COLLAGEN – THE WONDER WORKER
WE’RE USED TO HEARING ABOUT THE ROLE OF COLLAGEN IN MAINTAINING THE ELASTICITY OF OUR SKIN AS WE AGE, BUT THIS PROTEIN HAS MANY OTHER POSITIVE EFFECTS ON OUR HEALTH.
This protein has many positive effects on health
We’re made up of more than 30% collagen, which acts like a glue. It strengthens the structure of the body and aids the integrity, elasticity and regeneration of connective tissue, skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone. This flexible substance has incredible strength – the fibrils cannot be broken, even when stretched. Children and young people’s bodies make plenty of collagen (unless their health is compromised) but by the age of 60 you will have lost more than 50% of your collagen. This is due to ageing (of course), hormonal changes, medication, smoking, alcohol, processed food, sugar, seed oils, radiation, fluoride in the water, stress, too much sun, nutritional deficiencies and dehydration, among other factors.
Low levels of collagen in the joints cause a loss of cartilage and joint function, resulting in discomfort, pain and even bone loss in excess of the formation of new bone. Sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass, is a very real problem in older people, affecting balance, gait and mobility – and collagen is instrumental in preventing some of this muscle loss. Other symptoms of deficiency are: • wounds that take too long to heal • aching muscles • stiffness • dry eyes, headaches, skin rashes • loosened teeth, receding gums and other dental problems.
As skin cells become less active, the collagen matrix providing structure and firmness begins to break down, and skin becomes thinner and dehydrated, resulting in the development of lines and furrows.
You can boost collagen formation by eating high quality animal protein. Bone broth and brawn are wonderful sources of collagen, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, pilchards and cod liver oil all support collagen production. Vitamin C also helps your body to ramp up collagen production.
It is entirely possible to get enough collagen by eating gelatinous meat, cartilage from
Low levels of collagen in the joints cause a loss of cartilage and joint function, resulting in discomfort, pain and even bone loss in excess of the formation of new bone
chicken drumsticks and chicken skin every day, but if this doesn’t appeal to you, the fastest way to increase collagen is by taking a good supplement.
Types of collagen
There are nearly 30 different types of collagen in the body. The most common are: • Type I: found in skin, muscles, hair, nails, tendons, bone, vascular ligatures and organs • Type II: the main component of cartilage • Type III: found with type I in all connective tissue.
Types I and III occur together naturally in bovine collagen, which comes from the inner hide of the cow, as well as from cartilage and bone, and it’s the closest to what we make in our own bodies. It contains a high level of the amino acid proline, which plays a critical role in prompting the body to produce its own collagen. The other amino acids in it that do the heavy lifting are glycine, alanine and hydroxyproline.
Type II, which is found in chicken collagen, should be taken separately from types I and III to ensure adequate absorption. It’s particularly helpful for joint problems, osteoarthritis, stiffness and joint pain.
I recommend supplementing types I and III collagen from a grass-fed bovine source, and type II from chicken. The supplement should contain no preservatives, E numbers, added flavouring, or stabilisers – and it should be in powder form.
Avoid fish collagen (sometimes called marine collagen) as you don’t know which kind of fish is used and there is the potential for allergic reactions. I’d also avoid porcine collagen, unless it’s from free-roaming pigs. I prefer to stick to bovine and chicken sources, and I’d rather eat eggs than use egg collagen.
Because collagen is pure protein, there are no carbohydrates – taking a supplement won’t interfere with ketosis or stall weight loss. In fact, as a protein, it encourages weight loss. It’s also a ‘complete’ protein so it has all the essential amino acids. The supplement is soluble in both cold and hot liquids, so it’s versatile as you can bake with it or add it to hot or cold food. I stir mine into my morning coffee for extra creaminess because it’s tasteless.
Many people are lactose or casein intolerant and can’t take whey protein powders. Collagen is the ideal substitute, but it’s not recommended for pregnant women due to the high levels of amino acids.