Collagen is a protein that serves as one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look.
Collagen consists of amino acids bound together to form a structural protein found in the various connective tissues in the body. Collagen has many important functions with the main ones involving strengthening your bones and providing your skin with structure and support. It’s also a building block for muscles, tendons and ligaments and is found in blood vessels, corneas and teeth.
The name is Greek and can be broken out into two words, kola meaning ‘glue’ and the suffix -gen meaning ‘producing’. This helps to remember what it does, think of it like the glue that holds all of these things together.
What does collagen do to the skin?
Your skin is made up of three layers, the epidermis, which is the outermost layer, followed by the dermis and the hypodermis. Most of the collagen in our skin is found in the middle layer, the dermis, where it's also produced. Skin cells in the dermis (fibroblasts) synthesize the collagen that holds the rest of the dermis together, giving our skin its underlying structure. Collagen provides the skin with elasticity and helps to make skin look refreshed, supple and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Types of collagen
While there have been up to 28 varieties of collagen identified, there are only three main types you need to know about. These are simply named Type I, II, III. Each has a different role in the body.
- Type I - This is the most abundant in humans and accounts for 90% of your body's collagen. It's dense fibers provide to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.
- Type II - Type II is the main component in cartilage and helps to cushion your joints
- Type III - Generally found alongside type I collagen in the body, Type III collagen is found in reticular fibers like bone marrow.
Foods with collagen?
Because of the nature of collagen (being produced in the body) the only way to get collagen from food is through other animals. There is no known vegan/vegetarian source of collagen. Good dietary sources of collagen include:
- Bone broth
- Chicken, pork and salmon skin
It’s also beneficial to increase your intake of vitamin C as it plays a major role in the production of pro-collagen, the body’s precursor to collagen. Foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, citrus and red capsicum are filled with vitamin C and may also help with skin cell repair and regeneration.
Unfortunately, collagen starts to degrade with age, and your genetics can affect how fast that degradation happens. We lose collagen year after year, and make lower quality collagen. Free radicals damage collagen — “they are our skin’s enemy,”. Environmental factors (like UV rays or pollution), bad lifestyle habits (smoking), and a poor diet (too much sugar) all create free radical formation, which speeds collagen breakdown.
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