Collagen is a structural protein that is found in large quantities in the human body. It can be thought of as the “glue” that holds us together. It makes up roughly 25% to 35% of the protein content in the average person. It provides the structure and connective tissue that holds our bones, skin, ligaments and tendons together. As the most plentiful protein in the human body, it also helps our blood to clot properly.
It’s one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is even found in our teeth and corneas. The word “collagen” comes from the Greek word “kólla,” meaning glue. In recent years, collagen has been developed as a nutritional supplement that can be taken orally. It is also found in many brands of shampoos and body lotions.
Types of Collagen
Though there are at least 16 types of collagen, there are only four major types:
Type I – Accounts for 90% of the collagen found in our bodies. It’s made of densely packed fibers that provide structure to bone, skin, tendons, teeth, connective tissue and fibrous cartilage.
Type II – Made of more loosely packed fibers that cushion our joints. This type of collagen provides the elasticity that our skin needs to stay supple and fresh looking.
Type III – This type of collagen supports the structure of human arteries, muscles and organs. When our muscles and arteries stay strong and healthy, we can tackle life’s biggest challenges.
Type IV – This type is found in the layers of our skin and it helps filter out harmful things like UV radiation and toxins. As this collagen breaks down and is no longer produced in high quantities, our skin is more susceptible to harmful outside sources.
How aging affects collagen production
As we age, our bodies produce lower-quality collagen and less of it. This is one of the major factors that contribute to the aging process. We begin to look and feel older simply because we no longer have those high levels of collagen that we possessed at age 20 or 30. Your skin becomes dry and less supple. The cartilage begins to break down. Even our blood vessels start to weaken. Our major organs are affected as well, causing many of the conditions most often associated with aging.
What Can You Do About The Decline of Collagen Production?
It’s important to understand a few things about how collagen is produced in the human body. It begins as something known as procollagen. This substance is made by combining two amino acids: proline and glycine. The production of procollagen requires large amounts of vitamin C. The following nutrients work together to ensure healthy amounts of procollagen and eventually collagen will be manufactured.
- Vitamin C– Eat plenty of strawberries, citrus fruits and bell peppers
- Proline: This substance is derived from mushrooms, cabbage, wheat germ, egg whites and asparagus.
- Glycine: Found in gelatin, pork skin, chicken skin and various protein-containing foods.
- Copper: Eat lots of nuts, especially cashews and sesame seeds, along with lentils, cocoa powder and organ meats.
- Amino Acids: Found in legumes, tofu, bone broth, some seafood, meat and poultry.
A healthy diet of the foods listed above will ensure that your body has all the resources necessary to continue producing ample collagen even after age 50, 60 and beyond. With today’s busy lifestyle, many of us are not able to eat these specific foods at the right quantities each day. A simpler and more efficient way to consume the necessary nutrients is by taking a collagen supplement.
Things that damage collagen
There are certain things we can do to destroy collagen or cripple its ability to reproduce. Smoking is one of those. Smoking prevents wounds from healing and can lead to excessive wrinkling of the skin. Getting too much sun is another one. UV radiation reduces collagen production so be sure to avoid excessive sun exposure. Avoid eating refined carbs and sugar. Both of these prevent collagen from being able to repair itself.
All natural supplements can provide the daily sources of these nutrients so that you don’t have to worry about eating enough citrus fruits, nuts, bone broth, wheat germ, tofu and such each day. Of course, it’s important to take a high-quality supplement that has been developed under the strictest standards.