Collagen in a nutshell
Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the ‘glue’ that holds the whole body together. It can be compared to a scaffold or matrix that provides strength, structure, elasticity and support for the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, and so on.
Collagen synthesised by the body itself (endogenous) has many important roles in supporting our health and wellbeing. Accelerated breakdown and depletion of the body’s natural collagen are associated with many health challenges. Supplemental collagen (exogenous) collagen is increasingly used for medical and cosmetic purposes, including support, healing and repair of the body’s tissues, such as wound healing after burns.
Our body’s collagen production begins to slow down as we age, causing the tell-tale signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pains due to weaker or decreased cartilage. Other lifestyle factors, such as stress, eating a diet high in refined sugar, smoking and too much sun exposure over a long period, also contribute to accelerated depletion of collagen.
The 5 most common types of collagen
- Type I: found in skin, tendon and ligaments, blood vessels, organs, bone(main component of the organic part of bone)
- Type II: cartilage
- Type III: reticulate (main component of reticular fibre), commonly found alongside type I.
- Type IV: forms basal lamina, the epithelium-secreted layer of the skin.
- Type V: cell surfaces, hairand placenta
Medical uses of collagen
Collagen, originating from human, bovine, porcine and egg based (ovine) sources, is widely used in the medical and cosmetic industry:
- As fillers, collagen injections are used to improve sign of ageing skin, such as wrinkles and lines, sagging skin and scars
- For wound dressing to encourage healing by attracting new skin cells to the site, providing a scaffold as platform for the growth of new tissue to cover the wound. Collagen dressings are used for second degree burns, skin grafts, non-healing wounds, etc.
- Collagen membranes are used in periodontal and dental implants. In oral surgery, barriers can be used to prevent fast-growing cells of the gingival epithelium migrating to a wound in a tooth overtaking the cavity. Collagen then prevents this migration and provides a supportive matrix with space for cells to regenerate.
- Collagen tissue grafts from donors are used in nerve regeneration, cardiac valve surgery and vascular reconstruction
- Collagen supplements or formulations may be beneficial in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Health benefits of collagen
- Supports the repair and maintenance of the heart and blood vessels, teeth, nails, bone, joints, skin and hair
- Supports healing of Leaky Gut Syndrome – refer my article on the Microbiome
- May boost metabolism
- May support detoxification processes and liver health
- May reduce cellulite and stretch marks
Factors that accelerate the depletion of collagen
- A diet high in refined sugar increases the rate of glycation, a process whereby sugar in the blood attaches to proteins to form new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs damage adjacent proteins and can make collagen dry, brittle and weak. Refer my book ‘Managing Diabetes and Related Health Challenges’ for more information on this topic (HBA1C)
- Smoking:many of the chemicals present in cigarettes (tobacco) damage collagen and elastin in the skin. Nicotine also narrows the blood vessels in the outer layers of the skin, which reduces the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin, thereby negatively impacting skin health.
- Overexposure to sunlight:Ultraviolet rays in sunlight cause collagen to break down at an increased rate, damaging collagen fibres and inducing the accumulation of abnormal elastin, which leads to the production of an enzyme that can also break down collagen. This process can lead to the formation of solar keratosis and deep wrinkles. This does not include the healthy, early morning and late afternoon exposure to the sun to optimise the synthesis of vitamin D, of course!
- Autoimmune disorders:Some autoimmune disorders cause antibodies to target collagen. Mutations to the genes responsible for the coding of collagen alpha-chains can affect the extracellular matrix, leading to a decrease in the amount of collagen secreted, or to the secretion of dysfunctional collagen (called keloid formation – thick scarring)
Collagen levels may become depleted over time, but by taking precautionary measures, it is possible to slow down and reduce ageing, by protecting collagen, keeping the skin, bones, heart, muscles and joints healthy, well into your 100’s!
How to optimise and support your own collagen formation
Collagen, like all proteins, is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are obtained from the proteins you eat, such as nuts, seeds, fish, poultry and meat; or from shakes high in amino acids as meal replacement for weight loss support or when you’re too busy to prepare lunch; herbal remedies for DNA telomerase support as found in my Timeless DNA Heart Brain Body Support and Timeless DNA Serum. The ingredients in both these formulations contains many super antioxidants and herbs to support the scaffolding or matrix of the collagen structure beneath the skin’s surface as well as the DNA inside the cell nucleus.
Nutrients to support collagen formation
- Proline and lysine (amino acids): found in egg whites, meat, cheese, soy, fish and chicken – refer many food source lists on internet
- Pro-anthocyanidins: found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries (berries are examples of superfoods to be taken daily)
- Vitamin C: found in oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, kiwi, peppers and broccoli
- Copper: can be found in shellfish, nuts, red meat.
- Vitamin A: found in animal-derived foods and in plant foods containing carotenes such as butternut, carrots and peppers.
- Soups containing bone broth
- Omega 3 rich in EPA and DHA
To top up all the above mentioned nutrients, take a supplemental optimal natural antioxidant and mineral formulation: Heart Brain Body Support contains all of these and more.
Many products containing collagen, including creams and powders, claim to support the skin’s texture and plumpness. However, despite the marketing of these products as ways to increase the levels of collagen within the body, collagen molecules themselves are too big to be absorbed through the skin. Therefore, using a serum and food supplement that support the body’s own collagen formation, would be more effective.
There is a solution to protect, optimise and encourage your own collagen production as a scaffold of tissue support, well into your 100’s!
After careful study and research over many years, I developed my Timeless DNA Serum to complement any existing day and night skin care regime, by adding essential ingredients to it to support the collagen and nutrition to your skin’s many layers. My Serum acts like a super charged delivery system of active nourishing ingredients to the skin, as well as the collagen scaffolding below the skin’s surface to allow deep penetration for skin repair and support. It is a potent and natural Serum with health and longevity promoting DNA telomerase supporting ingredients, blended with moisturising, healing and nourishing, mostly South African oils. Special oils and herbs were carefully selected to nourish, deeply moisturise, plump (supporting your own collagen scaffolding) and rejuvenate even the most sensitive and dehydrated skin. Some of the oils were also used as infusion medium for the telomerase activating herbs, to ensure youthful DNA support, while simultaneously restoring the skin’s moisturising and rejuvenation ability. The Serum is composed of a high concentration of active plant extracts in its purest form. This is Beauty Without.
My Timeless DNA Heart Brain Body Support formulation protects, supports and nourishes the whole body from the inside – Beauty Within