What is collagen? It’s an important protein that promotes healthy aging, workout recovery, and digestive function. Here’s what you need to know.
Collagen is getting more and more popular, but as with any supplement, it’s important to do your research before deciding upon a supplementation routine. Collagen promises many fantastic benefits — collagen devotees claim that it helps the hair, skin, nails, bones, joints, gut health, sleep quality, you name it — but before you jump on board the bandwagon, you should know what to expect. With all of that in mind, we thought we’d answer the ultimate question: What is collagen and why would you want to take it as a supplement?
What Is Collagen?
First, let’s answer the big question: What is collagen? Collagen is a protein, and in fact, it’s the most abundant protein in the body. It forms the basis of the connective tissues, such as the bones, cartilage, skin, joints, hair, and nails… It even forms your “inner skin,” also known as the lining of of your organs, including the gut.
In essence, collagen is a protein that provides a sort of scaffolding for the body.
Our bodies produce their own collagen, but as we age, collagen production slows. After about age 25, we begin producing less and less collagen, which is why aging is correlated with the loss of firmness in the skin, the degradation of the bones and joints, and many other collagen-related symptoms.
Why Supplement with Collagen?
Many people ask if taking collagen orally can actually boost collagen production. The scientific evidence for collagen ingestion is quite good — in fact, one study found that 90 percent of collagen is digested and absorbed when taken orally (1).
However, the way collagen works in the body is complex. Its unique amino acid profile, which is different from that of muscle meats we usually eat, contributes to our bodies’ own collagen production, which may ultimately boost collagen levels overall. Collagen contains the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine, all of which help our body’s connective tissues stay as healthy as possible.
In addition to supporting the connective tissues, there’s the simple fact that our ancestors probably consumed a lot more collagen than we typically get in a modern diet. While our ancestors would’ve eaten nose-to-tail (that is, consuming organ meats and also chewing on bones and cartilage), we mostly stick to muscle meats in our diet, which deprives us of collagen and its respective amino acids.
Benefits of Collagen Supplementation
If you’re ready to start supplementing with collagen, you stand to experience a lot of potential benefits. People who supplement with collagen often report positive changes in their skin, longer and thicker hair, healthy nails, increased athletic performance and recovery, deeper sleep, and even more regular digestive function.**
(1) Asghar, A and Henrickson, R.L. 1982. Chemical, biochemical, functional characteristics of collagen in food system. Advances in food research, 28 :231-372.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.