Collagen is the most abundant protein in animals, found as a structural component of connective tissues making 25%-35% of the protein content. It is found in fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage and skin.
Our body produces collagen on a regular basis but slows with age. Other lifestyle habits that can slow production include smoking, sun or ultra violet light exposure, and an unhealthy diet. Some health conditions may also deplete collagen storage. Lower levels result in wrinkles, sagging skin, painful joints, increased dryness and poor healing.
Collagen hydrolysate is a hydrolyzed form of the protein and is also called gelatine. It has received increasing attention in the past decade. Several animal and clinical trials between 2010 -2017 have demonstrated its beneficial effects including antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-osteoporotic and anti-osteoarthritis, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, healing, anti-hypertensive, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-obesity and hypoglycemic effects.
A research study on animals published in China in 2017 demonstrated that taking 10g of collagen hydrosylate once a day for more than six weeks showed increase in skin hydration, decreasing the formation of deep wrinkles and improving skin elasticity. Not surprisingly the effects were more obvious in women over 30. Smaller studies reported positive effects on joint pains and osteoporosis.
Collagen hydrolysate has also been found to have an important role in sports nutrition. The first clinical trial published in 2008 in the journal ‘Current medical research and opinion’ showed improvement of joint pains in athletes who were treated with it as supplements. While more studies are needed to support its use among athletes, however, it certainly appears to have a potentially beneficial role among those who are at risk of joint deterioration and injury.
In fact, another aspect of collagen is that it is a major component of muscle & can impact both muscle gain as well as performance. Collagen contains a concentrated amount of glycine, an amino acid involved in the synthesis of creatine. This can provide muscles with the fuel needed to power an exercise session.
While, more research on collagen and exercise is needed, a study in 2015 looked at collagen supplements in 53 older males with sarcopnia, a condition where there is loss in muscle mass due to aging. After 12 weeks, those who took supplements along with resistance training saw an increase in fat loss and muscle strength more than the placebo group.
Other areas where collagen has been found to be useful is in fixing digestive health and gut related issues. Collagen is in the gut’s connective tissue and can help support and strengthen the protective lining of the digestive tract. This is important because alterations in the barrier function of the intestines can allow toxins and undigested food particles to pass into the bloodstream. This results in inflammation, immune disturbances, psychological and neurological maladies.
Collagen is mostly extracted from skin, bones and fish scales as gelatine, using hot water, so, strict vegetarians may need alternatives. Some foods that may boost collagen production in our bodies include almonds, seeds, berries, kiwi, avacados, carrots, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and garlic.