• Collagen: sources and benefits for the body

    Collagen: sources and benefits for the body

    FOOD See all FOOD posts

    Proteins are the basis of life for all organisms. There are 2 types of proteins required for the propper functioning of various organs and systems in our body.

    The first type is so-called ‘functional’ proteins, that perform a range of functions: – in the blood (for the transmission of molecules), in digestion (enzymes that break down food), in muscles, etc.

    The second type are the ‘structural’ proteins which don’t perform a specific function, but build and maintain the strength and structure of the human body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body (25-35% of the total protein). It has both functional and structural role.

    Collagen gives strength and elasticity to the body. Except the skin, it builds up the internal organs, bones, joints, cartilage, tendons, cornea and blood vessels.

    As we age, the body’s ability to produce collagen decreases significantly, which leads to occurrence of wrinkles, skin spots, decreased bone density (osteoporosis), joint pain and degeneration of intervertebral discs and cartilage tissue.

    Sources of collagen

    The sources of collagen are foods of animal origin. In the past, people have consumed as many parts of the animals – organs, cartilage, they have prepared bone broth – obtaining this way the full range of the necessary for the synthesis of collagen and connective tissue amino acids. Collagen is rich in the amino acids glycine, glutamine, hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline, the last two of which aren’t contained in any other source of protein.

    Nowadays the prevalence of muscular meats and fillets in our menu strongly alters the amino acid balance in our bodies in favor of certain amino acids.

    In order to include collagen in your diet, you can enrich it with gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen.


    Gelatin is obtained by the partial hydrolysis of collagen from animal cartilage and bones. Gelatin is actually ‘cooked’ collagen. In this process, the connections between some of the molecules are broken, and are formed peptides.

    Gelatine has no color and taste. It is dissolved in hot water and it forms a gel-like texture in cold water.  It finds application mainly in the food industry, pharmaceutics, in the production of food supplements and in the cosmetics.

    Hydrolyzed collagen

    The hydrolyzed collagen is obtained in a more intense processing of the collagen – it is heated to higher temperatures, and treated with enzymes. In this process, the connections between the amino acids are broken, but amino acids themselves remain ‘unharmed’.

    Gelatin Hydrolyzed collagen
    Source Animal bones, cartilage and skin
    Amino acid profile Identical, the hydrolyzed collagen has a higher absorption rate
    Manufacturing method Partial hydrolysis Full hydrolysis
    Soluble in cold water? No Yes
    Forms gel (jelly)? Yes No

    Benefits from the consumption of gelatine and hydrolyzed collagen

    The health benefits of gelatine and hydrolyzed collagen are:

    They relieve the joint pain in people suffering from arthritis. Renews the synovial fluid in joints and helps regeneration and construction of the weakened cartilage tissue.

     Increasement of the bone density in people suffering from osteoporosis. Collagen gives the bone strength and elasticity at the same time.

    In a study, conducted at Center for Clinical and Lifestyle Research in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts participated 175 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either a daily gelatin supplement or a placebo. Those who ate a supplement containing 10 grams of gelatin combined with calcium and vitamin C had significant improvements across the board in pain, stiffness, and mobility.

    The study suggests that gelatin supplementation has the potential to improve knee function during activities that cause high amounts of stress on the joint.

    Nourishes and supports the growth of hair and nails.

     Can help against wrinkles and cellulite.

    In addition to supplying the body with the necessary amino acids for the synthesis of collagen, gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen are irreplaceable additives for people with gastrointestinal problems, as they obtain the amino acid glutamine, which serves the cells of mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. The gut is our ‘second brain’ and a shortcut to the body. If our gut is not healthy, we would not absorb  the nutrients efficiently.

    In 1 tablespoon  of collagen are contained about 6-7 grams of protein, with it we obtain 18 amino acids, 9 of which are irreplaceable in the body. Glycine – one of these amino acids, supports the liver function. Lysine participates in the absorption of calcium and in building muscle mass.

    How to obtain gelatine and collagen?

    You can’t prepare hydrolyzed collagen at home, but you can prepare a bone broth – an inexpensive and tasty source of gelatin. Although gelatin is not absorbed as efficiently as the hydrolysed collagen, you can still enjoy a large part of its benefits.

    Bone broth recipe

    For the preparation of bone broth you will need 1-2 kg of animal bones and meat, rich in connective tissue such as beef, lamb, poultry, etc.

    Place them in a large saucepan, along with some vegetables (onions, carrots, garlic) and add salt and pepper to taste. Wait until the broth starts boiling and then simmer on low heat for 6-12 hours. Strain the liquid, pour it into a glass container and store in the refrigerator. You will notice that the broth gets gelled, which proves the content of gelatin. The resulting broth you can use as a base for soups or just drink it.

    Vitamins required for the production and metabolism of collagen

    Vitamins A, C, E and B6 assist the restoration of the levels of collagen in the body and slow down the aging process. These vitamins contribute to the synthesis of new collagen and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

    Vitamin A is important for cell division and skin health. We can get it from both animal (retinoids) and plant sources (carotenoids). The intake of vitamin A increases the collagen levels and improves the skin texture, eliminating the surface layer of dead cells.

    Which foods are rich in vitamin A? Carrots, apricots, green vegetables, cabbage, plums, all yellow fruits and vegetables, pumpkins, tuna, sweet potatoes, butter, cream, egg yolk, liver, dairy products.

    Vitamin C is the most important vitamin in the collagen synthesis. The human body itself can’t produce vitamin C, so you have to get it through the food or supplements. Besides being involved in the production of collagen, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fighting free radicals.

    Which foods are rich in vitamin C? Citrus fruits, rose hips (they are richest in it), tomatoes, cabbage, green onions, parsley, apples and pears (in small quantities).

    The fat-soluble vitamin E also fights free radicals and premature aging. Together with vitamin C it participates in the collagen synthesis. A menu low in vitamin E leads to appearance of acne and anemia, increasing the risk of certain cancers.

    Which foods are rich in vitamin E? High in fat foods, such as wheat germ oil, canola/rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, safflower oil, as well as leafy greens: spinach, turnip, beet greens.

    Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) supports the exchange of collagen and normal function of the immune system.

    Which foods are rich in vitamin B6? Foods rich in vitamin B6 include pork, turkey, beef, bananas, chickpeas, potatoes, and pistachios.

    Many cosmetic companies promote the consumption of ‘natural’ and ‘100% pure’ collagen in a form identical to the collagen in the human body. It is important to know that this is an absolute deception. It is impossible for any ‘natural’ collagen adopted in the form of capsules, tablets or ointment to be absorbed by the body. The collagen is primarily protein, and like all other proteins it is broken down to amino acids in the digestive tract. Only then these amino acids can be used by the body for production of its own collagen and connective tissue.

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