Collagen is the most abundant, naturally occurring protein in the body. It is a the main component of connective tissue, making up about 30% of the whole-body protein content, and is a crucial component providing structural support for bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
Collagen is a long, fibrous structural protein, that form tough bundles called collagen fibers. These fibers are a major component of the extracellular matrix that supports most tissues and gives cells structure from the outside, but collagen is also found inside certain cells. Collagen has great tensile strength, and is the main component of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone and skin.1, 2 Further, it strengthens blood vessels and plays a role in tissue development. It is also present in the cornea and lens of the eye, in a crystalline form.
Along with soft keratin, collagen is responsible for skin strength and elasticity, and its degradation leads to wrinkles lines and sagging of the skin, that accompany aging.3, 4
Nutritionally, hydrolyzed collagen is not regarded as protein due to its unbalanced composition of amino acids, specifically, not including an essential amino acid, tryptophan. However, while the nutritional value of collagen is relatively low, it has been found that there is a high possibility that the unique sequence of collagen peptides could allow it to play a physiological role as a signal transduction molecule, as well as functioning as a structural protein.
In a 2008 study in Tokyo, 33 women in age from 40 to 60 years who took 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen daily for 2 months, showed a 91% increase in skin hydration and resilience.5
A study in Lyon, France in 2008 showed similar findings in an age group of 35 to 55 years: an increase in skin smoothness and hydration. Following 12 weeks of 10 grams hydrolyzed collagen daily consumption, 41% showed less furrowing, less wrinkles, more resilient, more hydrated.6, 7
The effects of collagen on joint health are well known and well documented. In an article in the journal Science8, a study concluded that collagen decreased swelling and tenderness of joints, as well as the pain associated with the disease. Collagen supplementation is a popular way to manage the pain and swelling of normal aging, as well as diseases such as arthritis.
In Europe, hydrolyzed collagen is widely used as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Studies conducted in Germany and the Czech Republic suggest that 7 to 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen per day were associated with a decrease in pain and stiffness in joints, and subjects reported that it was as effective as acetaminophen in relieving arthritic pain.
Hydrolyzed collagen is believed to promote the growth of cells that build bone, making them stronger, and helping to fight osteoporosis and other possible bone deficiencies.
In addition, it is also believed that the amino acids found in hydrolyzed collagen, along with a good diet and exercise, can help encourage muscle growth, resulting in a higher metabolic rate, and leading to improved weight loss.
1 – Fratzl, P. (2008). Collagen: Structure and Mechanics. New York: Springer.
2 – Buehler, M. J. (2006). “Nature designs tough collagen: Explaining the nanostructure of collagen fibrils”. PNAS 103 (33): 12285–12290.
3 – Structure of Skin | The Ageing Skin
4 – British Journal of Dermatology (Vol 93, Issue 6)
5 – SOUKEN Study; Tokyo, Japan; 2008
6 – DERMISCAN Study; Lyon, France, 2008
7 – COURAGE and KHAZAKA Study; Lyon, France, 2008
8 – Science (Vol 261, Issue 5129)