What Is Collagen and What Does It Do?You've probably heard about collagen, and if so, then you've also likely heard the word associated with skin. You may already know that collagen has something to do with healthy skin, but maybe you're not exactly sure what. Collagen is an important substance in the skin, and it serves a very specific purpose. Read on to learn more about collagen and why you should know its primary function.
What Is Collagen?Collagen is a protein that's naturally found in the body. In fact, it's the most abundant protein in our body. It holds the entire body together; that's how important it is! Collagen is found in the bones, muscles, tendons, and also in our skin, where it connects to form scaffolding for added structure and strength. Since collagen provides such a critical function in the body, it can be detrimental if it breaks down. Thankfully, there are ways to help our body maintain the collagen supply it needs for good health, and further, there are medical procedures that can repair collagen, if needed. Collagen makes up one-third of the protein in the human body. It's a hard, fibrous, and insoluble protein that is comprised of molecules packed tightly together, forming long and thin fibrils. There are at least sixteen different types of collagen in the human body. These collagens are flexible and strong, and they're most commonly found in the skin, where they come together to offer elasticity (in combination with elastin). In the dermis, which is the middle layer of the skin, collagen helps to form a fibrous network where new cells can grow. Collagen is also a required ingredient in the replacement and restoration of dead skin cells.
What Does Collagen Do?Collagen is secreted by a variety of cells, primarily tissue cells. When we are young, our bodies consistently provide collagen to keep skin firm, elastic, and rejuvenated. As we age (at about age 40), there is a decline in collagen production. For women, post menopause is when the most dramatic collagen synthesis reduction occurs. By age 60, there is a considerable decrease in collagen production. So as we naturally age, collagen production falls and the integrity of our skin declines. Skin may begin to sag, lines may form, and wrinkles may show up. This is when it's important to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep collagen production as effective as it can be, remembering that you don't want to overburden a system that is not functioning at its peak to begin with. You can increase collagen production, or at least keep production functioning optimally, by eating a healthy diet.
Increasing Collagen ProductionCollagen is made up of amino acids, just like other proteins. Of these amino acids, there are nine that are considered essential to the human body. This means that they cannot be synthesized by the body, but must be acquired through diet. Foods that you can eat that support collagen formation, and therefore support healthy skin, include:
- Proline â€“ This is found in soy and cabbage
- Anthocyanidins â€“ This is found in blackberries, cherries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Vitamin C â€“ This is found in oranges, peppers, strawberries, acerola cherries, and broccoli
- Copper â€“ This is found in nuts and some water
- Vitamin A â€“ This is found in carrots and sweet potatoes