Collagen: What the Science Says

What is Collagen?

The word “collagen” is derived from Greek words meaning “gum producing”. Collagen is essentially the “glue” that holds our bodies together. Making up 25-30% of all protein content in the body, it is our primary structural protein and can be found in the extracellular matrix (ECM) and connective tissues, including bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, the intestinal lining, blood vessels, dentin of teeth, and corneas.  In addition to providing structural integrity to the body, collagen provides strength and elasticity to the skin and supports biological cell functions, tissues and organ development, healing of bones and blood vessels, and formation of the extracellular matrix.

Collagen is made up of three polypeptide chains, each composed of 1050 amino acids, primarily glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Currently, 28 different types of collagen exist. The five most common types include:

Type I collagen:found in skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, teeth, and vascular ligature

Type II collagen: found in cartilage, eyes (vitreous body), and vertebral discs (nucleus pulposus)

Type III collagen: found in skin, muscles, blood vessels, and reticular fibres

Type IV collagen: found in the basal lamina and the basement membrane (epithelium-secreted layer)

Type V collagen: found in hair, placenta, corneas, bones, placenta, and cell surfaces

The main component of human skin and prevalent in most connective tissues, type I collagen makes up 90% of collagen in the body, followed by type II and type III.

What factors affect collagen levels in the body?

Several factors impacting collagen levels in the body have been identified. The following factors have been shown to impair collagen synthesis and/or accelerate its degradation. 

  • Age
  • Excess stress
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Smoking
  • Excess sun exposure
  • High sugar intake
  • Nutrient deficiencies (i.e., Vitamin C)

What are the benefits of collagen?

Collagen has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition to its’ own antioxidant activities, collagen hydrolysates may support the activities of other antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). There is also a significant body of research supporting the use of collagen in a number of different conditions. Collagen helps to support skin, nail, bone, joint, and cardiometabolic health. Collagen peptides may also support weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight.

Skin & Nail Health

Skin aging

Skin, the largest organ in the body, is primarily composed of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. These components help to maintain skin structure and hydration. Studies have shown that collagen peptides, which can be absorbed into the dermis of the skin, can improve skin health and aging by increasing the number and diameter of collagen and elastin fibers, stimulating fibroblast proliferation and motility, and increasing the production of hyaluronic acid. Several studies have noted improvements in the signs and symptoms of skin aging following collagen supplementation, including improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, wrinkling, and dermal collagen density. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that administration of 2.5 g daily of bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) reduced eye wrinkle volume. BCP also increased procollagen type I by 65% and elastin by 18% after eight weeks. Another study found that 1000 mg of low-molecular-weight collagen peptide composed of 3% Gly-Pro-Hyp administered daily over 12 weeks improved skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling. Furthermore, it appears that the composition of peptides may impact the beneficial effects of collagen supplementation. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study compared the effects of two forms of collagen hydrolysates with different compositions of bioactive dipeptides Pro-Hyp and Hyp-Gly. While results were significant in both treatment groups, greater improvements in skin wrinkles, hydration, and elasticity were seen with the higher content of Pro-Hyp and Hyp-Gly.

Pressure ulcers 

Collagen supplementation has been shown to be an effective treatment for pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, which generally occur over bony prominences as a result of long periods of pressure. An eight-week randomized, prospective, controlled, multicenter trial found that long-term care residents receiving collagen protein hydrolysate demonstrated better Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing (PUSH) scores compared to residents receiving standard care. Another study noted that healing of ulcers treated with topical collagen over eight weeks was comparable to topical hydrocolloid treatment.

Cellulite

Collagen may also be effective in improving cellulite. A placebo-controlled study examined the effects of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) on cellulite in 105 women aged 24 to 50 years. Over the course of six months, subjects received 2.5 g of BCP daily or a placebo. BCP treatment resulted in significant improvements in cellulite, skin waviness on thighs, dermal density, and length of subcutaneous borderline in both normal and overweight women, however, the results were more pronounced in normal weight women.

Brittle nail syndrome

Commonly occurring in women, brittle nail syndrome is characterized by rough, ragged, and peeling nails. Collagen may improve these symptoms and accelerate the growth of nails. One study examined the effects of 2.5 g daily of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) for 24 weeks. Treatment with BCP decreased the frequency of broken nails by 42% and accelerated growth rate by 12%, indicating that collagen peptide supplementation may be an effective treatment for brittle nail syndrome. 

Bone & Joint Health

Bone density and osteoporosis

A systematic review on the therapeutic effects of collagen hydrolysate noted positive effects on both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Collagen hydrolysate was found to offer protective effects on articular cartilage, improve bone mineral density, and relieve pain. A placebo-controlled study examined the effects of collagen supplementation in postmenopausal women with primary, age-related bone mineral density reductions. A 5 g dosage of specific collagen peptides administered daily over 12 months improved bone mineral density as a result of increased formation and reduced degradation of bones.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Several other studies have shown that collagen supplementation is effective in improving symptoms of osteoarthritis. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 250 subjects with primary knee osteoarthritis examined the effects of 10 g of collagen hydrolysates per day over six months. Improvements in joint comfort were noted. The most significant results were noted in individuals with the greatest joint deterioration and those with lower intakes of meat. Another study compared the use of undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) with glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis treatment. After 90 days, UC-II has determined a more effective treatment demonstrated by significantly greater improvements in a number of osteoarthritic measures, including WOMAC, VAS, and Lequesne’s functional index scores.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Collagen has also been found to improve rheumatoid arthritis-related joint pain. A study compared the effects and safety of chicken-derived type II collagen with methotrexate, an immunosuppressant drug often used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Results demonstrated that both collagen and methotrexate treatment groups showed statistically significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and swelling. The research also notes the added benefit of collagen treatment due to the lower incidence of adverse events compared to methotrexate. Furthermore, studies also suggest that the therapeutic effect of collagen supplementation involves immune system regulation in individuals with RA. Clinical trials have demonstrated reductions in anti-collagen antibody titers, rheumatoid factor, and TNF-alpha following administration of bovine type II collagen. 

Joint pain & exercise 

Various forms of collagen supplementation have been found not only to improve joint pain in individuals with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis but also in healthy individuals without history of arthritis or joint pain. In one study, 60 healthy, postmenopausal women were given 500 mg of natural eggshell membrane (NEM) daily or a placebo to determine the effects on exercise-induced joint pain or stiffness and cartilage turnover. The study found that NEM improved joint pain and stiffness following exercise. Decreases in cartilage degradation was also noted, indicating a chondroprotective effect. Similarly, another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that 40 mg of UC-II administered daily improved knee extension and joint discomfort during exercise in healthy individuals. Collagen supplementation may also improve collagen synthesis, contributing to tissue repair and injury prevention. In a randomized, double-blind trial, vitamin C–enriched gelatin taken before exercise increased synthesis of collagen demonstrated by higher circulating levels the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine.

How can we increase collagen levels in the body?

Bone broth

Rich in collagen and many other beneficial nutrients, bone broth may be one of the best ways to get more collagen through the diet. It can be made at home from bones of your choice, such as beef, chicken, turkey, and fish. Simmering bones over a long period of time the collagen in the form of gelatin. If you’ve ever made homemade bone broth, you may have noticed that, as the occurring cools, a layer of gelatin forms at the top.

Supplementation of Collagen

Taking a high-quality grass-fed collagen powder on a daily basis has been shown to greatly improve all the ailments listed above.

For more information if Collagen is right for you visit Better Health Clinic.

Getting Straight on Your Posture: Its Importance & Tips for Correcting

By: Laurie Larson

Good posture is for more than appearances. While good posture is important for people’s impression of you, making you appear more confident, taller, slimmer, and younger, there are even more health reasons for why it worth consciously working on how you sit, stand, and sleep. 

So how is good posture defined and what can you do if you have poor posture? Here’s why posture matters and tips for consciously correcting your posture.

What is Proper Posture?

Proper posture has to do with proper alignment of your body and positioning as it relates to the force of gravity on your body, where gravity has constant pressure on our joints, muscles, and ligaments. 

You want to make sure that no one structure or part of your body is receiving more than its fair share of stress from the effects of gravity. Poor posture in this regard can have to do with  inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion or muscle strength issues that impact balance. 

According to Harvard Medical School, good posture means: chin parallel to the floor; shoulders even; no flexing or arching of the spine; arms at sides with elbows straight and even; abdominal muscles braced; even hips; even knees that are pointed straight ahead; and weight of body distributed equally on both feet.

Why Posture Matters

There are several reasons besides appearance and impression to others for why good posture is important: 

  • Breathe Easier. Sitting hunched over at your desk can cause you restricted airways, while not straightening your back while sitting or standing can put added pressure on your lungs. For people with panic attacks, restricted airways can make it longer to recover.
  • Combat Effects of Gravity. Gravity is a never ending force on our bodies, and good posture allows for the effects of gravity to be evenly distributed throughout our bodies. You don’t want certain muscle groups or structures to work too much harder than others in your body.
  • Digest Food Easier. Slouching causes more pressure on your internal organs, which impacts digestion, in addition to constipation, acid reflux, and hernias.

Tips for Sitting, Standing, and Sleeping Postures

It’s never too late to improve your posture; however, if you have long-term postural issues, it will take longer of a conscious effort to make daily postural corrections. Often your joints can adapt to long standing postural defects, making it hard to even detect yourself where you posture needs improving. 

See ACA guidelines for what constitutes good posture when standing, sitting, and sleeping. 

Sitting Posture Tips

Back pain can be a warning sign of poor posture, especially when sitting in a chair all day long at work. Be aware of pain that starts in the neck and works its way down to the shoulders and back, or pain that goes away once you change positions. 

While sitting down at work, take advantage of the chair’s features. Take time to align your ears, shoulders, and hips vertically. Remember that any prolonged position will take a toll on your body and energy. You can ease the work of back muscles by shifting from using the back rest to shifting forward closer to the edge of your seat. 

You should avoid at all times hunching your shoulders, crossing your legs unevenly, or tilting your head upward. Remember to get up and move in your office regularly, and change positions frequently.

Standing Posture Tips

In order to look taller, slimmer, and younger, not to mention improve your long-term health, when standing, take conscious effort to improve your posture. Pretend you are standing up against a wall to measure your height. Remember to hold your head straight and tuck in your chin. Remember to keep your shoulders back, knees straight, and keep your stomach tucked in. Don’t let your backside or hips stick out. Stretch your head out toward the sky.

Sleeping Posture Tips 

To maintain good sleeping posture, it is important that you invest in the right sleeping structure, including a firm mattress, not one that is saggy and soft. It’s also important that you choose the right pillow for your sleeping position to keep your spine in proper alignment.  If you are a side sleeper, slightly bend your knees but don’t hug them, and place your pillow underneath your head so that your head is level with your spine. If you are a back sleeper, use a smaller pillow rather than a big, puffy one that you put directly under your neck.

Identifying that you have a postural issue is half the battle, where the remaining half involves making conscious, everyday modifications and adjustments to how you sit, stand, and sleep, in order to reverse what can be years of poor posture. Your body and energy levels will thank you!

Sleep: How Much Do You Need and How to Get More of It

Guest Post from The Sleep Help Institute By: Ellie Porter (Managing Editor)| SleepHelp.org

ellie@sleephelp.org

On an average day, 28 to 44 percent of adults sleep less than seven hours, the recommended daily amount. Anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep is considered healthy with a few people falling above or below the average. Many people treat sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. However, sleep is vital to your physical, mental, and emotional health and is key to reaching your personal and professional goals.

The Need for Sleep

There are key processes that only take place while you sleep. During the first of the deep sleep stages, the body releases human growth hormone to stimulate the repair of damaged, worn out muscles. The immune system recharges and transports white blood cells through the bloodstream. And, the brain cleanses itself of toxic proteins, prunes and strengthens communication pathways, and consolidates memories all while you sleep.

Sleep is also important for your functioning during the day. Without enough of it, the body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less of the satiety hormone leptin. The brain’s reward center also goes haywire for high-fat, sugary foods, causing intense cravings for unhealthy foods.

Emotional stability relies on sleep too. The portion of the brain that processes your emotions goes into overdrive if you don’t get enough sleep, especially over negative experiences and feelings. The logic part of the brain that normally balances your emotions becomes less active, leaving you prone to mood swings, irritability, and overreacting.

How to Get More

Thankfully, the regularity and length of your sleep cycle are highly responsive to your personal habits and behaviors, giving you the power to change your sleep results. However, it will take a consistent effort on your part.

  • Commit to a Bedtime: The body is designed for sleep, and one of the best ways to promote it is to commit to a regular bedtime. Consistency allows the brain to recognize and predict to start the sleep cycle.
  • Make a Routine: Trouble falling and staying asleep? Try developing a soothing bedtime routine. Routines provide another way to trigger the sleep cycle while giving you a chance to address stress and tension. Those who need to bring their heart rate and blood pressure down before bedtime may benefit from adding five to ten minutes of meditation to their routine. Meditation improves the connection between the logic and emotion center of the brain, and with time, trains the body to elicit it’s “relaxation effect.” Yoga is another option for those who may experience stress and tension in their muscles. It has been shown to reduce stress-related inflammation while improving mood.
  • Address Sleep Issues: Sometimes there’s more at work than poor sleep habits. If you’ve struggled with insomnia for an extended period of time, snore excessively, or struggle with restless legs, you may have an underlying issue that needs medical attention. There are medications, devices like anti-snore mouthguards, and other treatment options that may help.
  • Turn Off the TV (and other electronics): Electronic devices can disrupt your sleep cycle in more ways than one. Some emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. And, depending on what you watch or read, the content can stimulate your brain and emotions, making it difficult to sleep. Give yourself at least two to three hours of screen-free time before bed.

Conclusion

Changing your habits may take time, but the benefits you’ll see make it worth the effort. When adequate sleep is coupled with good nutrition and regular exercise, you’re creating a foundation on which to build a happy, fulfilling life.

At Better Health there is also a few services that can even further enhance quality sleep. From Nutrition to Acupuncture to Osteopath all can add different healing modalities to bring you that full nights sleep, you truly need.

The Author ~ Ellie Porter ~ Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org 1601 5th Ave, Suite 1100 Seattle, WA 98101ellie@sleephelp.org