Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the substance that holds the whole body together. It is found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons, where it forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure.
Collagen gives the skin its strength and structure and also plays a role in the replacement of dead skin cells.
Collagen production declines with age (as part of intrinsic aging), and is reduced by exposure to ultraviolet light and other environmental factors (extrinsic aging). Collagen gives the skin its strength and structure and also plays a role in the replacement of dead skin cells.
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What Is Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the substance that holds the whole body together.
It is found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons, where it forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure.
What Do We Need to Know About Collagen
- Protein makes up around 20% of the body's mass, and collagen makes up around 30% of the protein in the human body.
- There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80-90% of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III.
- Type I collagen fibrils are stronger than steel (gram for gram).
- Collagen is most commonly found within the body in the skin, bones and connective tissues.
- The word "collagen" is derived from the Greek "kolla," meaning glue.
- Collagen gives the skin its strength and structure and also plays a role in the replacement of dead skin cells.
- Collagen production declines with age (as part of intrinsic aging), and is reduced by exposure to ultraviolet light and other environmental factors (extrinsic aging).
- Collagen in medical products can be derived from human, bovine, porcine and ovine sources.
- Collagen dressings attract new skin cells to wound sites.
- Cosmetic products such as revitalizing lotions that claim to increase collagen levels are unlikely to do so, as collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.
- Collagen production can be stimulated through the use of laser therapy and the use of all-trans retinoic acid (a form of vitamin A).
- Controllable factors that damage the production of collagen include sunlight, smoking, and high sugar consumption.
Bone and Joint Health Benefits of Collagen
The de novo synthesis of type I collagen appears to have a role in promoting osteoblastic differentiation.
Collagen and Joints
Low dose collagen appears to be effective for joint pain experienced during exercise despite not affecting whole-day joint pain scores relative to placebo.
As a general statement, the immunological effects of Collagen Type 2 do not appear to apply much to bone health and the role of CII supplementation in bone density pertains to it simply being a protein source.
It might be able to increase bone mass mildly when high doses (estimated 10g in a human) paired with a low protein diet, but when the overall protein intake is increased this benefit is lost and it performs equally to other protein sources.
Currently, the only human study using collagen and investigating bone mass noted that supplementation of 10 g collagen protein alongside intravenous injections of calcitonin noted an increase in bone mineral density over the course of 24 weeks in osteoporotic women.
Osteoarthritis and Collagen
Oral supplementation of UC-II (undenatured CII from chicken sternum) in osteoarthritic subjects at 40 mg once daily over 90 days noted that it was effective (relative to baseline values) in improving WOMAC, VAS, and Lequesne scores of osteoarthritic pain and mobility in a somewhat time-dependent manner.
This study compared UC-II against a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride (1,500 mg) with chondroitin sulfate (1,200 mg) and found either equipotency or (in the case of WOMAC) more efficacy with UC-II.
Oral supplementation of 10g hydrolyzed collagen daily for six months in subjects with osteoarthritis was noted to reduce pain assessed by VAS and WOMAC but failed to affect other parameters of WOMAC such as stiffness and function relative to placebo.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Collagen
Oral ingestion of solubilized type II collagen (0.1mg for one month, 1mg for two months) in subjects with severe active rheumatoid arthritis for 90 days appeared to improve symptoms on joints (swelling, pain, and tenderness) and preserved 15 m walking time relative to placebo which benefitted to a lesser degree with four subjects in the collagen group (14% of the sample) reporting resolution of rheumatism.
Many products containing collagen, including creams and powders, claim to revitalize the skin. However, despite the marketing of these products as ways to increase the levels of collagen within the body, collagen molecules themselves are too big to be absorbed through the skin.
The benefits of these products, where they exist, are most likely attributable to their moisturizing effects, but they do not strengthen the skin or directly increase collagen concentration in the skin.
Such over-the-counter treatments are also not classified as drugs, meaning that there is no requirement for scientific validation of the claims made regarding their efficacy.
Possible Side Effects
Collagen type II is safe when taken by mouth for up to 24 weeks. It’s not clear what the side effects might be. Other collagen products, such as bovine collagen and gelatin, have caused allergic reactions.
Since collagen type II contains chondroitin and glucosamine, large doses might lead to the same side effects as those seen with chondroitin and glucosamine supplements. These side effects include nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation, drowsiness, skin reactions, and headache.
What Are the Optimal Doses
- Hydrolyzed collagen - 10 g daily.
- Undenatured collagen - 40 mg once daily for the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.