Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Its fiber-like structure is used to make connective tissue. Like the name implies, this type of tissue connects other tissues and is a major component of bone, skin, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. It helps to make tissues strong and resilient, able to withstand stretching.
In food, collagen is naturally found only in animal flesh like meat and fish that contain connective tissue. However, a variety of both animal and plant foods contain materials for collagen production in our own bodies.
Our body’s collagen production naturally begins to slow down as we age. We can thank this degenerative process for signs of aging, such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pains due to weaker or decreased cartilage. Other lifestyle factors — like eating a diet high in sugar, smoking and high amounts of sun exposure — also contribute to depleting collagen levels.
Collagen benefits are so striking because this protein is what helps give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells. When it comes to our joints and tendons, in simplest terms, it’s the “glue” that helps hold the body together.
Your skin can look firmer and smoother by increasing your collagen consumption. The volume and gloss of your hair can both benefit from collagen.
Many people are not aware that including collagen in your diet can also help in reducing the visibility of stretch marks and cellulite. Cellulite is more noticeable when skin becomes thin and loses its flexibility. Your skin will benefit from collagen by retaining more moisture, being more elastic, and appearing less bumpy.
2. Reduces Joint Pains and Degeneration
Sure, you love your 40-minute HIIT class, and you thrive on sweating through a miles-long run. However, as important as exercise is to your life, strenuous and continuous exertion causes a strain on our bodies, especially in muscles, joints and ligaments. Along with age, repetitive activity can lead to collagen depletion in the body. To account for this, consuming collagen can assist in keeping joints flexible, comfortable and healthy.
3. Helps Remedy Leaky Gut
Your gut is home to around 80% of your immune system. Toxins, food fragments, and pathogens break through your intestinal wall and enter your bloodstream when your gut becomes leaky, resulting in inflammation. This ongoing inflammation has the potential to develop into autoimmune.
Fortunately, collagen is used to create the tiny folds, known as “villi,” that make up your gut wall. If you deal with a leaky gut, it would be useful to take supplements to boost the production of amino acids used in collagen.
4. Boosts Metabolism, Muscle Mass and Energy Output
The amino acid glycine helps to build muscle by turning glucose into energy. Lean muscle tissue increases metabolism naturally because it burns more calories than fat does. In essence, collagen aids your body by transforming it into a fat-burning engine that works even while you’re at rest. There is some evidence to also suggest that supplemental collagen may support a feeling of fullness after you eat.
5. Protects Cardiovascular Health
Proline, which is found in collagen, can minimize the depositing of fat in your arteries and repair the tissues within them. Arterial fat may play a role in blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
The idea of popping a pill that doesn’t have side effects and may reverse the signs of aging is attractive to many. According to Google Trends, online searches for collagen have steadily increased since 2014.
Because of their shorter chain length, versatility and high bioavailability, collagen supplements are a great option if you’re looking to start supplementing with collagen in your diet. Look for terms like “collagen peptides,” “collagen hydrolysate” or “hydrolyzed collagen” on the ingredients label of your supplement to ensure you’re getting the real deal.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits That May Help
Along with a healthy and balanced diet, here are some habits that may help protect your body’s natural collagen:
- Wear sunscreen or limit the amount of time spent in direct sunlight (10-20 minutes in direct midday sunlight 3-4 times a week provides adequate vitamin D for most people).
- Get adequate sleep. For the average person, this means 7-9 hours a night.
- Avoid smoking or secondhand smoke.
- Control stress. Chronically high cortisol levels can decrease collagen production.
- Although the exact connection between exercise and skin quality is unclear, some studies have found that exercise slows down cell activity involved with aging skin.