Micronutrients

All about collagen – effect, daily needs and use

from Mag. Margit Weichselbraun
on 16.10.2023
All about collagen – effect, daily needs and use All about collagen – effect, daily needs and use

Collagen. In the beauty world, when it comes to reducing the effects of ageing on the skin and anti-ageing, it is impossible to ignore the protein that is said to tighten the skin and tissue and encourage muscles to grow. But what exactly is collagen, how do you use it and what is the hype about it?

What is collagen and what are its functions?

Collagen is derived from the Greek word kólla (glue) and is a structural protein. As part of the connective tissue, it actually – as the name implies – holds our body structures together. Collagen is the most commonly found protein in the human body, accounting for over 30% of all proteins. As a basic structural protein, it provides the tensile strength of our connective tissue and can be found where form and firmness are required – in ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, dentistry, blood vessels, muscle and connective tissue and – naturally – in the skin. In skin, collagen is the main component, at around 80%. Together with elastin fibres, it tightens into a rubber band-like mesh structure that forms the skin’s inner corset. This support corset provides the skin with firmness and smoothness, and ensures that it regains its smooth contours after a hearty laugh. 

What does collagen consist of?

Collagen consists of long chains of amino acids. Formed by connective tissue cells, collagen contains 600 to 3000 amino acids, depending on the type. The amino acids proline, glycine and hydroxyproline are particularly common in these chains. The so-called polypeptide chains are also called procollagen. Three of each of these amino acid chains revolve around each other to form a triple helix, the tropocollagen unit. If several tropocollagen units join together, thin collagen fibrils are formed and thicker collagen fibres are formed through further aggregation. One can imagine this as a cable, in which individual fibres are twisted together into a thick bundle.

How collagen types 1, 2 and 3 differ

In the human body, there are a total of 28 different types of collagen, which differ in their composition, structure and function. The three most important collagens are type I, II and III.


Occurrence in the bodyFunctionsInteresting facts
Collagen type ISkin, tendons, fascia, bones, vessels, teethProvides elasticity and firmness to skin, ligaments and tendons. Gives the bone stability and flexibility.Is the most common type of collagen in the body.
Collagen type IIVitreous body of the eye, intervertebral discs, 50% of all proteins of the cartilageGives the said structures their stability.Is the main collagen of cartilage (80%).
Collagen type III

Skin, cornea, internal organs, uterus, vessel walls

Provides elasticity in said tissues.

Often combined with type I collagen in the body.

What is collagen hydrolysate and how does it differ from native collagen?

Native collagen can be broken down into so-called “collagen hydrolysate” using enzymes. This is easier to digest and absorb via the small intestine due to its low molecular weight – unlike native collagen. The blood vessel network then distributes the small collagen peptides and free amino acids via the bloodstream in the human body, such as in the skin.

Collagen & procollagen: How do they differ?

Procollagen is a precursor of collagen. This term is used both for the individual amino acid chains of collagen and for the triple helix formed from it, which still have so-called propeptides at the ends. Tropocollagen is created by the separation of this directly after release from the cell, which is the basic building block of the collagen fibrils and thus also of the final collagen fibres – the cable described above.

Effect: What is collagen good for?

Collagen is a structural protein found in many places in our bodies. Accordingly, its range of action is also far-reaching – from the skin to the connective tissue, bones, muscles and joints through to the vessels it plays an important role. 

Collagen products that use collagen type I are ideal for beauty care of mature skin and also for preventive support of younger skin. In turn, collagen type II products are ideal for cartilage and joints.

Skin

In the beauty world, a real hype around collagen has just erupted. This beauty nutrient is said to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve the elasticity and tone of the skin. But what is behind it? Collagen (Type I & Type III) is THE main component of our skin, at around 80%. Together with elastin, collagen forms the supporting corset that gives our skin and the underlying connective tissue firmness and elasticity. In addition, thanks to their ability to bind water, the collagen fibres plump and rehydrate the skin from within.

From the age of 25 onwards the body’s own collagen formation slows down, and in ageing skin collagen fibres become thicker and shorter, resulting in a loss of collagen type I and a change in the collagen species ratio. This results in a loss of stability of the deeper skin layers over the years, which is also reflected externally. The skin becomes slacker, wrinkles develop and the skin’s moisture decreases. This is precisely where collagen preparations come into their own, by supplying the nutrient from the outside in a targeted manner and thus strengthening the collagen structure again. Clinical studies have now also confirmed that targeted collagen intake can reduce the visible signs of natural skin ageing. Thus, the 12-week intake of 10 g hydrolysed fish collagen (Naticol®) led to a 35% reduction in wrinkles compared to baseline. At the same time, the participants in the study reported a 23% increase in elasticity and a 25% increase in skin firmness compared to the placebo group.

Binding tissue – cellulite

Collagen not only helps smooth the skin on your face, it can also tighten your connective tissue. Like our skin, our connective tissue consists mostly of collagen (80%). Initial studies suggest that collagen can actually reduce skin dimpling in the thighs and buttocks, at least in the long term (6 months), thanks to its firming effect.

Hair

Research in clinical studies is first required in order to establish whether collagen can also help to achieve beautiful hair. The assumption that the structural protein could “tune” the beauty of our hair is – at least theoretically – not as far-fetched as it first might seem. After all, collagen provides not only the amino acids that our body uses to build hair protein, but the improvement of the skin could also lead to the strengthening of the hair root.

Muscles

It’s not just the hearts of the beauty industry that have been won over by collagen. It has now become a secret tip in the fitness and health scene too. The structural protein is said to optimise regeneration after a workout and to encourage the muscles to grow. Initial scientific papers now confirm that there is more to the trend than just hot air. In one study, the targeted intake of collagen in combination with strength training promoted the development of fat-free mass (e.g. muscles, tendons) and an increase in muscle strength.

Joints, cartilage & bones

Collagen is also a major player in other structures of the musculoskeletal system. As an elementary component of cartilage (Type II), ligaments, tendons and bones (Type I), it helps to keep these body structures stable and healthy. Over the years, the body’s own collagen production diminishes and so, among other things, the resistance of the cartilage wanes. In order to counteract arthrosis, targeted intake of collagen can be useful. For example, studies suggest that the intake of collagen can help improve joint function and reduce joint pain and stiffness.

Intestine

It is less commonly known that collagen also plays a role in the intestine. A good collagen supply contributes to an intact intestinal barrier and to the regeneration of the intestine.

Does collagen cause weight gain?

No, collagen doesn’t make you put on weight. Weight is gained when you consume more calories than you burn, and collagen does not contain excessive calories. However, the structural protein – used correctly in combination with strength training – can help athletes to build muscle.

Collagen deficiency – what are the symptoms

From the age of 25 onwards the body’s own collagen production decreases by approximately 1.5% annually. This development is natural and not considered a collagen deficiency. However, certain lifestyle habits, an unhealthy diet, but also environmental factors and genetic predisposition can accelerate collagen degradation. Stress, alcohol, smoking, sugar, too much unprotected exposure to the sun (UV radiation), chronic illnesses and menopause can all lead to collagen depletion.

Too little collagen in the body? How to identify it.

The age-related reduction in collagen synthesis and the collagen degradation caused by external factors (which we can influence) can become evident on the skin over the years. It becomes drier, thinner, loses firmness and elasticity and develops wrinkles. But our connective tissue also suffers from this development, our bones and cartilage become brittle, and tendons and ligaments lose their elasticity. All of this can manifest itself in weak connective tissue, painful joints and tendons and ligaments prone to injury.

Collagen in the diet and as a dietary supplement

If you want to improve your collagen supply, special foods and food supplements can be helpful. Collagen itself is an animal protein that is not found in plants. However, plant-based foods can provide building blocks for the body’s own collagen synthesis. Many collagen components or collagen itself are contained in quinoa, chia seeds, gelatine, bone stock, and fish and chicken, including the skin.

Supplement with collagen powder, capsules, tablets or in liquid form?

If you want to jump on the "collagen train", you will find a wealth of collagen products on the market. Whether powder, capsules, tablets or liquid variants – each pharmaceutical form has its advantages and disadvantages here. The advantage of powder and liquid variants is that they can effortlessly deliver higher collagen doses – these are now also available as flavoursome drinks. Collagen in tablet or capsule form is in turn odourless and tasteless.

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Vegan collagen: Is there such a thing?

Collagen is an animal protein produced only by humans and animals, but not by plants. However, there are now vegan alternatives, sometimes referred to as vegan collagen or pro-collagen. These preparations provide the body with specific amino acids – and possibly also certain micronutrients – that it can use for its own collagen production. Biochemically, about a third of collagen consists of the amino acid glycine, followed by proline and other amino acids such as lysineIn order to increase the body's own collagen synthesis, a sufficient supply of glycine, proline and lysine is therefore required. Other micronutrients can also support the body’s own production – vitamin C, for example, is an important co-factor for collagen formation.

Why are collagen and hyaluronan combined?

Collagen and hyaluronan are an unbeatable dream team when it comes to inner skin beauty. Both substances support each other, increasing the other’s anti-ageing effect. While collagen in skin tissue provides elasticity and firmness and retains moisture, hyaluronan is THE moisture magnet par excellence and cushions the skin from within. This power combination also ensures that everything is well lubricated in our joints. For example, collagen is an essential component of cartilage, which plays an important role in the pressure resistance of joint cartilage. Hyaluronic acid, in turn, keeps the synovial fluid thick and is therefore an important "joint lubricant".

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Intake and dose collagen correctly

Does taking collagen make sense?

Over the years, the body’s own collagen production begins to decline, leading to ever more visible changes. Targeted intake can start from the 25th year of age to combat the naturally occurring reduced production of collagen. More and more studies have now started to confirm that the targeted intake of collagen can actually contribute to the strengthening and maintenance of certain collagen-rich body structures (e.g. skin, joints). In order for the structural protein to work, the product used must contain either hydrolysed collagen or – even better – low molecular collagen peptides.

Hydrolysed collagen enters the small intestine when taken orally, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of small collagen peptides and free amino acids. These are distributed through the blood vessel network in the human body, especially in the skin. Another option is the intake of the amino acids glycine, proline and lysine, which are also called “pro-collagen” or “vegan collagen” in special combinations and are useful for the body’s own collagen synthesis.

Should you take collagen in the morning or evening?

Collagen can fundamentally be taken at any time of day. While some people take the active substance in the morning on an empty stomach, others in turn prefer an evening intake. Ideally, however, the time should be chosen so that the intake suits your own daily routine and at a regular time to ensure compliance, because long-term and consistent intake is important for the desired results.

How much collagen is recommended per day?

The recommended daily dose may vary depending on the preparation and the reason for use. In order to improve skin hydration and elasticity and reduce facial wrinkles, 5-10 g collagen type I peptides (Naticol®) daily are usually recommended.

How long should you take collagen?

How long you have to take collagen for a visible or noticeable result depends on the reason for use. In order to achieve a positive change in the skin appearance, 8 to 12 weeks must generally be expected; initial improvements can be felt and become visible after only 2-4 weeks. For long-term effects, it should be taken over the long term.

Collagen during pregnancy & lactation

Since there are no clinical studies on the targeted use of collagen during pregnancy and lactation, it should not be taken during this special time or only in consultation with the treating medical specialist.

Is collagen as important for men as it is for women?

Collagen is a universal protein that does not differentiate between genders. This means that it supports all people equally, because every person experiences a decrease in their own collagen production from the age of 25 onwards.

Collagen in sport

While collagen has been well-known and esteemed in the beauty world for a long time, this protein is often considered a secret tip among sports enthusiasts. In fact, the protein can not only give our skin more elasticity, it can also “tune” our body. Athletes benefit from collagen in three ways. Collagen supports muscle growth and performance, promotes regeneration and strengthens the structures of the musculoskeletal system.

Body tuning. In the course of hard training, the so-called extracellular matrix is destroyed, which is needed by the muscles for effective power transmission and tensile strength. After training is complete, collagen-specific amino acids and collagen synthesis in the muscle increase, a process that supports not only muscle regeneration but also muscle growth. Studies have shown that taking 15 grams of collagen in combination with strength training (3x weekly, 1 hour) for 12 weeks can optimise body composition. For example, study participants who took collagen had a significantly higher fat-free body mass (e.g. muscles, ligaments, tendons), a lower body fat percentage and a stronger increase in strength compared to the placebo group.

Regeneration. Collagen can always be found where the tissue has to withstand high tensile stress – whether in muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage or fascia. In the event of injuries, targeted intake under incentives for stimulating movement can help to optimise regeneration. Among other things, a study on young people with chronic ankle joint instability showed that the 6-month intake of collagen peptides (5 g daily, 1 h after training) in combination with weight-bearing training significantly reduced the symptoms. Three months after termination, the subjects were interviewed again. The collagen peptide-treated athletes suffered from pain, swelling and the feeling that their joint “gave way” less frequently during sporting activities compared to the placebo group. In addition, the frequency of injury in the collagen group also decreased statistically significantly.

Cartilage health. Our joint cartilage is sometimes exposed to enormous forces during exercise. Collagen has long been used in the prevention and treatment of joint wear to strengthen cartilage tissue. The following randomised, placebo-controlled interventional study, showed that targeted use of structural protein can be useful in already damaged joint cartilage. In this study, 147 athletes with arthritis-related joint pain received either collagen hydrolysate (10 g daily) for 24 weeks or a placebo. The analysis showed that there was a partially significant decrease in pain in the collagen group.

Collagen & menopause

During menopause, there is a major hormonal change in the female body. The internal change is also reflected in our external appearance. The decreasing oestrogen level leads to increased collagen and elastin degradation in the skin. At the same time, the content of plumping hyaluronic acid is steadily decreasing. These changes cause the skin to lose firmness and volume, contours to sag and wrinkles to appear. Targeted collagen intake can help mature skin return to a more youthful glow. Among other things, one study showed that the targeted 12-week intake of 10 g hydrolysed fish collagen (Naticol®) combats the visible signs of skin ageing. Wrinkles decreased (- 35%), the skin gained elasticity (+23%) and firmness (+25%).

Conclusion: Collagen is the superhero that holds our body together. Especially as we age and our body’s own collagen formation decreases, a highly bioavailable collagen preparation can help combat this natural course of things. High-quality collagen supplements can help restore a more youthful glow to the outside – especially the skin – and – incidentally – support the vitality of many body structures (e.g. muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons).

Frequently asked questions about collagen

For visible or noticeable results, collagen should be taken over several weeks to months, depending on the reason for use. Initial improvements in skin texture can be seen after 2-4 weeks. Long-term intake is essential for sustainable results.

Collagen is an essential structural element and can be found wherever elasticity and firmness are required – in other words: in the skin, connective tissue, but also in bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and teeth.

The great advantage of collagen powder is that it can be used to achieve effective collagen dosages, while capsule preparations for the same dosage require a high number of capsules.

Taking collagen helps prevent the natural age-related decrease in the body’s own collagen production and the associated loss of elasticity and moisture in the skin. More and more studies have now started to confirm that the targeted intake of collagen can actually contribute to the strengthening and maintenance of certain collagen-rich body structures (e.g. skin, joints).

Collagen can generally be taken at any time of day. It is best to choose a time that fits well into your own daily routine so that you do not forget to take it.

In principle, anyone can consume collagen. However, people who have an allergy to fish and fish components must refrain from taking fish collagen. Products containing fish collagen are subject to labelling requirements and must therefore have the allergen clearly marked on the label. There are no studies on use during pregnancy and lactation, therefore consumption during this time is not recommended.

References:

Asserin, J. et al. 2015. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12174. Epub 2015 Sep 12.

Choi, F.D. 2019. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16.

De Miranda, R.B. et. al. 2021. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Dec;60(12):1449-1461. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15518. Epub 2021 Mar 20.

Evans, M. et al. 2021. A randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study to evaluate the efficacy of a freshwater marine collagen on skin wrinkles and elasticity. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 20(3):825–834.

Sibilla, S. et al. 2015. An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 8(1).

De Almagro, M. C. 2020. The Use of Collagen Hydrolysates and Native Collagen in Osteoarthritis. AJBSR. 7(6):530–532.

Hong, H. et al. 2019. Preparation of low-molecular-weight, collagen hydrolysates (peptides): Current progress, challenges, and future perspectives. Food Chemistry. 301:125222.

Campos Mbg, P. M. 2015. An Oral Supplementation Based on Hydrolyzed Collagen and Vitamins Improves Skin Elasticity and Dermis Echogenicity: A Clinical Placebo-Controlled Study. Clin Pharmacol Biopharm. 04(03).

Castillo-Briceño, P. et al. 2011. A role for specific collagen motifs during wound healing and inflammatory response of fibroblasts in the teleost fish gilthead seabream. Mol Immunol. 48(6–7):826–834.

Geahchan, S. et al. 2022. Marine Collagen: A Promising Biomaterial for Wound Healing, Skin Anti-Aging, and Bone Regeneration. Mar Drugs. 20(1):61.

Duteil, L. et al. 2016. SPECIFIC NATURAL BIOACTIVE TYPE 1 COLLAGEN PEPTIDES ORAL INTAKE REVERSE SKIN AGING SIGNS IN MATURE WOMEN. J Aging Res & Lifestyle. :1–9.

Lugo, J. P. et al. 2015. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: A multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutr J. 2016 Jan 29;15:14.  doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0130-8.

Zdzieblik, D. et. al. 2015. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28;114(8):1237-45. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515002810. Epub 2015 Sep 10.

Mohammed A., He S. 2021. A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial to Evaluate the Efficacy of a Hydrolyzed Chicken Collagen Type II Supplement in Alleviating Joint Discomfort. Nutrients. 2021 Jul 18;13(7):2454. doi: 10.3390/nu13072454.

Li W, Sun K, Ji Y, Wu Z, Wang W, Dai Z, Wu G. Glycine Regulates Expression and Distribution of Claudin-7 and ZO-3 Proteins in Intestinal Porcine Epithelial Cells. J Nutr. 2016 May;146(5):964-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.228312. Epub 2016 Mar 30. PMID:

Howard A, Tahir I, Javed S, Waring SM, Ford D, Hirst BH. Glycine transporter GLYT1 is essential for glycine-mediated protection of human intestinal epithelial cells against oxidative damage. J Physiol. 2010 Mar 15;588(Pt 6):995-1009. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.186262. Epub 2010 Feb 1. PMID: PMCID: PMC2849964

Wu G, Bazer FW, Burghardt RC, Johnson GA, Kim SW, Knabe DA, Li P, Li X, McKnight JR, Satterfield MC, Spencer TE. Proline and hydroxyproline metabolism: implications for animal and human nutrition. Amino Acids. 2011 Apr;40(4):1053-63. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0715-z. Epub 2010 Aug 10. PMID: PMCID: PMC3773366.

Zhu S, Huang M, Feng G, Miao Y, Wu H, Zeng M, Lo YM. Gelatin versus its two major degradation products, prolyl-hydroxyproline and glycine, as supportive therapy in experimental colitis in mice. Food Sci Nutr. 2018 Apr 16;6(4):1023-1031. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.639. PMID: PMCID: PMC6021736.

Asserin, Jérome et al. 2015. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology vol. 14,4 (2015): 291-301. doi:10.1111/jocd.12174

Damodarasamy, Mamatha et al. 2014. Hyaluronan enhances wound repair and increases collagen III in aged dermal wounds. Wound repair and regeneration: official publication of the Wound Healing Society [and] the European Tissue Repair Society vol. 22,4 (2014): 521-6. doi:10.1111/wrr.12192

Clark, K.L., et al. 2008. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96. doi: 10.1185/030079908×291967.

Dressler, P. et al. 2018. Improvement of Functional Ankle Properties Following Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides in Athletes with Chronic Ankle Instability. J Sports Sci Med. 2018 Jun; 17(2): 298–304.

Flexikon Doccheck 2023. https://flexikon.doccheck.com/de/Kollagen#:~:text=Kollagen%20ist%20der%20wichtigste%20Faserbestandteil,in%20der%20extrazellul%C3%A4ren%20Matrix%20aufbauen. Zugriff:

https://flexikon.doccheck.com/de/Tropokollagen#:~:text=Tropokollagen%20ist%20eine%20von%20Fibroblasten,damit%20auch%20der%20Kollagenfasern%20darstellt. Zugriff: 11.10.2023

Wikipedia.de, 2023. Kollagen. Zugriff:

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