The Secret Of What Collagen Is Made Of

what collagen is made of

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Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body that provides structure to your connective tissues, blood vessels, nails, skin, muscle mass and gut lining--to name a few. Actually, it makes up 25-35% of the total amount of protein found in mammals.  In this article, you will learn what collagen is made of.

We'll talk about the importance of amino acids (such as glycine and proline), minerals and vitamin C to help produce collagen and what you need to do keep your existing protein supply.

By adding these things to your daily diet, you'll help to improve skin and skin elasticity, reduce joint pain and maintain gut health--just to name a few.

Although this article doesn't provide medical advice, there are studies that show adding more collagen through supplements and collagen-rich foods are an important way to support your vitality and beauty as you age.

Here are more details you'll want to know...

What is Collagen?

Collagen is known as a triple helix protein that is long, thin, strong and flexible. These proteins are called fibrils. 

Collagen fibrils are like thread in your shirt--they hold things together, provide support and are flexible. 

Not just any protein, it's the most abundant protein in women and men's bodies and throughout the animal kingdom.

In addition, collagen helps repair and build new cells and tissue, is in body fluid and is crucial for many body processes like the production of hormones.

Finally, the collagen protein makes up your skin, hair, nails, muscle, bones, cartilage, connective tissue and internal organs. 

Image of collagen fibrils

Collagen Fibrils

Once you approach your 30s and beyond, your natural collagen production begins to slow down.

More importantly, during and after menopause, there is a dramatic decrease in the new production of this supportive protein. 

You see the results of less collagen as wrinkles appear on your face, sagging skin, thinning hair, weak nails and achy joints. 

In addition, some may experience gut challenges, artery deterioration, weak bones, pelvic floor weakness and shrinking muscles.

Along with a natural reduction in collagen, lifestyle choices can damage existing protein.

These lifestyle activities include a diet with too much sugar, stress, not eating enough collagen-rich foods, smoking and excessive UV light.

Understand the Types

There are at least 16 types of collagen in the human body.

However, 80-90% of collagen falls into three types: Type I, Type II and Type III.

  • I: Skin, hair, nails, tendons, bone, ligaments, teeth, connective tissue 
  • II: Cartilage, eye
  • III: Skin, muscle, blood vessels

There is Type IV, which is similar to Type I. It appears in cell cultures and fetal tissue.

Type V also adds to bone strength, is supportive tissue in the cornea, and lives in muscles, liver, lungs, and placenta.

Unlike the other types of collagen, Type II is primarily in cartilage and has smaller fibrils in diameter than Type I. Type II is strong and resists major changes in shape and allows joints to absorb shocks.

Although collagen is found throughout the body, it's mainly concentrated in skin, bones, muscles and connective tissue.

Today, you can get supplements with all main collagen Types in one--which makes it easy to boost your production and help preserve the collagen you do have.

As you can see, collagen is an important part of your body and determines your quality of life and youthful appearance as you grow older.

How Does Your Body Make This Protein?

Amino Acids

collagen and amino acids

Every cell in your body contains protein. Proteins are the 'workhorses' within the cell and drive the function and structure of your body. 

Actually, every living thing is made up of protein. As a result, proteins are often called the 'building blocks of life'.
 
The collagen protein is made up of a large, long chain of amino acids.

There are 20 different amino acids: Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine.

  • Essential amino acids: 9 of the 20 amino acids are considered essential. In other words, the body cannot make these, you can only get these from food. (The nine are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.) (2)
  • Non-Essential amino acids: 11 of the 20 amino acids, can only be made by the body or when proteins break down naturally in your body.

Collagen contains high levels of glycine, proline, alanine and hydroxyproline (an amino acid made when vitamin C synthesizes proline and lysine).

What supplements do is to duplicate the same levels of amino acids in collagen. When someone takes a serving of  collagen peptides, the amino acids in the supplement are broken down by our body, then re-organized into collagen protein.

In fact, bone broth may actually help with hair growth and hair loss.

In other words, if you simmer bones and joints from animals for a long time, you will create a concentrated, nutritious amino acid super food. 

Bone broth is an excellent way to get more amino acids to help make new collagen protein. However, not everyone is able to keep a constant supply in their home. Therefore, we found the best bone broth to buy and did an in-depth review on each one for you.


Is it a Complete Protein?

When people say collagen is an incomplete protein, they are correct.

Even so, it doesn't make it an unimportant component in our bodies.

So we're clear, let's define what complete and incomplete proteins are: 

  • A 'complete protein' has all 9 of the essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
  • An 'incomplete protein' does not have all of the 9. Collagen is an incomplete protein as it's missing one of the essential amino acids--tryptophan is the missing amino acid.

For the most part, if you eat a healthy diet, you'll be sure to receive complete and incomplete proteins each day.

Thus, it's not necessary to track each type of protein specifically.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In summary, we are born with oodles of collagen in our bodies. 

Collagen, a vital protein, appears in just about every area of your body. It's especially present in your skin, hair, bones, muscles, connective tissue and joints.

As the years pass by, starting in your early 30s, your body doesn't make as much new collagen.

You start to see the effects of that collagen deficiency in wrinkly and saggy skin, achy joints, thinning hair, leaky gut...just to name a few.

In addition, lifestyle changes can damage the collagen you do have. Too much sun, sugar, smoking and less-than-optimal diet all can make you look and feel older than you are.

Overall, if you eat amino- and vitamin-rich healthy foods, consume bone broth and/or take a daily collagen supplement, you can help your body make more collagen and help preserve what you do have.

More collagen helps to keep your youthful beauty and vitality so that you can enjoy and get the most out of life.