This is a guest post from Alex Eriksson. Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on 50 Foods That Boost Testosterone or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
The classic legend tells of a mystical spring that brings back youth to anyone who bathes or drinks from it. This story was passed from generation to generation; however, of course no one has really ever found it.
Myths and stories aside, little did we know that a small fountain of youth could be found in our diets already – the protein, collagen.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein naturally found in the body. It is the chief component of connective tissues, specifically the skin, muscles, tendons and bones. It comprises 25% to 35% of all the protein in the body, making it the most abundant protein found in mammals. It can also be found in the cornea, blood vessels, gut, cartilage, teeth dentin, and in vertebral discs.
As of writing, there have been 28 different types of collagen discovered. They can be classified into groups according to the body part they help form.
Type 1 collagen makes up bones, skin, vascular ligature, tendon and other organs. Meanwhile, Type 2 collagen makes up cartilage. Type 3 collagen forms reticular fibers. Type 4 collagen forms parts of the skin and lastly Type 5 forms hair, cell surfaces and placenta. It is notable that 90% of the total number of collagen in the body is classified as type 1.
Although plentiful, collagen production declines as a person ages. Women in particular experience a decline in collagen production at the onset of menopause. Therefore, health experts recommend that older people take additional doses of collagen.
What are the benefits of collagen?
Collagen is an absorbable substance. This would mean that it is easily broken down, absorbed, and processed by the body.
There are a lot of collagen products on the market today. This collagen which is typically derived from cows, sheep, and pigs is currently used for various medical and aesthetic purposes.
In numerous studies, it has been found that collagen has a lot of benefits. It was discovered that it is effective in reversing signs of aging, improving deep sleep, building muscle among others. The following are some studies proving the benefits of collagen and its components:
- Collagen reduces the risk of photoaging.
In a study conducted by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, it was revealed that daily intake of collagen peptide as a dietary supplement suppressed damage caused by constant exposure to UV-B and UV-A.
- Collagen speeds up the process of healing wounds.
Proline, one of the building blocks of collagen, has been shown to speed up the process of healing wounds in a research study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry, Central Leather Research Institute located in Chennai, India. Open excision wounds were made on the back of several rats. Proline was given orally and topically to these rats. Results showed that the topical administration of Proline greatly accelerated the healing process. It was observed that topical administration is more effective than oral administration.
- Collagen reduces joint problems
Aside from the aforementioned benefits, collagen was also found to be effective in reducing joint pains. A study conducted by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University had 89 arthritis patients aged 50 and above. Half of the 89 patients were given a placebo for three months. Meanwhile, the other half was given a supplement containing collagen. After three months, it was discovered that those who took the supplement containing collagen had lesser joint problems. The patients experienced less stiffness, less pain and increased mobility. Collagen was revealed to reduce joint pains in arthritis patients and athletes.
- Collagen improves motor control, muscular strength, and muscle mass.
Nutritionists from University of Freiburg located in Germany studied individuals over 70 years old who did strength training while taking collagen supplements.
Fifty-three (53) septuagenarians suffering from sarcopenia were divided into two groups.
One group was given 15 grams of collagen peptide supplement once a day for a period of three months.
The other group was given a placebo. The collagen peptide supplement contained non-essential amino acids like proline, glycine, serine and gelatin.
It was discovered that those who took the collagen peptide supplement experienced increase in muscle mass. Furthermore, their body fat decreased and muscle strength increased. The researchers concluded that strength training coupled with daily intake of collagen peptide supplements will increase motor control, muscular strength, and muscle mass
- Collagen improves sleep quality.
Individuals experiencing troubled sleep were enlisted for a research conducted by Wataru Yamadera et. al. from Japan. The research studied the effects of glycine (found in collagen) ingestion in sleeping patterns. It was found that glycine improved the sleeping patterns of individuals with insomniac tendencies.
How do collagen levels decrease?
The body’s collagen level can also be depleted due to several reasons. Here are some of the reasons why collagen may be lost:
- Excess sugar consumption
Excess sugar in the body speeds up glycation. This is the process where molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are formed. These AGEs are harmful because they are damaging to proteins. They make collagen, in particular, weak, brittle and dry.
The sun is the number one cause of aging. Sunlight can both be a boon and bane to the skin. Vitamin D from the morning sun is good for the skin and bones. Meanwhile, ultraviolet (UV) rays found in sunlight break down collagen fibers fast. It also causes the buildup of elastin. The damage is often in the dermis of the skin thereby forming wrinkles.
Smoking is not only bad for the respiratory system, it is also bad for the skin. The chemicals in tobacco damage the elastin and collagen of the skin. The nicotine in tobacco causes the blood vessels of the skin to shrink. This results in a lack of delivery of oxygen to the skin.
What You Can Do To Boost Collagen In Your Body
There are a lot of sources of dietary collagen. It can be found in wheat germ, chicken, fish and eggs. Eating foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Copper is also a good idea as these vitamins encourage the production of collagen. Collagen supplements containing glycine are also readily available on the market as well as supplements containing type II collagen.
There is an abundance of collagen in the human body. It is the building block of connective tissues and keeps the skin, bones, tendons, muscles and other connective tissues healthy. Aside from that, it also reduces aging, speeds up the process of wound healing, reduces joint problems, improves muscle mass and sleep quality.
The things that cause a depletion of collagen levels must be avoided. More importantly, if you want to build your body and are already doing strength training, you should give collagen supplements a try. They complement whey protein greatly and could give you a significant boost to your ability to build muscle and recover, especially if you are an older male – not to mention how nice your skin would look, thanks to them.
Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on 50 Foods That Boost Testosterone or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.