Collagen – Overview, Types, Roles, Causes, Benefits Of Collagen

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What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein molecule which is made from amino acids. It is profoundly present in the skin of mammals and is the most important component of the extracellular matrix, which is found abundantly. Collagen determines the skin’s physiology and maintains its structure.

According to NCBI, the presence of collagen in the extracellular matrix helps retain water, which makes the skin look smooth, strong and firm. Additionally, it states that the structure of collagen will resemble a rope.

Collagen also provides external support to the extracellular space of the connective tissues. The collagen will be rigid and flexible, which gives a perfect matrix for skin, bones, tendons and ligaments.

The three chains present in the collagen will wind each other, which forms a collagen triple helix. The triple helix structure combines together and forms collagen fibrils which produce enormous strength and tensile force. Protein deficiency

Role of collagen

The primary role of collagen is to provide strength and support for the tissues of the body. The other functions of collagen include

  • Helps fibroblasts to form new cells
  • Replaces dead cells with new skin cells
  • Protects the organs
  • Helps in clotting of blood during injury

Collagen is made of amino acids, and the primary sequence of amino acid arrangement is glycine-X-hydroxyproline or glycin-proline-X. The X in the collagen can be any of the 17 amino acids, and every third amino acid will be glycine.

As discussed earlier, collagen comprises three chains to form a triple helix. The glycine is the smallest among the amino acids, which supports the chain to form a tight configuration. The rigid structure helps to withstand stress.

Collagen synthesis occurs in the fibroblast cells, which are specialised for the function of synthesising collagen and stroma. The synthesis occurs in both the extracellular and intracellular processes.

There are different types of collagen, and they undergo different post-translational modifications. Some of the prominent functions of collagen are discussed below.

Peptide cleavage

The enzyme collagen peptidase performs the propeptide cleavage to form the molecule called tropocollagen by removing the ends of procollagen.

Types of collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in mammals. After the discovery of collagen II, there have been 26 new types of collagen discovered. According to NCBI, the discovery of collagen has been accelerated by molecular biology and gene cloning techniques.

The types of collagen depend on the arrangement of the molecules, the cell components and the collagen that is used by the body.

The five major types of collagen and their functions are listed below.

Type I collagen

According to a research paper published in Science Direct, titled “Type I Collagen”, it is a fibrillar type collagen, most abundantly found in vertebrates. Type I collagen is a key structural component of many tissues present in the body.

Type I collagen is found in most connective tissues and interstitial membranes and plays a major role in molecular architecture, mechanical support and shape of the tissues.

If a mutation occurs in Type I collagen, it can lead to diseases that affect specific bones and connective tissues, which causes diseases like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and osteogenesis imperfecta.

Type II collagen

Type II collagen is commonly found in the cartilage of the body. Additionally, it gives the cartilage elasticity and tensile strength, which supports the joints.

Type II collagen also aids the binding process with the help of fibronectin and other collagen.

Type II collagen strengthens bones, enhances wound repair mechanism, promotes bone growth and provides lubrication to the bones.

Type III collagen

Type III collagen is also called as alpha 1 chain type III collagen. Three alpha 1 chains are required to form the type III collagen molecule, so it is named as such. Type III collagen is an extracellular matrix protein that is synthesised by the cells pre-procollagen.

Type III collagen constitutes about 5-20% of the collagen content in the body and is found in hollow organs like large blood vessels, the bowel and the uterus. It plays a major role in structural support.

The other functions of type III collagen are interactions with platelet during the blood clotting cascade and act as a signalling molecule during the wound healing process.

Type IV collagen

Type IV collagen is a major component of the basement membranes, like the extracellular matrix of multicellular tissues that exist around skeletal muscle cells, heart muscle cells, smooth muscle cells and adipocytes.

Type IV collagen acts as a network-forming collagen that lies in the epithelial and endothelial cells. It functions as a barrier between the tissue compartments.

It contains many binding partners and acts as a backbone of the basement membrane. Type IV collagen is important as it acts as an important key signalling potential for various physiological and pathological functions.

Type V collagen

Type V is a fibrillar collagen and plays a major role in the fibrillation of Type I and II collagen. It contributes to the corneal stroma, bone matrix and interstitial matrix of muscles, lungs, liver and placenta.

How to find collagen deficiency?

Collagen deficiency cannot be measured with accuracy. However, a drop in collagen levels can cause certain symptoms like joint pain, ligament tear and stiff tendons. It can also lead to muscle pain and weakness.

If there is a deficiency in collagen synthesis, it can clinically manifest diseases like osteogenesis imperfecta, scurvy, and Ehlers–Danlos syndrome.

There are certain symptoms exhibited by the body when there is a deficiency in collagen.

  • Wrinkled skin or saggy skin.
  • Sagging around the face and eyes.
  • Weakening muscles, shrinkage and muscle aches.
  • Osteoarthritis or joint pain due to worn cartilage that cannot be replaced due to collagen deficiency.
  • Gastrointestinal problems due to thinning of the digestive tract.
  • Loss of mobility due to pain.
  • Slow blood flow.

Causes of collagen loss

According to data published in NCBI, reduced synthesis of collagen can be due to various reasons, and the main cause can be age.

Additionally, another report stated that due to cellular fibroblast ageing and defective mechanical stimulation can lead to reduced collagen synthesis.

The reduction in collagen production can be a characteristic feature of chronologically aged skin and photodamage. However, research supports that collagen loss due to age, photodamage and deterioration of newly synthesised collagen can be due to other reasons.

Collagen supplements

People consume collagen supplements to increase their collagen levels. The collagen supplements a person consumes will undergo a complex set of chemical reactions called hydrolysation.

These chemical reactions indicate that the body can intake these collagen supplements easily. Collagen supplements are available as tablets, powders and capsules.

The effectiveness of collagen supplements will depend on the person’s usage and purpose. According to NCBI, age-dependent reduction of collagen synthesis can be reversed with the consumption of oral bioactive collagen peptides.

Another NCBI data reported that collagen supplements improve elasticity, skin moisture and hydration when administered orally. Additionally, it reduces wrinkles and roughness of the skin, and no adverse side effects were reported.

In human trials reported by the Harvard School of Public Health, collagen supplements improve joint mobility and decrease pain in the joints.

Consuming collagen supplements will offer various benefits. However, before taking these supplements it is recommended to consult the doctor about the side effects and the dosage level of the supplements.

Benefits of collagen

Some of the benefits of collagen are discussed below.

Ageing skin

Collagen is considered as the body’s natural glue. It helps to hold the skin together and makes up one-third of the required protein of the body.

Collagen helps to replace dead skin cells with new cells. It is also responsible for the elasticity of the skin and gives hydration.

According to research, the body losses collagen as you age after your forties. So this can lead to dry skin, wrinkles and other skin problems. Collagen is essential for healthy skin and gives you proper hydration.

So it is important to consume foods that are rich in collagen to increase the synthesis of collagen in our body.

According to NCBI, vitamin C and E supplements can benefit the skin and improve appearance. This is because these nutrients contain properties that attract water molecules which improves hydration in the skin, reduces inflammation and scavenges free radicals.

Strengthens bones

Collagen plays a major role in bone mass. According to NCBI, collagen significantly increases bone strength and gives tensile strength.

Additionally, it stated that collagen effectively reduces the age-related reduction the loss of bone mass.

Physical activity helps to strengthen the bones and gives natural strength. When collagen, is reduced it can cause joint pain and reduce physical activity. This, in turn, can lead to an increased risk of other diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Protein deficiency can lead to a decrease in the secretion of insulin-like growth factors. Correction of bone deficiency will lead to normal growth of bone mass.

Voluminous hair

Collagen plays a prominent role in holding your hair together and adds density. Everyone loves to have thick hair. If you have long and dense hair, thank your protein—Collagen.

As we age, the collagen near our hair follicles reduces, and a reduction in hair density happens. This can lead to hair loss.

An amino acid called proline protects the hair from external damage and protects the hair follicles from free radicals. So the presence of collagen will help increase the density of hair and strengthens hair follicles.

Also, collagen is important to give your hair a natural shine. As we age, the hair becomes dull and brittle. The hair contains sebaceous glands, which are responsible for the moisture content of the hair. Here, collagen plays a natural role in keeping your hair follicles healthy and providing natural shine.

Healthy nails

We also admire the long and beautiful nails of a person. This is especially applicable to women. Unfortunately, for some, nails tend to break easily. And the broken nails will not grow as fast as they broke.

So when your nails break easily, it can indicate that there is a deficiency in collagen. According to research, collagen supplements increase nail growth by up to 12% and reduce the frequency of broken nails by 42%.

Knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis is a condition where the natural cushion between the joints and cartilage wears out. This occurs when the bones of the joints rub closely with each other, and the shock-absorbing effect reduces.

This is a common problem for people aged above 40. Also, as we age, the collagen reduces, which leads to knee osteoarthritis.

Oral supplements help to increase collagen content and improve the cushioning effect of bones.

Strengthens muscles

Collagen promotes muscle synthesis and stimulates muscle growth. Collagen plays a major role in the strengthening of skeletal muscles and tendons.

Another prominent role of collagen is it is responsible for force transmission, adaptation and flexibility of the muscles.

Research suggests that collagen supplements boost muscle mass and prevent muscle loss due to age.

Additionally, it states that collagen supplements make your bones dense, slow the ageing process that can make the bones brittle and produces new bones.

Side-effects of collagen

Consumption of collagen supplements can lead to certain side effects.

Heaviness in your abdomen

There are common reports that state collagen supplements can increase the feeling of bloating and heart burns. However, these supplements are considered safe for most people. Some people can exhibit such side effects.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can also be common when consuming collagen supplements. According to NCBI, collagen supplements will affect the digestive system and exhibit symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea and digestive disorders.

Rashes

Collagen can cause certain side effects and differs from person to person. However, some collagen supplements can contain heavy metals besides animal parts.

The presence of heavy metals causes the body to trigger an allergic response that leads to skin rashes and allergies.

Heartburn

Heartburn can be a side effect of collagen supplements. Heartburns can indicate that you are consuming too many of collagen supplements.

Preventing collagen deficiency naturally

Collagen cannot be easily absorbed by the body, and it will be broken down into amino acids, and then the body will utilise it. Consuming collagen-rich foods can help you recover from the deficiency and benefit your health.

Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diet is the consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seafood, extra virgin olive oil and a moderate intake of red wine. This diet is common in countries like Italy, Greece, Spain and southern France.

The mediterranean diet consists of a pack of nutrients that helps to keep your skin healthy and naturally increase collagen levels. These foods also keep the skin smooth and supple.

Mediterranean foods reduce the ageing process, inflammation and scavenges free radicals. This increases the collagen content and makes your skin firm, and gives a naturally young appearance.

Intake of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is commonly found in citrus fruits and bell peppers. Vitamin C maintains the mature collagen network in humans and prevents the auto-inactivation of lysyl and prolyl hydroxy—two key enzymes in collagen biosynthesis.

Proline

Proline is found in foods like dairy, egg whites, mushrooms, asparagus and cabbage. Proline constitutes about 10% of the total amino acid in collagen. This accounts for one-third of proteins in mammals.

Proline is vital for the normal production of collagen and for maintaining tissue integrity. Proline hastens the process of wound healing.

Glycine

Collagen protein is made up of glycine. The placement of amino acid chain will be in such a way that every fourth to the third amino acid present in collagen protein will be glycine.

Increasing the glycine in the diet can be a perfect strategy to help regenerate collagen synthesis. This can prevent osteoarthritis.

Some of the common foods rich in glycine are turkey, red meat, peanuts, granola, and chicken.

Copper

Copper plays a major role in the biochemical reaction of connective tissue. Additionally, it acts as a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase and catalyses the post-translational oxidation reaction.

According to NCBI, the binding of copper to a large-molecular-weight component will initiate the synthesis of protein. So if there is a deficiency in copper, the synthesis of protein can be blocked. This can lead to a deficiency in collagen.

Foods like organ meat, fish, nuts, whole grains and seeds contain copper. If there is a deficiency of copper in the diet, it can lead to less absorption of copper and block protein synthesis.

Zinc

Zinc is rich in foods like chickpeas, beans, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds. Consumption of zinc foods can help with collagen synthesis.

Conclusion

Collagen plays a crucial role in providing strength and support to the body. The usage of collagen supplements can have an effect, yet this is under research. There are foods that support the synthesis of collagen.

These foods can naturally increase collagen and will, improve the skin texture and gives natural elasticity.

FAQ

Can taking collagen be harmful?

Collagen supplements will not be harmful. However, the consumption of collagen will not help. The body makes collagen by combining various amino acids. Instead of taking collagen supplements, consume foods that include all amino acids.

Does collagen cause weight gain?

Collagen supplements will not cause any weight gain. Collagen can benefit your hair, skin and nails. It keeps a check on your weight.

What is collagen made from?

The amino acids are made from proline, glycine and hydroxyproline. These amino acids group together to form protein fibrils in a triple-helix structure.

What is a good source of collagen?

Foods like fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, soy and legumes contain a good source of collagen.


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