Collagen is one of the latest buzz words in the health community. It’s hard to escape a grocery store or an Instagram feed without spotting collagen creams, drinks, and potions that promise a youthful appearance for decades to come.

So, what is collagen? Are there any benefits to collagen? Who should be taking it? How do you take it? Is it the latest fad or is it here to stay? In this article we’re going to go over all of that. 

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, accounting for about 1/4 to 1/3 of the protein composition. In fact collagen is one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is also found in many other body parts including but not limited to blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.

You might think of it as the glue in your body that holds everything together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word κόλα which means glue.

As you age your body produces less and lower quality collagen. One of the visible signs of this is your skin, which becomes less firm and supple.

Collagen Supplements

Two types of supplements are gaining popularity in South Africa and around the world, hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate and gelatin. Gelatin is created when collagen is cooked, sourced from animal hooves and hides. These already have broken the large protein down into smaller peptides which are more easily absorbed in the body.

There have been a few studies conducted that insists collagen might have a priming future for muscle mass, arthritis, and skin elasticity.

Collagen is very high in amino acids needed to produce it. But there’s a debate whether over consuming collagen rich foods actually increases the levels in your body.

When you eat protein it’s broken down into amino acids and then reassembled. So the collagen that you eat won’t translate directly into higher levels in your body. 

Are collagen supplements more effective than natural sources of collagen? Not necessarily. Like every health supplement on the market, they are called supplements for a reason, they’re supplemental.

What causes the loss of collagen? 

  1. Sugar and other various refined carbohydrates: Sugar and refined carbohydrates interfere with collagen’s ability to repair itself. 
  2. Overexposure to the sun: Ultraviolet radiation caused by the sun can reduce collagen production. So lather up the sunscreen and try to avoid excess sun exposure.
  3. Smoking tobacco: aside from the billion reasons as to why smoking is bad for you, smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles.

How to prevent collagen deconstruction?

As we previously mentioned, collagen and its production becomes damaged as we age. Although we can’t stop the clock from aging yet. We can control outside factors that damage collagen and its production in our bodies.

Collagen supplements can be extremely beneficial. Some preliminary studies have shown that taking supplements may boost your collagen, resulting in improved skin quality, muscle function,and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Some alternative medicine practitioners have also advocated using collagen supplements to treat leaky gut syndrome.