By Yohanan Burket
Our bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are made of collagen. Babies produce the most amount of collagen for their weight. This phenomena can be seen by observing how easily they can thumb through books without even licking their fingertips. They have sticky fingers! And their fingers are sticky even when they haven’t indulged in ice cream.
Collagen is defined as insoluble fibrous protein. Thus, it does not dissolve in liquids, it is fibrous, like plant stems, and is a protein comprised of many amino acids. Most people experience collagen depletion with age, usually after the age of 40.
Types of Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up between 25% – 35% of the whole-body protein content. The most predominant collagen type found in the human body is type I, making up 90% of all collagen in the body.
Collagen makes up the essential structure of the body, such as endomysium. Endomysium are delicate bands of connective tissue interspersed among muscular fibers.
Fibrils are tiny fibers that comprise the structure outside of a cell wall, not unlike plant root fibers. These fibers join together to form collagen. A simplified list of major collagen types found in the body is shown below.
|Collagen type I||Skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, interstitial tissue|
|Collagen type II||Elastic cartilage, eyeball fluid|
|Collagen type III||Skin, muscle, blood vessels, liver, lungs|
|Collagen type IX||Cartilage|
|Collagen type XII||Tendon, ligaments|
Collagen for the Skin
Collagen molecules are much too large to be absorbed through the skin, so skin creams containing collagen are useless. Instead, collagen should be ingested orally. From the above table, it can be seen that types I and III collagen are the ones associated with the skin. There are collagen type I & III pills available on the market. Taking such pills will make skin more flexible and line-free. Both marine and bovine sources of collagen are suitable for the skin.
Bovine (cow) skin is the common source for type I collagen. On an equivalent weight basis, collagen type I is stronger than steel! It is type I collagen that keeps bones, teeth, and, and tendons strong. As we age, the body substitutes the inferior strength type III collagen where type I is preferred. So for joints, collagen type I alone is preferred. If possible, a supplement containing type XII collagen in addition to type I collagen would be ideal.
Collagen for Flexible Cartilage
Chicken sternum is the common source for type II collagen. For those having problems with osteoarthritis, type II collagen is the right type to ingest. Athletes who are engaged in repetitious activity such as marathons will benefit from ingesting type II collagen because it will replace worn cartilage. In the past, glucosamine was the recommended supplement for joints, but it was later discovered to be almost useless. Since glucosamine only makes up 1% of cartilage, it is clear why it is not worth the money. By contrast, type II collagen comprises two-thirds of the cartilage.
Type IX collagen is an ideal compliment to type II collagen, if you can find such a supplement.
Increasing Collagen Production in Your Body
The amino acid L-Lysine is largely responsible for the production of collagen, and is therefore a useful supplement. This amino acid is naturally found in eggs and red meat. Also essential for collagen production is adequate amounts of vitamin C.
Recently, it has been discovered that the lubricating fluid found in joints, hyaluronic acid, is also helpful in collagen production.
Hydrolyzed collagen is available on the market as a supplement to regenerate joints and other connective tissue. Hydrolyzed collagen is prepared by using acids, such as hydrochloric acid, to break down protein. The more the protein is broken down, the better, as it is easier for the body to assimilate smaller pieces. The measure of protein size is the dalton. When purchasing hydrolyzed collagen, look for particle size below 20,000 daltons.
A supplement that reduces the natural process of collagen breakdown is Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). General purpose amino acid supplements containing L-proline, L-glycine, and L-lysine are recommended as these amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of collagen.
Hyaluronic Acid: the Catalyst for All Collagen Types
Hyaluronic acid is a viscous fluid carbohydrate found in connective tissue, synovial fluid, and in the eye. Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant and a structural element. In the illustration, you can see a cross section of a typical joint. The synovial fluid and membrane prevent bones from grinding together. For those who have had hip replacement surgery, it is a good idea to ingest hyaluronic acid to keep the artificial joint(s) well lubricated.
Hyaluronic acid consumption is believed to enhance the production of all types of collagen in the body. For example, Hyaluronic acid is used to bind collagen with skin fibers called elastin. So no matter which type of collagen you take, you should also include hyaluronic acid in your regimen.
Collagen versus glucosamine illustration from: http://www.1234yourhealth.com/glucosamine.php
Cross section of a healthy joint illustration from: http://benjimester.hubpages.com/hub/Types-of-Collagen-Amino-Fish-Rooster
Out of the Box Remedies offers a Tendon & Ligament Formula for tendonitis. Click on the photo to order on the shop website.