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What Is Collagen Protein?

A diagram of younger skin and older skin showing how the decrease in collagen can lead to wrinkles.
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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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Collagen protein is one of a family of proteins found in the tissues of mammals. These proteins are particularly abundant in the muscle and connective tissues as well as the skin, cartilage, and blood vessels. Collagen protein is a critical component of healthy tissue structures in most areas of the body, and deficiencies may lead to serious physical ailments and premature aging. Collagen deficiencies are most commonly caused by genetic defects and nutritional imbalances and may be alleviated by using a collagen protein supplement. Supplemental preparations containing the protein are also claimed to be beneficial in weight loss regimens.

This group of proteins represents a significant percentage of the total protein content of the human body, with average concentrations running between 25 and 35%. Collagen is a essential tissue building block and is found in large concentrations in fibrous connective tissue such as skin, tendons, and ligaments. It is also found in muscle connective tissues and in the bones, blood vessels, and cartilage. Deficiencies in collagen can lead to serious health problems and a range of less threatening conditions such as premature aging of the skin, dull hair, and weak or brittle nails.

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Collagen proteins are produced by the body from amino acids in the diet. When this process is negatively affected by genetic defects or the lack of adequate dietary intake of natural amino acids, collagen deficiencies can arise. The natural aging process in all humans also sees a gradual reduction in collagen production and the breakdown of existing collagen components of connective tissue. This process results in a loss of elasticity in the skin resulting in sagging and wrinkles. Depletion of collagen also leads to cellulite, dry skin, and loss of condition in the hair and nails. For these reasons, most topical anti-aging products have a strong collagen component which is formulated for easy absorption into the skin.

Fortunately there are a wide range of collagen protein supplements available should a deficiency be identified. Many of these supplements combine collagen protein compounds with other protein sources such as predigested whey. As with most essential elements though, natural sources are always best, and it is preferable to boost collagen production through increased amino acid intake in the diet. There have also been claims, some as far back as the 1970s, that collagen protein supplements may aid in weight loss, although these are largely without any scientific basis and should be considered with caution.

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anon324782
Post 3

@Miss Daphne: I don't think there has been much research into applying collagen to your skin, although it might be a worthwhile research project. Maybe we could get some government funding.

SailorJerry
Post 2

@MissDaphne - No, you're right. I'm reading the same thing, that collagen can't be absorbed through the skin. It's in the same category as vitamins and gelatin. It sits on the surface of the skin. I don't know whether having collagen sit on the surface of the skin has a cosmetic benefit--maybe it smooths things out?

If you really want to keep your skin young, wear a big hat and stay in the shade! You can take hydrolyzed collagen, but for most people, it won't be necessary.

MissDaphne
Post 1

Does collagen really work for your skin if you apply it to your sin instead of eating it? I've heard that vitamins and gelatin are no good if you put them on your skin; you have to consume them. (Your shampoo might say it contains vitamin E, and that's true, but notice it doesn't promise anything from that.)

I would have thought you would need to take collagen supplements to see a benefit. Or am I wrong--can it be absorbed through the skin?

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