osteoporosis. The more collagen in your bloodstream, the better your bone density will be.
7. Collagen for Proper Liver Function
The liver is used to detoxify your body. Glycine, an amino acid found in collagen, helps support your liver. It can help decrease damage done to the liver if you consume foods and drinks that put a lot of strain on your liver like alcohol.
One study shows that glycine works to prevent hepatic damage triggered by hypoxia-reoxygenation and diminishes alcoholic liver injury.
Food Sources of Collagen
You’ve probably only thought of collagen as a pill, powder, or bone broth that is sourced from animals. But you can supplement with collagen even if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or looking to reduce your intake of animal products by eating foods with the amino acids glycine and proline.
These amino acids are what your body needs to be able to make collagen. Both glycine and proline are conditional amino acids. In other words, if conditions in the body are excellent, the body can make them.
But, more often, because of the stressful lives that the majority of us lead, we need to get these amino acids from our food:
Food Sources of Glycine:
Food Sources of Proline: