Collagen is the protein in your body that is most plentiful. It has numerous important functions, including providing your skin with structure and helping to clot your blood.

It has gained popularity in shampoos and body lotions as a dietary supplement and ingredient in recent years. You may also be curious what collagen is, as well as what it is useful for. This article provides you with a concise description of this significant protein.

What is collagen?

The most abundant protein in your body is collagen, which accounts for around one-third of its protein composition.

It’s one of the bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments’ main building blocks. In several other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth, collagen is also found.

You can think of it as the “glue” that holds together all these things. The word originally comes from the Greek word ‘kólla,’ meaning glue.

What does it do in your body?

At least 16 types of collagen exist. Type I, II, III, and IV are the four major types.

Here’s a closer look at your body’s four major types of collagen and their roles:

  • Type I. 90 percent of the body’s collagen accounts for this type and comprises tightly packed fibers. This provides the skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth with structure.
  • Type II. This kind is made of fibers that are more loosely packed and in elastic cartilage that cushions the joints.
  • Type III. This type provides the arrangement of muscles, organs, and arteries.
  • Type IV. This type helps with filtration and is found in your skin’s layers.

As you age, less and lower quality collagen is formed by your body. Your skin, which is less firm and supple, is one of the obvious signs of this. Often, cartilage weakens with age.

Nutrients that increase collagen production

All collagen begins in the form of procollagen.

By mixing two amino acids: glycine and proline, the body produces procollagen. Vitamin C uses this process.

By making sure you get enough of the following nutrients, you will be able to help your body produce this essential protein:

  • Vitamin C. Large amounts are present in citrus fruit, bell peppers, and strawberries.
  • Proline. Large amounts are present in egg whites, wheat germs, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms.
  • Glycine. Large quantities are contained in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, but glycine is also found in several protein-containing foods.
  • Copper. Large amounts are found in organic beef, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils.

Your body also requires high-quality protein containing the amino acids needed to produce new proteins. All of the excellent amino acids are meat, poultry, fish, dairy, legumes, and tofu.

Things that damage collagen

Perhaps it is even more necessary to prevent the following collagen-degrading behaviors:

  • Too much sugar and processed carbohydrates are consumed. Sugar interferes with the capacity of collagen to repair itself. Reduce the intake of added sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  • Too much sunshine. Collagen production can be decreased by ultraviolet radiation. Stop prolonged exposure to the sun.
  • Tobacco. Smoking decreases the development of collagen. This can impair the healing of wounds and lead to wrinkles.

Some autoimmune disorders may even destroy collagen, such as lupus.

Natural food sources

Collagen is present in the connective tissues of animal food. For example, it is found in large quantities in chicken and pork skin.

Bone broth, produced by boiling the bones of chicken and other animals, is a vibrant source.

Generally speaking, gelatin is cooked collagen, so it is very high in the amino acids required to produce it.

However, there is a question as to whether the intake of collagen-rich foods actually raises this protein’s amount in your body.

When you eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids and then reassembled so that the collagen you eat will not convert directly into higher levels in your body.

How to supplement

Collagen peptide comes in a powder that can be easily incorporated into foods.

The peptide form doesn’t gel, so you can mix it into smoothies, soups, or baked goods without affecting their texture.

When considering supplements, you should look for a high-quality source. Marine collagen, which is made from fish skin, is also available.

Other uses

Collagen has many applications, from food to medicine to manufacturing. Collagen has been used for the production of glue for thousands of years. Today, it is still used to build strings for musical instruments.

Collagen is heated in food to produce gelatin and used to make casings for sausages. The medical sector is used as a filler for cosmetic surgery and dressing for serious burns.

Final Thoughts

Collagen is an essential protein that provides structure to many parts of the body. Interestingly, the food and nutrients you consume will help your body produce this protein.

Alternatively, collagen supplements can be helpful. Some preliminary studies have shown that they can improve the skin condition, improve muscle function and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.