What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein that makes up one-third of the total protein in the human body. It is a hard, fibrous and insoluble protein. It is the main structural protein in the various connective tissues in animals. In most of the collagens, the molecules make up very long and thin fibrils. It serves as a major structural component of endomysium, in muscle tissue. Out of total muscle mass of the body, collagen weighs around 6%. It has a triple helical structure. On the basis of the degree of mineralization, it is divided into three main types, when compliant it is a tendon, when rigid it makes bone and when it is a gradient between rigid to compliant it makes up cartilage. There are numerous types of collagen, at least 16 are known, out of which 80-90 % of the collagen in the animal bodies belong to type I, II and III. Type I collagen fibrils are very hard like steel.
What does Collagen do?
It helps give strength to various bodily structures and also protects the skin by preventing spreading and absorption of pathogenic substances, microorganisms, and environmental toxins. It acts as a cement that holds everything together. It is found in almost everywhere in the body. It is even the major component of nails and hair.
Aging and Collagen
Collagen production slows down with age and the structure of cells weaken. While you are young, your body consistently keeps on producing collagen, but after 40 years of age, its synthesis declines. By the age of 60, its synthesis decreases dramatically. With declined levels of this protein, skin’s structural integrity reduces and it leads to sagging of the skin, ligaments and tendons become less elastic, wrinkles and lines appear on the skin and cartilage in joints weakens.
Collagen has many medical uses, like cosmetic surgery, wound dressing, guided tissue regeneration, treatment of osteoarthritis and skin revitalization etc.
High consumption of sugar, smoking, increased exposure to sunlight (UV rays) and some autoimmune disorders can cause the depletion of levels of collagen in the body.