Collagen powder has become a popular supplement.  Collagen provides many health benefits including relieving joint pain, and minimizing wrinkles in skin. Here is what collagen is and what it cam do for you.

Collagen is a protein that makes up 30% of your body’s total protein.  It is the main building block and provides structure, support, and strength to skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissues.  Collagen is in your organs, blood vessels, and intestinal lining.  Specifically, collagen’s main roles are…

  • to help form your dermis (middle skin layer) and new cell growth
  • to help replace dead skin cells
  • providing a protective covering for organs
  • giving structure, strength, elasticity to skin
  • to help your blood to clot

Collagen is made of three key amino acids (proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline).  To form collagen, these amino acids require the proper amount of vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese to make the amino acids form into collagen.

As we age, our body produces less collagen and it is lower in quality.  Women experience a significant decrease in collagen after menopause and everyone sees a decline in collage production after the age of 60.

Unfortunately, the amount of collagen we have in our bodies or how much our body produces is unmeasurable but there are other signs that indicate a decreasing level of collagen including:

  • skin that’s wrinkled or sagging
  • hallowing in and around your eyes and face
  • shrinking, weakening muscles and muscle aches
  • stiffer, less flexible tendons and ligaments
  • joint pain or osteoarthritis due to worn cartilage
  • loss of mobility due to joint stiffness or damage
  • GI problems due to thinning of the intestinal lining
  • problems with blood flow

Lifestyle habits, such as, smoking, eating too much sugar/refined carbs, and exposure to too much sunlight (ultraviolet light) can also decrease the amount of collagen in your body.  As well, certain diseases will negatively affect collagen levels.  Autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, dermatomyositis, and scleroderma affect collagen levels.

There are things you can do to help limit the loss of collagen.  To improve your collagen level in your skin and slow the signs of aging, minimize your exposure to ultraviolet light and wear sunscreen every day. Wear a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside. Avoid tanning beds.

Medical and cosmetic purposes are some uses of collagen.  It can be broken down, converted, and absorbed back into your body.  Medical purposes of collagen tend to come from humans, cows, pigs, and/or sheep.  Some of the medical uses for collagen includes filling out/smoothing out wrinkles and depressions in the skin, wound dressing to help new cells develop, reconstruct arteries, and help regenerate nerves.

In its whole form, the body does not absorb collagen.  Therefore eating collagen rich foods will not result in a higher level of collagen in your body.  Eating foods that contain the nutrients needed to form the collagen protein is key. These nutrients and sources include:

Vitamin C:     oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and potatoes

Proline:          mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus, peanuts, wheat, fish, egg whites, and meat

Glycine:          red meats, turkey, chicken, pork skin, peanuts, and granola.

Copper:          liver, lobster, oysters, shitake mushrooms, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, tofu, and dark chocolate

Zinc:               oysters, red meat, poultry, pork, beans, chickpeas, nuts, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, whole grains and milk products.

Scientific research is lacking on how well collagen supplements work and most scientists feel that a well balanced diet will provide you with what your body needs to produce enough collagen naturally.  Following a diet such as the Mediterranean Diet with the focus on vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, fruit, and some seafood, meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs will provide your body with the nutrients it needs.