Q: What is the Science Behind Collagen?

A:

Mainstream usage of collagen has been mostly topical, which leads people to mistakenly believe it to be only something to apply externally to skin (and in some cases, inject with a needle to plump the skin).

Collagen is a natural protein that our body produces. It is a major structural component of the human body (different types of collagen make up our skin, bones, muscles, and joints), and we depend on collagen to keep our skin plump, hair strong, bones healthy, joints lubricated, and digestive system working smoothly.

And though our body is able to produce ample amounts of collagen when we are young, unfortunately, sometime after the age of 25, our bodily production of collagen begins to decline at a rate of 1.5 percent per year (in addition to the decline in the quality of our produced collagen). By our mid-40s, our collagen levels may have fallen by as much as 30 percent. Without collagen, our cells lose structure, increasingly becoming weaker, stretchier, and thinner—and essentially, this decline is the true cause of many of our skin woes, such as wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, dry skin, and cellulite.

But don’t worry; you can make up for the collagen you lose by consuming collagen, the foundation of healthy skin.

Amino Acids are the reason that collagen is so beneficial to us.
Some of the most confusing bits of the science behind collagen have to do with amino acids.

Amino acids are crucial building blocks of our body. A large proportion of our cells, muscles, and tissue is made up of amino acids, and they carry out many important bodily functions, such as giving cells their structure. We depend on amino acids—they are at the basis of all life processes, and insufficiency can lead to negative impacts on our skin, hair, bones, and health (arthritis and osteoporosis; high cholesterol; diabetes; obesity; hair loss; poor sleep, mood, and performance, and even virility).

There are 20 different amino acids in the human body. These can be grouped into three different categories—essential, semiessential, and nonessential. (Note: The use of the terms essential and nonessential is not to indicate one is less essential for our health than the other—it just indicates whether the human body can create those amino acids on its own.)

Essential Amino Acids

Eight essential amino acids are found in our body. However, we cannot produce these acids on our own, so we must ingest them from external sources.

    • isoleucine
    • leucine
    • lysine
    • methionine
    • phenylalanine
    • threonine
    • tryptophan
  • valine

Semiessential Amino Acids

Two semiessential amino acids are found in our body. We cannot produce these acids on our own, so we must ingest these, too, from external sources.

    • arginine
  • histidine

Nonessential Amino Acids

Ten nonessential amino acids found in our body. We can produce these acids on our own, but ingesting them from external sources will still be beneficial in supporting our day-to-day functions:

    • alanine
    • asparagine
    • aspartic acid
    • cysteine
    • glutamic acid
    • glutamine
    • glycine
    • proline
    • serin
  • tyrosine

Collagen, as a complex protein, contains 18 out of the 20 existing amino acids found in our body. And studies have shown that these 18 amino acids, when ingested, support all of the different various functions of our body in different ways: our skin, hair, brain, bones, teeth, nails, heart, digestion, muscles, weight, mood, virility, and even sleep.

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