Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body. It is the major constituent of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, skin, hair and nails.  It is the main structural protein in the body and virtually holds our bodies together. Because of this, it can be called the "glue" that keeps us upright. There are 16 types of collagen that make up the body with around 80 to 90 percent being types I, II, and III. Type I is the most prevalent. Collagen molecules combine to form a fibrous matrix which has the primary purpose of helping tissues to resist stretching. 

       Collagen protein is made up of a combination of 19 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. These amino acids are tightly wound together in three chains (a triple helix) with each chain being over 1,400 amino acids long. Proline and glycine are the most prevalent amino’s in collagen. Following is a summary of the role type I through type IV collagens play in the body.

       Type I collagen appears to be the strongest of the collagens and forms tendons, ligaments, bones and the dermis of the skin.  It is also found within the GI tract (esophagus, stomach, intestines) where it helps hold together the lining of these organs and can help heal and prevent “leaky gut syndrome” which is a condition where food molecules leak into the blood stream causing allergic reactions. Type I collagen is important for wound healing and in general holding the skin firm so it doesn’t tear. 

       Type II collagen is primarily involved in the building of cartilage which protects joint tissue from friction. Deteriorated cartilage is a major cause of inflammation in joint tissue leading to the condition known as arthritis.

       Type III collagen is a key component of what is called extracellular matrix which is a combination of various proteins, carbohydrates and collagens that fill the spaces between cells and binds cells and tissues together. This collagen is important to the formation of blood vessels and tissues in the heart.

       Type IV collagen is important to the forming of the extracellular matrix found in endothelial cells that line the surface of blood vessels, lymph vessels, and the heart. This matrix, called basal lamina, is needed for various nerve and blood vessel functions. This matrix also lines much of our digestive and respiratory organs. Basal lamina is found in the spaces between cells that make up the top and bottom layer of skin and thus provides padding to the skin.

       Our bodies make collagen from amino acids made in the body and also derived from the diet. In addition to these amino acids, a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients obtained from the diet are necessary for the body to make collagen. Vitamin C plays a critical role in the body’s production of collagen. Therefore, a nutrient dense diet is critical to the making of this important protein.

       As we age, our body’s production of collagen steadily diminishes as witnessed by wrinkly skin, joint pain, and reduced bone and muscle strength.  Reduction in collagen production is due in part to a reduced production and availability of the amino acids necessary for collagen production. Supplementing your diet with collagen or the amino acids the body uses to make collagen can result in smoother and tighter skin, reduced stiffness and pain in the joints, healing of a leaky gut and increased muscle and bone strength.

Supplemental collagen: 

       It must be understood that collagen obtained via the diet or in a supplement form is not directly used by the body. It must first be broken down into its constituent amino acids and then be recombined by the body to form the various collagens the body needs.  

       For example, bone broth is a good dietary source of various types of collagen. Bone broth is made by cooking the bones of cattle, poultry and fish for many hours. When bones are cooked, the chains of amino acids that make up the collagen in the bones are broken down into smaller units to form gelatin.  When this gelatin is ingested, the gelatin is further broken down in the digestive tract into its constituent amino acids and recombined by the body to form the various types of collagen the body uses.

       Many collagen products are hydrolyzed. This simply means that the long chain amino acids in the collagen being used is broken down into peptides which are small chains of amino acids of between two and fifty amino’s.  When ingested, these small chains are readily broken down into their individual amino acids and made available as the building blocks of new collagen. 

       Research has shown that taking a collagen supplement can prompt the body to produce more collagen. A 2008 study published in PubMed found that supplemental collagen is beneficial to bones and joints by providing a bioavailable source of the amino acids necessary for collagen production.  In this 24-Week study it was found that the use of a hydrolyzed collagen by athletes with activity-related joint pain was effective in reducing their pain compared to a placebo group.

       At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry several high quality collagen products. These products contain the types of collagens discussed above and some products contain additional types as well.  We have bone broth from the company Ancient Nutrition. We also carry hydrolyzed collagen products from Garden of Life, Genacol and Nature’s Plus.  In addition, we carry a liquid collagen product from the company Health Direct.