Collagen is one of the most important proteins in the human body. It is the main component of the intercellular substance. It is found in the skin, muscles and even in the cornea of the eye. Due to its versatile properties, it is used in many areas of life, from dietary supplements to surgical threads.

What is collagen?

Collagen is a natural polymer, a structural protein that is an important component of all animal organisms.

Collagen fibers are the building blocks of i.a. skin, cartilage or muscles. The synthesis of the compound takes place mainly in fibroblasts, and it consists only of endogenous amino acids. In turn, the basic structural unit of collagen is a triple helix called tropocollagen.

The compound is produced naturally by the human body and makes up about 30% of all human proteins. It is also one of the main components of connective tissue and a kind of binder that connects different cells with each other.

Natural collagen is distinguished by its specific structure and a wide spectrum of activity. The structure of the compound is complex and it is not a single protein. There are many types of collagen in the human body, which differ in their structural and functional features. Decomposing it into prime factors, we can distinguish components such as glycine, which constitutes 33% of the amino acid composition, proline (10%) and other amino acids such as 4-hydroxyproline (10%), 3-hydrxyproline (> 0.5%), 5-hydroxylysine (1%).

It is important that over the years the amount of natural collagen production decreases.

Types of collagen

So far, 29 types of collagen have been discovered in human tissues, which differ in their functions, structure, as well as location and presence in tissues.

Type I collagen is the best known and constitutes up to 90% of all collagen fibres. It is found in bones, skin, and the cornea of the eye.

Type II collagen, which occurs exclusively in cartilage and forms common fibers with type XI collagen, is also well studied.

Other types of compounds can be found, i.a. in skeletal muscles, intestines, kidneys or uterus.

Sources of collagen

Products containing collagen include foods such as:

  • offal,
  • crow's feet,
  • food gelatine,
  • jelly.

Collagen can also be obtained from bones, skins or animal tendons.

While these are good sources of collagen, they should not be used in too large quantities. These are products that are a source of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, and thus, instead of improving our health condition, they can worsen it (consumed in excess).

Collagen can also be found in legumes and wheat germ. In addition, the source of the compound is fish meat. Interestingly, in terms of structure, marine collagen is very similar to collagen that is naturally formed in the human body.

Action and properties of collagen

The main task of collagen proteins is to maintain the structural integrity of tissues and organs. This compound fills the spaces between cells and also takes care of the mechanical strength of tissues. At the same time, it forms a protective layer around internal organs such as the kidneys and liver. Moreover, collagen participates in regenerative processes and in the process of blood clotting, and thus can accelerate wound healing and bone fusion after fractures.

It is not without reason that collagen is also called the protein of youth. The substance may have a positive effect on the condition of the skin, hair and nails. It can also affect the processes of cell renewal, take care of the appropriate level of hydration and elasticity of the skin, and thus its appearance, condition and elasticity. Collagen fibers can slow down the aging process of the skin and delay the process of wrinkle formation.

In addition, the compound cares for the proper functioning and condition of joints and can prevent stiffening of tendons and ligaments. It can also improve the course of metabolic processes, the functioning of the digestive and circulatory systems, incl. contributing to the improvement of circulation and blood transport in blood vessels.

Additionally, collagen can increase mineral absorption and bone density. It can also reduce the activity of enzymes that are responsible for inflammation.

Collagen deficiency

Collagen is constantly formed and degraded in the extracellular space. In the synthesis of collagen, an important role is played by, among others, insulin, estrogens and thyroid hormones.

However, with age, the ability to rebuild collagen decreases. Already after the age of 25, the level of collagen in the body decreases. After the age of 50, in turn, the synthesis of the compound decreases sharply.

Collagen deficiency can also be caused by increased physical activity, stress, hormonal disorders or mechanical loads.

A deficiency of the compound can cause various symptoms. Among other things, it can contribute to:

  • deterioration of the condition of hair and nails,
  • loss of skin firmness and elasticity,
  • appearance of wrinkles and furrows,
  • prolongation of wound healing time,
  • joint stiffness and soreness,
  • fatigue,
  • difficulties with movement,
  • increase susceptibility to fractures.

Excess collagen

Excess collagen most often results from disorders of natural transformations of this protein in the body. It can contribute to adverse changes in connective tissue and cartilage.

Excess may be manifested by the presence of keloids, i.e. benign fibrous growths of the skin, which arise as a result of its damage.

With scarring, it accumulates in excessive amounts primarily collagen type III.

Collagen supplementation

Supplementation uses pure collagen and its hydrolysates. The substance is recommended primarily for the elderly, as well as those who are struggling with problems related to the malfunction of joints and bones. Also among athletes who are constantly exposed to damage and mechanical injuries, additional collagen supplementation is recommended.

Various types and forms of the compound are available on the market. Collagen supplements are available, i.a. in tablets, powder or capsules, and choosing the right one is an individual matter. Especially recommended is a dietary supplement based on marine collagen, which has a similar structure to human collagen. Fish collagen is also distinguished by high bioavailability.

In addition, collagen hydrolyzate, i.e. collagen protein, which has been hydrolyzed and broken down into smaller peptides, is also popular. Hydrolyzed collagen is more easily absorbed in the intestines and is distinguished by better solubility, which is often used in drinking supplements.

It is also worth paying attention to take collagen along with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, because these ingredients additionally stimulate collagen production.

The appropriate dose of the supplement depends on the type of product taken and the individual needs of the consumer. Always take collagen preparations in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions placed on the packaging.

Side effects and contraindications to the use of collagen

Dietary supplements containing collagen are well tolerated.

Undesirable symptoms may appear mainly among people who do not follow the manufacturer's recommendations and consume excessive amounts of the preparation. Then you can observe effects such as muscle pain, general weakness or nausea.

Do not take collagen supplements if you are allergic or hypersensitive to some of the nutrients in the preparation.

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