What is Collagen, its Health Benefits and Sources

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body. It is found in bones, muscles, skin and tendons. Collagen is important for the structure and strength of the body.

"Endogenous collagen" is natural collagen made by the body on its own. Endogenous collagen has many important functions. It is related to many types of health problems.

"Exogenous collagen" is collagen made from external factors. It is taken from external sources and supplements. It is used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Exogenous collagen is also used to keep tissues healthy.

What is collagen and its functions?

What is collagen?

Collagen is a solid, insoluble, and fibrous protein. It accounts for one-third of the total protein in the body.

Most collagen molecules link together to form long, thin fibres called "fibrils". These fibrils are bound together so that they provide strength to each other. And from these, the skin gets strength and elasticity.

Although there are about 16 different types of collagen, 80 to 90 per cent of the collagen in the body is of only three types. The names of these three types of collagen are collagen type 1, collagen type 2, and collagen type 3.

These different types of collagen have different structures and functions. The collagen present inside the body is strong and flexible. The fibres of type 1 collagen are especially flexible and strong. If equal amounts of steel and type 1 collagen fibres are compared, these fibres would be stronger than steel.

What are the functions of collagen?

Collagen is mainly secreted from cells of the connective tissue.

The inner middle layer of the skin (called the "dermis") is supported by collagen fibres to form a fibrous network of cells known as "fibroblasts". It removes dead skin cells and creates new cells.

In addition, collagen acts as a protective shield for other delicate organs such as the kidneys.

Collagen level in the body declines with age, which can lead to skin-related problems such as wrinkles. In women especially, collagen loss is rapid after menopause. And after the age of sixty, it is very common for collagen production to decline.

Benefits of Collagen

Benefits of collagen for skin

The most important benefit of collagen is that it is useful for keeping your skin healthy. This essential protein gives your skin elasticity, making you look younger and healthier. But as you age, the level of collagen starts decreasing, due to which your skin starts getting dry, loose and wrinkled.

A study in the year 2014 included 69 women aged 35 to 55. Of these, 46 women were given a collagen supplement, while the rest were given a placebo. Women who took collagen saw an improvement in skin elasticity after four weeks. Another similar study also found that women who took collagen supplements saw a reduction in wrinkles within eight weeks.

Benefits of collagen for hair

Collagen helps in hair growth and regrowth. It has antioxidant properties, which reduce the production of "free radicals" in the body. Free radicals produced in the body are formed due to various metabolic processes and they damage the hair follicles. This also causes hair fall. But having a sufficient amount of collagen in the hair strengthens the hair follicles and helps in hair growth. Collagen supplementation makes your hair thicker, stronger, and healthier.

Benefits of collagen for joint pain

With ageing, the cartilage (strong and flexible tissue connecting the bones) starts decreasing, due to which you start feeling pain and stiffness in the joints. Collagen may help reduce joint pain and symptoms of arthritis.

In one study, some people were given a supplement of type 2 collagen made from chicken necks for 90 days. After a few days, these people saw a 40 percent reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms, while the severity of other symptoms also decreased by about 33 percent. Another study in 1993 found a reduction in inflammation and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis with the same supplement of collagen.

Collagen for muscles

Collagen is a major component of muscle tissue, so it is effective in building muscle mass. Along with this, collagen provides you energy during exercise. There isn't much research on collagen and exercise, but a 2015 study gave collagen supplements to men with sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass due to aging). At 12 weeks, these people saw less fat and increased muscle strength than others.

Collagen for the Digestive System

Collagen strengthens the connective tissue and lining that protects the digestive tract. This is very important, as a blockage in the intestinal process can cause many substances to enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation.

A 2003 study looked at 170 people with inflammatory bowel disease (long-term inflammation in the digestive tract) and found that most people had very low levels of collagen. It has been shown that increasing the amount of collagen helps in the formation of the lining of the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract and keeps your intestines healthy. However, there is very little research on the effects of collagen supplements on the digestive system.

Sources of Collagen

There are many foods that are rich in collagen. 

Citrus fruits: Vitamin C benefits your body in many ways, as well as it plays an important role in increasing collagen. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that increases the synthesis of collagen and helps in reducing free radicals. You can include fruits containing vitamin C such as lemon, orange and citrus fruits in your daily diet.


Green vegetables: Vegetables like broccoli and spinach effectively increase collagen levels. These also helps prevent collagen damage due to smoke, dust, cigarette smoke and excessive sun exposure.


Red vegetables: Some red colored vegetables contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps in increasing collagen. You can get this antioxidant from beets, peppers and tomatoes. Lycopene not only increases collagen, but also protects the skin from the sun's rays.


Orange vegetables: Orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots can help you meet your collagen requirements. These vegetables contain vitamin A, which plays a major role in building cells and keeping the skin healthy. Orange fruits such as mangoes and apricots are also great sources of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.


Berries: Berries are skin-healing fruits. Black mulberry, cherry, jamun etc help in the formation of collagen in the body. They are also rich in antioxidants essential for the skin.


Garlic and Olives: Sulfur has been used for centuries for treating skin diseases and dandruff. Sulfur, which is present in high amounts in garlic and green and black olives, is considered important in increasing collagen in joints and skin.


Eggs: Healthy proteins are essential for the body and eggs are a rich source. Eggs supply the amino acids lysine and proline, which are essential in collagen production.


Pineapple: Pineapple and its juice help synthesize collagen in the body. Including pineapple can make your skin shiny.
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