Most people have heard of collagen and many have taken (or still take) a collagen supplement at some point in their lives. Perhaps you came across the term collagen back in your biology class at school because it’s an essential protein and the body can’t survive without it!
In this article, we will investigate collagen in more detail. We look at what collagen protein is, its role in the body, and the various forms of collagen. We will also introduce you to our exciting new supplement, Collavegan, so keep reading to learn more.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is an abundant protein that makes up around one-third of the total proteins in the human body. It’s a building block in your body, a sort of scaffolding to create a range of different tissues, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, connective tissue and bones.
Collagen is also found in the blood vessels and extracellular matrix (ECM). It provides the skin with strength and elasticity. The body produces collagen naturally, but you can aid your body by taking exogenous collagen in the form of supplements. Collagen can also be used for medical or cosmetic purposes.
What Does Collagen Do?
The main role of collagen is to provide structural support and strength for a variety of organs and tissues in the body. Its specific roles include:
- Providing strengthen elasticity in the skin
- Forming part of the extracellular matrix
- Supporting fibroblasts in the dermal layer of the skin to aid the growth of new skin cells
- Protecting the organs
- Helping with the blood clotting process and supporting the health of the blood vessels
What Are the Different Forms of Collagen?
Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one type of collagen. In fact, research shows that there are 28 different types of collagen, each of which has different structures and functions within the body.
The different forms of collagen vary based on their cell components. Most of them are made out of long, flexible structures called fibrils, and they all have what is known as a triple helix formation.
The most common types of collagen include:
- Type I - this is a strong, densely packed form of collagen that is found in the tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones.
- Type II - this form of collagen is found in the joints to provide elasticity in the cartilage.
- Type III - this type of collagen forms part of the muscles, arteries, and organs.
- Type IV - this type is found in the skin.
- Type V - this is a type of collagen protein that is found in the hair, skin, and cornea of the eyes. It also forms part of the placenta during pregnancy.
What Causes Collagen Loss?
As we age, we can start to lose collagen. Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, menopause, or medical conditions can impact the levels of collagen that are produced in the body.
“Collagen loss in the body starts at 18–29 years of age, after 40 years the human body can lose around 1% per year, and at around 80 years collagen production in the body can decrease 75% overall in comparison to that of young adults.”
Oxidative stress caused by metabolic reactions inside the body and external pollutants can also contribute to collagen loss. If you smoke or have a poor diet, your risk of collagen loss is higher. In particular, if your diet is low in vitamin C, your collagen loss may be higher because vitamin C is essential for the production of this protein.
Luckily, there are ways to reduce collagen loss. Avoiding environmental pollutants, following a healthy lifestyle, and eating a nutrient-rich diet are great ways to support your body’s natural collagen production.
Reducing Collagen Loss With Supplementation
Another great thing that you can do is take a collagen supplement. Collagen supplements can be animal-derived (such as bovine or marine collagen) or plant-based.
There are currently no studies that conclusively state that animal collagen supplements work. The biological makeup of animal proteins is different from the proteins found in humans, which can reduce the bioavailability of bovine or marine collagen supplements.
Animal-based collagen supplements also pose a worrying ethical issue over animal welfare and sustainability. Livestock (which is required for bovine collagen) contribute 14.5% of all green-house gas emissions, and the hydrolysis and extraction processes require a lot of energy. Overall, the production of bovine collagen causes around 28.73 CO2 eg/Kg of carbon emissions.
Marine collagen production is just as unsustainable and contributes 4.41 CO2 eg/Kg of carbon emissions. It's also been linked to the death of thousands of fish, whales, dolphins, and sharks every year, and requires fossil fuels to process.
Considering all of these factors, it’s important that we try and find more sustainable, more ethical, and more bioavailable options. Vegan collagen supplements are a great alternative to animal-based supplements because they tackle each of these issues.
At Positive Science People, we just launched an exciting new product with all the benefits of collagen. Our Collavegan product is a 100% vegan collagen supplement that contains eight active ingredients, including Vollagen, hyaluronic acid, bamboo silica, and several vitamins and minerals.