Collagen

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Collagen, an important protein produced by the body, is the main structural protein found in the skin, tendon, and bone. The word collagen originates from the Greek word “kola” meaning gum and “gen” meaning producing. Collagen is considered one of the most useful biomaterials, due to its low immunogenicity and high biocompatibility. According to some research, nearly a third of the proteins in humans and other mammals are composed of 28 different types of collagen, from type I collagen, which is found in skin, to type II collagen, which is found in cartilage[1].

Collagen consists of three polypeptide chains. Known as α-chains they are wrapped around each other to form triple-helical macromolecules: a unique structure, size, and amino acid sequence. In collagenous sequences, glycine (Gly) is present as every third residue. This enables the formation of the three chains into a triple-helical structure. Thus, the common feature for all collagens is a sequence that can be expressed as (Gly-X-Y)*n, where X and Y are frequently represented by proline (Pro) and hydroxyproline (Hyp), respectively. This sequence is necessary for the collagen to assemble the fibrils that subsequently form fibres, providing unmatched structural integrity for the extracellular matrix of conjunctive tissues[2].

The utilisation of hydrolysed collagen supplements has been growing over the last 20 years[3]. Hydrolysed collagen is collagen that is broken down into small protein chains, called collagen peptides, that are made of a few amino acids. It is possible to find collagen in a wide variety of products as well as a standalone supplement.

Skin Health

Perhaps the area most closely associated with the oral supplementation of collagen is in the skin and anti-aging categories[4]. Three different mechanisms of action are associated with the skin-related benefits. Direct effects of collagen peptides on fibroblasts, M2-like macrophages, and oral tolerance-related mechanisms are associated with the beneficial effects of collagen supplementation.

Skin aging is caused by decreased collagen density and dermal thickness, as well as decreased synthesis and replacement of important structural proteins[5]. Collagen supplements originating from various sources such as marine, bovine, and porcine can improve skin integrity and modulate skin aging. They are effective in wrinkle reduction, skin rejuvenation, and skin aging reversal. Due to its high biocompatibility with the human body, collagen type I is the most used in cosmetic production.

The extent to which collagen production slows down varies from one person to another. It can be accelerated through certain lifestyle choices such as smoking[6], excessive drinking[7], sun exposure[8] and consuming a diet[9] high in added sugar and ultra-processed foods. The sufficiency of essential nutrients is a fundamental factor related to the function of skin and its healthy appearance. In recent decades, researchers have developed great interest in investigating the potential association between skin health and nutrition. Results from intervention studies claimed that supplementation with dietary ingredients has a potential role in the modulation of skin aging or delaying it[10]. Ingesting supplementary vitamins and minerals likely contribute to skin health, but fundamental lifestyle changes must be engaged in also[11]. The use of products that combine hydrolysed collagen and skin-supportive nutrients seems to suggest the best application to date.

Bone and Joint Health

A 2017 review of several small studies of people with osteoarthritis concluded that daily collagen supplements (between 10 mg and 40 mg) decreased ­reported joint pain by 26 to 33 percent. And a 2018 study, published in the journal Nutrients, looked at the effect of collagen on bone density in postmenopausal women. Those who took a 5-gram collagen supplement had significant increases in the spine and neck vs. those who got a placebo. A randomised controlled trial with 39 patients diagnosed with knee OA was undertaken and was randomly distributed into two groups: one treated with acetaminophen (n = 19) and the other treated with acetaminophen plus type II collagen (n = 20) for 3 months. The result showed that the type II collagen treatment combined with acetaminophen was superior to the only acetaminophen treatment[12]. In 2022 a study of 90 days duration with osteoarthritic knees and their owners found that collagen improved the quality of life of the participants who were aged between 60-80 years old[13].

collagen supplements

Loss of bone density as we age is an increasingly common problem and predisposes the individual to significant other health issues. In particular, women are at risk of post-menopausal bone loss, and a group investigated to see if collagen peptides could prevent or reverse this.  Published in Nutrients in 2018 the study revealed that the intake of collagen peptides increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with a primary, age-related reduction of bone mineral density. In addition, collagen peptides supplementation was associated with a favourable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation[14].

Using hydrolysed bovine-derived collagen, for ease of absorption and utilisation has a long history of improving bone and joint function.

Collagen Supplements Side Effects

Hydrolysed collagen supplements are most commonly derived from bovine, marine animals, and chicken. This means that if you’re allergic to beef, fish, or poultry, you could have a reaction after consuming collagen supplements.

It’s always a good idea to check the label of the particular supplement you’re using to ensure none of the ingredients contain something you’re allergic to — including the collagen itself.

 

References

[1] Ricard-Blum S. The collagen family. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011 Jan 1;3(1):a004978.

[2] Wang H. A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies. Polymers (Basel). 2021 Nov 9;13(22):3868

[3] León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed Collagen-Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019 Nov 7;24(22):4031

[4] Barati M, Jabbari M, Navekar R, Farahmand F, Zeinalian R, Salehi-Sahlabadi A, Abbaszadeh N, Mokari-Yamchi A, Davoodi SH. Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Nov;19(11):2820-2829

[5] Jhawar N, Wang JV, Saedi N. Oral collagen supplementation for skin aging: A fad or the future? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Apr;19(4):910-912

[6] Knuutinen A, Kokkonen N, Risteli J, Vähäkangas K, Kallioinen M, Salo T, Sorsa T, Oikarinen A. Smoking affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Apr;146(4):588-94

[7] Goodman GD, Kaufman J, Day D, Weiss R, Kawata AK, Garcia JK, Santangelo S, Gallagher CJ. Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019 Aug;12(8):28-3.

[8] Budden T, Gaudy-Marqueste C, Porter A, Kay E, Gurung S, Earnshaw CH, Roeck K, Craig S, Traves V, Krutmann J, Muller P, Motta L, Zanivan S, Malliri A, Furney SJ, Nagore E, Virós A. Ultraviolet light-induced collagen degradation inhibits melanoma invasion. Nat Commun. 2021 May 12;12(1):2742

[9] Nguyen HP, Katta R. Sugar Sag: Glycation and the Role of Diet in Aging Skin. Skin Therapy Lett. 2015 Nov;20(6):1-5. PMID: 27224842

[10] Schagen SK, Zampeli VA, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1;4(3):298-307

[11] Shamloul N, Hashim PW, Nia JJ, Farberg AS, Goldenberg G. The role of vitamins and supplements on skin appearance. Cutis. 2019 Oct;104(4):220-224

[12] Bakilan F, Armagan O, Ozgen M, Tascioglu F, Bolluk O, Alatas O. Effects of Native Type II Collagen Treatment on Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Eurasian J Med. 2016 Jun;48(2):95-101

[13] Sadigursky D, Magnavita VFS, Sá CKC, Monteiro HS, Braghiroli OFM, Matos MAA. UNDENATURED COLLAGEN TYPE II FOR THE TREATMENT OF OSTEOARTHRITIS OF THE KNEE. Acta Ortop Bras. 2022 Apr 15;30(2):e240572

[14] König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 16;10(1):97

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  • I was interested in your blog on use of collagen for bones and joints. I read recently about trials of injected hydrolysed collagen by sports doctors for injuries to ligaments etc.
    I have an anatomical abnormality of the head of my left humerus which has resulted in loss of 80% cartilage! This means the joint is very painful on certain movements. Steroid injection helped but doesn’t “cure”. Do you think anoral supplement would help produce a little more cartilage? And which supplement would you recommend with mainly type 2?

    Reply
    • Dear Avril

      Many thanks for your question.

      As we both know keeping up to date with the role of concentrated nutrients in the generation or maintenance of health is hard for Nutritionists and GPs I suspect have no time at all.

      Replacing articular cartilage is a challenge, some people are turning to injectible collagen where there is significant erosion. Whilst it seems most are exploring knee joints the outcomes are quite impressive.

      Volpi P, Zini R, Erschbaumer F, Beggio M, Busilacchi A, Carimati G. Effectiveness of a novel hydrolyzed collagen formulation in treating patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a multicentric retrospective clinical study. Int Orthop. 2021 Feb;45(2):375-380. doi: 10.1007/s00264-020-04616-8. Epub 2020 May 23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32447428/

      In terms of oral supplementation there are a variety of published papers using different sources with differing outcomes.

      This review covers many of them.

      Honvo G, Lengelé L, Charles A, Reginster JY, Bruyère O. Role of Collagen Derivatives in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Repair: A Systematic Scoping Review With Evidence Mapping. Rheumatol Ther. 2020 Dec;7(4):703-740 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33068290/

      Whilst data is varied its clear that some people do very well.

      We have recommended a hydrolysed for of collagen called Athred for over 20 years and it has helped many people with enhanced joint comfort and improved skin and hair as a side effect.

      It is certainly worth exploring, do mix it well in your preferred medium and best to add water or liquid to it, not the other way around.

      Try it for 6 weeks, keep a chart of any related functional changes and it should be long enough to see if there is any improvement to carry on with.

      Reply

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