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A Primer on Collagen


Collagen may be a naturally-occurring substance in our bodies but our capability to produce it can be hampered as we age.


 

The never-ending quest for new cures for our ailments have led us to some of the most unique and unlikely sources, from fungi and chitin shells, to chicken sternum. This time, there is a new favorite — collagen used for osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is a degenerative bone disease that affects approximately 30 million adults in the US. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of this disease. Osteoarthritis results from microscopic damage in the composition of our bone cartilage that occurs over time. Cartilage covers the ends of the bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage is what makes our joints articulate smoothly. It also acts like a shock absorber for movement. The cartilage’s structure breaks down as we age. This eventually leads to erosion of the cartilage and collagen fragments. Our bone also thickens and osteophytes or spurs may form. Another common disorder linked to arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis — where the body’s immune system attacks the tissues that surround the joint as well other related tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the lining of the joint called the synovium becomes inflamed and this influences the destruction of the joint cartilage. Regardless of the type, the pain and inflammation from arthritis, can severely impact our quality of life by limiting our joints’ mobility and by eroding our body’s bone structure.

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Collagen may be a naturally-occurring substance in our bodies but our capability to produce it can be hampered as we age. Our endogenous collagen may break down without regenerating. When we consider that collagen is essential for our joint health and that our body’s capacity for creating collagen declines as we age, taking collagen supplements seems to make a lot of sense. But what can these supplements do for us? Taking supplements to boost our health is nothing new. Collagen contains amino acids essential for keeping tissues such as skin, muscle and bone functioning well.

What we should also know is that collagen comes in a variety of forms. Types 1 and 3 can be taken to support skin, muscles, bones, and hair and nail growth. Type 2 collagen protein makes up the fluids and function in the cartilage and joints. Supplements containing Type 2 collagen should be taken separately from Types 1 and 3 to ensure optimal absorption. Over 90 percent of collagen in the body is comprised of Type 1 & 3 Collagen. Proteins in these types include glycine, proline, alanine, and hydroxyproline. Supplements for collagen types 1 and 3 are taken to help keep the integrity of hair, skin, bones and nail beds.

type2collagenCollagen Type 2 is produced by chondrocytes (the non-cellular matrix of cartilage) – a liquid-like filling within the cartilage. Type 2 collagen is taken for joint and cartilage support. There are studies that suggest a benefit from using these collagen supplements but the data should be investigated further.

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If you are seeking to sustain your looks and performance with health supplements, be sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions and for use and keep close tabs on how much you take. Recognizing the various types and their specific uses can help you make the most out of your program.