Collagen – what is it?
Collagen - one of the proteins produced in our body, accounting for a third of the body’s protein composition. Collagen provides us with amino acids, namely glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and is one of the greatest sources of these specific amino acids compared to other proteins (León-López et al., 2019). Collagen is the main component in the connective tissue, which provides support, flexibility, protection, and strength to internal organs and structure (Lodish et al., 2000).
There are 28 types of collagen (Ricard-Blum, 2011), but 80-90% of the collagen found in the human’s body is type I, II, and III:
- Type I collagen – found in skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth.
- Type II collagen – found in cartilage and tendons.
- Type III collagen – found in skin, muscle, blood cells.
Collagen can be extracted from cattle, pig, or marine organisms, such as fish; collagen type will depend on the part of the body used. Bovine and porcine collagen is rich in type I and type III collagen, while mostly, type I collagen is found in fish.
Native collagen found in our and animal bodies is indigestible, hence it needs processing (Table 1). With the chemical modification or heating gelatin forms, which is used in the bakery industry. The collagen present in dietary supplements is hydrolysed, which means that it is broken down to improve absorption. Hydrolysed collagen and collagen peptides are two names used interchangeably (Rousselot, 2019).
Bovine collagen is the most widely used collagen in implantology, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and other industries. Due to easy extraction and wide application, type I collagen is extracted from the bovine Achilles tendon. One of the limitations of bovine collagen is that 3% of the population is allergic to it; for this reason, porcine collagen is a preferred choice in the industry. The structure of porcine collagen resembles collagen produced in the human body; therefore, allergenic reactions are limited.
However, collagen extracted from animals are losing their popularity as more people give up eating animal products for various reasons. Therefore, alternative sources are being developed, such as marine collagen from fish, jellyfishes. A simpler structure allows for better marine collagen absorption. Nevertheless, it requires a great deal of fish stock, that are now being depleted, consequently, the price of marine collagen is higher compared to animal collagen (Silvipriya et al., 2015).
Food that stimulates collagen synthesis
Although collagen is naturally produced in our bodies, around the age of 18-29 the production of collagen slows down, and we start losing it. Of course, this hallmark depends on various factors, including free radicals, nutrition, alcohol consumption, diseases, and others (León-López et al., 2019). To stimulate collagen synthesis, it is recommended to consume foods that are natural sources of collagen. For instance, make a homemade broth from bones of cattle, pig or chicken; for variety, you can make fish broth utilising all parts of the fish, including gills, fins, skin, which is also rich in amino acids (Avila Rodríguez et al., 2018).
Collagen synthesis is also stimulated by:
- vitamin C (found in peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and similar),
- copper (found in oyster and other crustaceans, whole grains, beans, nuts, and similar),
- zinc (found in legumes, red meat and poultry, oysters, seeds, such as hemp, pumpkin and similar).
Certainly, do not forget to eat plenty of protein to equip up with amino acids, which later are used in collagen production. Protein from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, have all indispensable amino acids, whereas plant-based protein sources, such as grains, legumes lack a few essential amino acids, thus these foods must be combined to ensure that no amino acid is lacking.
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Collagen is an important structural protein, which synthesis with age slows down and more collagen can be lost than synthesized. To ensure adequate collagen balance, it is important to consume plenty of protein, vitamin C, minerals like copper and zinc. If diet is inadequate, dietary collagen supplements can be consumed as they can support collagen production in our body.