Collagen is an extremely important fibrous protein that is found in connective tissue – it’s in our bones, our joints and is also a major component of our skin. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body making up around 30% of all the body’s proteins. The word collagen comes from the ancient Greek word κόλλα (kolla), which translates to “glue”. This is perfectly apt as its function is to hold our body together, like glue, providing firmness and strength. Collagen is so strong, in fact, that type 1 collagen fibrils gram for gram are stronger than steel.
In the body, collagen proteins form fibrils. These are long tubes of fibrous tissue which are arranged with a regular pattern. With age, however, our collagen production decreases, resulting in weaker connections. This is why our skin wrinkles,our joints become less stable and our tendons and ligaments become more prone to injury. It also contributes to the type of bone loss experienced in osteoporosis (1). After exercise our muscle tissue repairs as a result microscopic tears in the muscle leading to growth. While muscle growth responds to exercise relatively quickly, the building of connective tissue and, in particular, collagen is relatively slow. Additionally, the aging of skin which is seen in the form of lines, wrinkles and pigment changes occurs due to the breakdown of collagen. This occurs naturally with age, but also with damage from the sun (2) or disease (3). In short, collagen keeps our joints strong and keeps wrinkles at bay. But how can we build collagen and keep our joints strong and our skin healthy?
Scurvy, most famous for affecting malnourished sailors in the 18th century is caused by a deficiency in vitamin C. Unlike most animals, we are unable to synthesize vitamin C in our bodies and so it must be obtained through diet. Vitamin C is found in many vegetables and fruits, including citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, and broccoli. Another great source of vitamin C is Puori C3, which is packed full of vitamin C in addition to pro and prebiotics. Significantly, Vitamin C is required for the formation of collagen (4). Without it, tissues begin to break down leading to bleeding gums, muscle and joint pain, as well as tiredness associated with scurvy. Though a deficiency is relatively rare nowadays it still highlights the importance of getting adequate vitamin C through your diet to keep the collagen in your skin, bones and joints as healthy as possible.
Collagen, as with all protein structures in the body, is composed of building blocks known as amino acids. In order to create amino acids to build proteins, we must ingest protein through our diet. Then, dietary protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids before it is rebuilt into other proteins, for example for repairing muscle tissue or, indeed, to build collagen. So we need a healthy supply of dietary protein, be it from animal sources such as beef, fish or from healthy protein supplements such as Puori PW1.
You’re probably aware that changes in the Western diet have resulted in a shift in our fatty acid intake from ingesting less animal fat while consuming more vegetable oils. This has resulted in many of us experiencing a deficiency in omega-3 while getting too much omega-6. In a similar fashion, the way we typically choose perfectly trimmed cuts of meat and fish, while eating less gelatin and collagen rich foods such as bone broth, pigs’ trotters and offal. This has created a significant shift in our amino acid intake. By contrast, we know that our hunter-gatherer ancestors cooked an animal from nose-to-tail providing an abundance of connective tissue and cartilage in their diets. Gelatin is a very rich source of collagen and as such provides a healthy dose of the amino acids that form collagen. As noted above, gelatin can be found in bone broth, but it’s also available as a powder which can be mixed into smoothies or juice. Be careful though to ensure you get a high quality gelatin from grass-fed cows to prevent contamination from toxins or hormones.
So now you know why collagen is so important, and the best ways to keep your joints, bones and skin strong and healthy.References
- Shuster, Sam. "Osteoporosis, a unitary hypothesis of collagen loss in skin and bone." Medical hypotheses 65.3 (2005): 426-432.
- Jariashvili, Ketevan, et al. "UV damage of collagen: insights from model collagen peptides." Biopolymers 97.3 (2012): 189-198.
- Brickley-Parsons, D. I. A. N. E., et al. "Biochemical changes in the collagen of the palmar fascia in patients with Dupuytren's disease." The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery 63.5 (1981): 787-797.
- Phillips, C. L., et al. "Vitamin C, collagen biosynthesis, and aging." Vitamin C in health and disease. (1997): 205-230.
- Szpak, Paul. "Fish bone chemistry and ultrastructure: implications for taphonomy and stable isotope analysis." Journal of Archaeological Science 38.12 (2011): 3358-3372.
- Proksch, E., et al. "Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis." Skin pharmacology and physiology 27.3 (2014): 113-119.
- Liu, JunLi, et al. "Bovine collagen peptides compounds promote the proliferation and differentiation of MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblasts." PloS one 9.6 (2014): e99920.