what is collagen made of

What is Collagen Made Of?

stephanieauthement Beauty, Nutrition

Collagen is a popular supplement in the health industry, but do you know what collagen is and what is does? If you have no idea what collagen is made of and if you should buy these supplements, keep reading on to find out what collagen actually does for you body.

When you hear the term collagen, I’m sure you think of supplements and powders that are all over Walmart, Amazon, and that crazy thing Facebook has going on where you think of something and the advertisers suddenly put it all over your timeline.

It has taken a spike in shampoos, body lotions, and anything that you put on your skin. Plus, the supplement industry has really focused on getting collagen out on shelves.

But when you actually look up collagen you find out that it is a protein in the body and that you do in fact need it. I’m going to lay out exactly what collagen is and what collagen is made of for you and what research is showing about supplementing with collagen.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the major protein that holds different structures together in your entire body. It forms the basic shape of bone in your body. They help make up the connective tissues in your body (tendons and ligaments).

Collagen isn’t just one type of protein either. In fact, there are 28 types of collagen that have been discovered. The most common types in your body are Types I-V, with type I collagen being the most predominant.

Each type of collagen serves its own purpose and has its own function as all proteins do.

All collagen is shaped the same in that they have three-stranded helical segments that have a similar collagen structure.

The Different Collagen Types:

Type I

This type of collagen is long and thin in structure and accounts for about 90% of your body’s collagen. It also provides structure to tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, and connective tissue.

Type II

Type 2 collagen is found in your cartilage, which helps to cushion joints.

Type III

This type of collagen is found in your skin and blood vessels.

Type IV

This type of collagen is found in your basal membrane. The basal membrane is what surrounds all of your muscle cells, fat cells, and peripheral nerves. Type IV collagen is essential for the structural maintenance for your basal membrane.

How Is Collagen Formed?

You can now see that collagen is essential in most parts of your body, but it is really important for keeping your skin from aging.

After age 50 the amount of collagen in your skin declines and continues to decline at least until age 80, which is where researchers have stopped evaluating the amount of collagen in your body.

Before your body can form collagen, it starts off as procollagen. To put a long story short and spare you the chemistry of this process, your body has a series of reactions to form the different types of collagen.

The three most concentrated amino acids that are in collagen are: Glycine, Proline, and hydroxyproline. There are other amino acids, but these three amino acids are the most frequently occurring in collagen.

Amino acids are the smallest building block of protein. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids and then those amino acids are used within your body to form different things.

The Need For Vitamin C

To form the correct shape, which will affect the collagen’s structure, Vitamin C is needed.

Vitamin C converts the amino acids proline and lysine to form hydroxyproline (found in collagen) and hydroxylysine. These two amino acids are what help stabilize the structure of collagen.

Without the Vitamin C, one of the main amino acids – hydroxyproline – would not be able to be formed and would make the collagen weak.

This would make all your connective tissue weaker than it should be and then could possibly cause you to have an injury.

Collagen Rich Foods

Vitamin C – the richest sources are green vegetables and citrus fruits such as these:

  • Guava
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Oranges / Orange Juice
  • Red peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

Proline – You can find this amino acid highest in the following foods:

  • Gelatins
  • Collage cheese
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Soy
  • Cabbage
  • Chicken
  • Egg whites
  • Dairy products
  • Pork

Glycine – You can find this amino acid highest in the following foods:

  • Gelatins
  • Pork *particularly the skin*
  • Chicken *particularly the skin*
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Lobster

While all of these foods are great to get the amino acids needed to create collagen, you also need to consume high biological value proteins.

A high biological value protein is a protein that is efficiently absorbed in the body and converted to protein in your body.

The highest biological value food protein is egg whites. Other high biological value proteins are meat, poultry (chicken & turkey), seafood (crabs, shrimp, crawfish, lobster), legumes (beans), and tofu.

Should I Take A Collagen Supplement?

Collagen supplements are very popular right now and like I’ve said before – we add collagen to practically all beauty products.

The most popular types of collagen sold are hydrolyzed collagen. But are collagen supplements worth spending money on?

Here is some of the most recent studies that have researched the effects of collagen.

  • A study completed in 2018 found that participants that consumed a mixture of hydrolyzed collagen, vitamins, and antioxidants had improved skin texture. These participants also had improved their skin elasticity and their joint health. The actual collagen fiber in the skin was improved from taking an oral supplement of hydrolyzed collagen.
  • Another study completed in 2020 found that oral consumption of hydrolyzed collagen was able to accelerate wound healing in humans.
  • Another study completed in May 2020 found that hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, which contains hydrolyzed type II collagen peptides reduces signs of aging due to ultraviolet radiation after 14 weeks. This type of collagen was also found to improve skin elasticity.

With these studies and the many other studies that have looked at the effect of hydrolyzed collagen on skin elasticity, there is some evidence to show that hydrolyzed collagen may improve your skin texture, skin elasticity, joint health, and healing wounds quicker.

What Kind of Supplements Should I Take?

While consuming collagen and all of your nutrients are best coming from actual food sources, if you do not eat some of these food products and want to give supplements a try – here are the things you should know:

You can find collagen in many different forms – in pills or powders. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements that are in the powder form do not gel, so you can add them to anything.

You can add your collagen powder to smoothies, tea, coffee, or even soups without worrying about the texture changing.

Before purchasing a supplement, do you research! You want a high quality hydrolyzed collagen supplement.

If you choose to supplement with hydrolyzed collagen, make sure you look for the three amino acids – proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. You can also find marine collagen as well.

Questions? Post them in the comments section below!