Collagen: Health, Beauty, Anti-aging

Collagen is a protein that is necessary for almost every bodily function.  it helps build and maintain bones,  teeth, gums, and tissue, amongst other things.  Collagen consists of 19 amino acids and 28 proteins.  It comprises 30% of the body’s protein (Borumand & Sibilla, 2015) and makes up 90% of bone matrix proteins, otherwise known as  the scaffolding for bone formation  (Dept. Washington Education).

Regarding aging, collagen supplementation is important as, after age 25, people  produce 1%  less each year (Wright, 2014).  Further, collagen (and gelatin, made from collagen) contains high concentrations of glycine and proline, amino acids that are often deficient in the western diet (PDB-101).  Collagen supplements both  increase collagen in the body and slow down a process known as enzyme collagenase, or the break down of collagen between cells (Human Clinicals).

There are several types of collagen in the body (type I being the most prevalent) and at least four available to purchase as supplements.  Collagen is important to aging as the body’s ability to make it declines with age and it is necessary for health.  Women especially have a hard time producing it after menopause. Post-menopausal women may experience up to a 75% drop in the production of type I collagen (which has types III & V in it).  This effects women in a variety of ways.  Women can experience hormonal changes associate with peri-menopause.  The sex hormone estrogen increases the amount of collagen in skin, influences skin thickness, and its moister content (Verdier-Sevrain, Bonte & Gilchrest, 2006).  During the menopause transition collagen under skin (fatty tissue and protein) is lost (National Institute on Aging).

Life style factors that impact collagen production negatively are: diets high in sugar, too much sun, excessive alcohol use, smoking, and nutritional deficiencies, (collagen depleted diets) and digestive problems (Axe, 2015).

Different types of collagen have different amounts of amino acids in them.  Having said that, both bovine and fish collagen usually have the following amino acid content:  alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid (glutamine), glycine, histidine, hydroxylysine, hydroxyproline, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tyrosine, & valine (Szpak, 2011).

Amino acids present in of special note:

Arginine (L-arginine): helps with heart and artery problems/health and is important for circulation.  Arginine also improves the male sex drive and can strengthen the immune system (Axe, 2015).  It can help burn fat (Marimee et al, 1965), heal wounds and helps in weight-reduction.  Arginine also helps to lower cholesterol.  Regarding  how it helps lower blood pressure and improve circulation:  arginine releases nitric oxide into the blood, this then relaxes the blood vessel walls and improves circulation.  This  can then improves the elasticity of the arteries, lowering blood pressure.   This is why arginine, over time, helps improve erections, potency, stamina and sexual performance (Williams et al, 2002).

Arginine helps with hair growth (Wu, Meininger, Knabe, Baze, & Rhoads, 2000).

Arginine helps reduce insulin resistance and improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes, lowering the amount of insulin needed (Piatti et al, 2001).

Arginine, along with ornithine, and glutamine, can help sleep by detoxifying ammonia, which if the liver is not working properly, will build up and reach the brain, causing insomnia (Lavie, Hafetz, Luboshitzky, & Lavie, 2003).

Arginine supports bone health by assisting in the production of collagen and by helping osteoblasts (forms bone mass) develop. Arginine deficiency in women is linked to osteoporosis (Ammanne et all 2002).

Glycine is a semi-essential amino acid is present in collagen (29%) and protein.  Glycine is often not properly provided for in the modern diet, leading to a need for supplementation (Melendez-Hevia, De Paz-Lugo, Cornish-Bowden, & Cardenas, 2009).   Glycine builds DNA, forms creatine (needed for muscle growth/maintenance; energy production).   It is necessary for a healthy metabolism. Glycine inhibits neurons in the brain that produce  norepinephrine  (Hospital News), which is associated with anxiety (Pervose et al, 2001).  Obsessive compulsive disorder: The appropriate dose of glycine has been shown to be an effective treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in some people.   This is as it is believed that these disorders are caused by a receptor in the brain failing to work properly (Cleveland, DelaPaz, Fawwaz, & Challop, 2009).  It is called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA).  It is considered to be very important for memory function and learning as well as and brain plasticity or growth (Li, F., & Tsien, J.Z., 2009). Glycine makes the NMDA receptor work.

Glutamine: prevents anxiety, insomnia/sleep problems, tension, improves concentration, increases energy levels and helps digestion and strengthens immunity.  It helps with wound healing and joint health.  Glutamine even helps produce human growth hormone, this helps with maintaining mental well being as it helps release GABA to boost feelings of calm and tranquility (Welbourne, 1995). Some psychiatric drugs (benzodiazepines and barbiturates) are used to increase the brains production of GABA to boost feelings of calm and wellbeing (Purves et al., 2001).

Hydroxyproline: is 30% higher in bovine collagen then in fish collagen (Gauza-Wlodarczyk, Kubisz, & Wlodarczyk, 2017).  This amino acid, along with proline, help hair to grow.

Phenylalanine helps nerve cells communicate and is necessary for the central nervous system to function properly.  It also supports memory functioning.  Phenylalanine helps with pain management in chronic and acute pain associated with cramps, arthritis and migraine headache.

Phenylalanine is converted into phenylethylamine (PEA) in the body (Nootriment). This is considered a natural “love drug” and is associated with infatuation, sexual desire and the sex drive. PEA also boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, sexuality, and the brains reward system overall.  This is why dopamine helps with feelings of wellbeing, with treating depression and lessoning anxiety.  Phenylalanine (PEA) also helps the brain release norepinephrine, which can help with attention span, motivation, productivity and cognitive (thought based) performance (Nootriment). It also can increase heart rate and is associated with the so-called fight or flight response (Nootriment).

Phenylalanine is also converted into L-Tyrosine. This amino acid, when available in food sources, does not   cross the blood brain barrier, so it is necessary to consume foods that have the building blocks of this amino acid.  L-Tyrosine keeps cell membranes healthy and helps make biochemical messengers that allow the cells to communicate.  L-Tyrosine increases dopamine production and helps with norepinephrine reuptake.  By helping to balance dopamine and norepinephrine.  L-Tyrosine supports communication between different areas of the brain; it also keeps neural hormones balanced, optimizes energy and supports metabolism (Nootriment).

Proline is an amino acid present in collagen (15%).  Protects blood vessels and heart health, helps joints health.

Sources of collagen: Head cheese, pig feet, chicken feet, hard boiled eggs, Oxtail, Veal and Lamb, 6 to 7 cups of homemade broth made with gelatinous meats/bones, pork rinds, gelatin based deserts made from real gelatin.

Bone broth, made from beef or chicken bones.

Eating avocados helps boost collagen systemically. Eat genistein rich soy and cheese, these foods help boost production of collagen.

Antioxidants (Collagen Complete, 2016): The following antioxidants help build and protect collagen: vitamin E, acerola cherry, and rosehip all protect against free radical damage. A very important antioxidant is vitamin C (used to synthesise 18 types of collagen). This vitamin both protects collagen against damage and is necessary to form procollagen, the precursor to collagen.

Vitamin C rich foods include: dark leafy greens, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

Consume enough omega 3 fats and healthy proteins high in the amino acids arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline and proline. These include beans, eggs, meat, seafood, soy.

Hyaluronic Acid helps to produce and repair cells. Collagen uses Hyaluronic Acid to bind elastin and collagen. This then protects cartilage and improves elasticity in tissue.

Collagen protein powered can be bought in health food stores or online. Buy hydrolyzed powder, it dissolves into liquids easily.

Lifestyle: get enough sleep (7 to 9 hours), this allows the body to repair itself. Sleep leads to a higher production of the human growth hormone (HGH), necessary for healthy cells turnover, including collagen production. The production is greatest during the first faze of sleep. A lack of sleep in now connected to increased inflammation, stress hormones like cortisol and decreased collagen production. Exercise as this also helps the body make HGH. Focus on endurance and resistance. short volleys (10 to 15 minutes) of high endurance exercise multiple times per day. This maximizes HGH while lessening the chances of stress hormone cortisol being produced. HGH is increased with the amount of weight you lift and they type of muscles used. Try to work the bigger muscle groups.

You can also use light therapy to produce more collagen, there are two kinds, red light and infrared light. The first slows production of enzymes associated with collagen breakdown and increases fibroblast production. Red light (free from UV rays) uses non-damaging light wavelengths known to increase collagen. The second kind helps increase production of type one and three collagen specifically as well as elastin.

Collagen protein powered can be bought in health food stores or online. Buy hydrolyzed powder, it dissolves into liquids easily.

Types of supplements

hydrolyzed collagen provides 90% vs. food, which provides at best 27%.

Beef or bovine collagen provides types 1 and 3.  It helps skin (including gums and blood vessels), nails, hair, tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones (including teeth) and eyes (Axe 2015). Bovine collagen treats osteoarthritis.  It also helps gut health, muscles (building and maintaining/repairing), sleep, skin quality. Source of glycine and proline needed for creatine (Helps in energy production) production, production of muscle tissue and to make body produce its own collagen (Axe, 2015).

Poultry or chicken collagen provides type 2.  Good for cartilage production and general Joint health, it provides glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, which help maintain bones.  Good source of proline, arginine, glutamine and glycine (Axe, 2015).

Egg based collagen provides types 1, 3, 4 and 10. Egg collagen has glucosamine and chondroitin in it as well as hyaluronic acid and other amino acids (Wong, et al., 1984). It helps with joint an tissue problem, improves skin quality and lessens the appearance of wrinkles, helps improve the range of motion, lessons stiffness and pain and helps with digestion (Axe, 2015).

Fish based collagen (most easily absorbable) provides type 1. Helps vital organs, blood vessels, joint and bone health, digestion and skin.   Source of amino acids proline, hydroxyproline and glycine.  Hydroxyproline is especially important as it helps collagen stay stable and helps in maintaining joint health (Pubhem).

Porcine or pig collagen is similar to bovine collagen. It is cheaper to purchase, but doesn’t absorb as well as other forms, so it doesn’t raise the body’s overall collagen levels as well as bovine or fish (

Type 1: found most often in the body and has types III and V, IVII in it.  Helps form bones, skin, tendons etc…keeps skin strong, elastic and healthy (helps wounds heal). The glycine in it can help with memory, cognitive processes and anxiety.

Type 2: helps build cartilage and connective tissues.  Helps prevent or treat joint problems and arthritis.

Type 3: makes up organ tissue and skin.   Works with type 1 collagen to form tissue and blood vessels.  Deficiency can lead to heart problems (Liu, Wu, Byrne, Krane, & Jaenisch,1997).

Type 4: helps form muscles, organs and fat. It is needed for nerves and blood vessels to work properly (Axe, 2015).   It is necessary for healthy digestive and respiratory systems.

Type 5: helps produce hair and the surface of cells. It is also needed during pregnancy to develop healthy placentas (Axe 2015).

Type 10: helps with bone and cartilage production, maintenance and healing (Shen, 2005).

Type 17a1: helps keep hair follicles healthy.  Found in type 1 collagen (Mandal, 2013).

Taking vitamin C with collagen is recommended as it helps hydroxyproline work at keeping collagen stabile.

Cautions about collagen supplementation: make sure that the source you buy is low in calcium, as too much calcium can lead to health problems. The US Food and Drug Administration labels collagen as a safe supplement. But, those with food allergies or sensitivities should be careful about the source of collagen.  Allergic reactions involving facial/neck swelling, hives, nausea, increased heart rate, stomach upset are rare, but can occur (King, 2017). Also, if you are female and menopausal be aware of the amount of calcium in your chosen supplement, too much calcium may cause health problems.

This information is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not to take the place of medical advice or treatment.   Seek out a qualified health care provider if you have questions or need help.  Dr. Grant is not responsible for any possible health consequences of anyone who follows or reads the information in this content.  Everyone, but especially those taking medication (over the counter or prescription) should talk with a physician before undertaking any changes to their lifestyle or diet (including taking supplements).

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References for collagen found here.

The information on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not to take the place of medical advice or treatment.   Seek out a qualified health care provider if you have questions or need help.  Sharon Grant is not responsible for any possible health consequences of anyone who follows or reads the information in this content.  Everyone, but especially those taking medication (over the counter or prescription) should talk with a physician before undertaking any changes to their lifestyle or diet (including taking supplements).