Why is Collagen Classified As a Protein?

Overview

Collagen is an insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix that our body produces naturally. Collagen production is important for several aspects of our health and functions within our body. It is found in our connective tissues, tendons, bones, joints, and skin. As we age, our collagen production declines by around 1% each year. There are many types of supplements, including hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, collagen protein powder, collagen pills, and liquid collagen. The type of collagen you take isn't as important as the quality of the collagen supplement itself. However, hydrolyzed collagen is the best form of a supplement because it breaks down the collagen molecules and it is easier for the body to digest and absorb. Different types of collagen also include the animals from which they are derived. These include porcine collagen, marine collagen, bovine collagen, and chicken collagen. There are also types of collagen that are specific to the area in which they are found in the body. Type I collagen is a protein and helps form our bones, skin, blood vessel walls, cartilage, and other tissues. It’s also the most abundant type of collagen found in the human body. It’s the strongest type, meaning it works the most effectively to heal and rebuild in your body. Type II collagen is found in the body’s cartilage. This means that it is used to support joint and connective tissue health. Type III collagen is similar to Type I and is largely found in our skin and organs. It’s the second most abundant type of collagen in your body. Both Type I and Type III help with elasticity in the skin and gut support. Type IV collagen is found in the basal lamina and near the basement membrane. Type V collagen is what composes the cells in the placenta of a woman during pregnancy. Type X collagen is typically found within our cartilage and is important for bone, joint, and cartilage growth. There are other types, such as type VI and type VIII, but they are not as common. Fibrillar collagens are types II, IX, X, and XI. Based on their molecular structures, collagens are classified as either fibril-forming or non-fibril-forming. So, we now know some background information and that collagen is a protein, but why is it classified as such? 



Why is collagen a protein?

To better understand why collagen is classified as a protein, we first need to understand what exactly is protein. All proteins are made from amino acids, and they are one of three classes of foods. These food classes are also known as macronutrients and include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The amino acids act as building blocks for protein, and protein acts as the building blocks for muscle mass. All cells (plants, animals, humans, etc.) need protein in order to grow and function. Additionally, protein helps boost our immune system and keeps us full. There are several sources of protein in either food or supplement form. These include meats and seafood such as turkey, chicken breast, lean beef, and fish. Fish is great because not only does it contain protein, it contains omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren't vegan or vegetarian, this is one of the best ways to consume protein. Some dairy products, such as greek yogurt and cottage cheese, have a high amount of protein in them. Greek yogurt is great because it's low in fat, but contains calcium and vitamin D, and typically 10 grams or more of protein. Lentils are an excellent source of protein, as a half cup contains 12 grams of protein. There are tons of hearty soup recipes and other dishes that contain lentils. They're easy to make, and they are a great addition to any meal. Nuts like peanut butter, almonds, cashews, pistachios are perfect, easy options for a protein boost. Only 2 tablespoons of peanut butter will get you 8 grams of protein, and an ounce of almonds gives you 6 grams. Grab a handful of nuts or a spoonful of peanut butter for a quick snack and lots of protein! Beans such as black beans, chickpeas (which are used to make hummus, also high in protein), and kidney beans are packed with protein. In just a half cup of black beans, there are 7 grams of protein. Eggs and egg whites are amazing protein boosters. One egg contains 6 grams of protein, so adding one or two to your meal will really make a difference. Hard-boiled eggs also make great snacks that are filling and healthy. For those who are vegan, tempeh and tofu are high in protein. A half-cup of tofu contains 10 grams of protein, while one cup of tempeh contains a whopping 31 grams of protein. This is something that anyone could consider adding to their diet if they want an easy source of tons of protein. Quinoa is a great option for any diet if you want to eat more protein. There are 8.4 grams of protein per cup. It's a great substitute for rice and makes a good addition to any salad. 

What kind of protein is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is a structural protein, meaning it provides support and structure to our body. Crosslinks help to stabilize collagen molecules. It forms collagen fibrils, which are typically thin and long. The collagen structure is formed through chains of amino acids (specifically triple helix/triple helices amino acids) that act as building blocks for the body. These amino acids and collagen chains give strength and support to the body. In collagen chains, there are three amino acid residues. The collagen helix is composed of different collagen chains. Two essential amino acids are glycine and proline, which are used in the formation of collagen. Glycine is the smallest amino acid and has no side chain in its formation. Proline is hydroxylated to hydroxyproline, and lysine is hydroxylated to hydroxylysine. Hydroxyproline is also important for collagen formation. These amino acids are what forms an amino acid sequence. Collagen molecules join in groups of three to form polypeptide chains. These amino acids use vitamin C to form procollagen, which is eventually turned into collagen. It works in conjunction with other proteins, such as elastin and keratin. Collagen, along with elastin, works within our dermis to improve skin elasticity, provide hydration, and keep skin plump and healthy. Collagen works with keratin to provide strength to our hair and assist with its formation. There are a few things that can break down collagen. These things are similar to other types of proteins as well. Sunlight, smoking, sugar, and a poor diet all break down collagen fibers and collagen itself. The strength and ability of our collagen genes to last and not breakdown is partially genetic but is largely impacted by the things we mentioned above. 

How is collagen different from protein?

Collagen is not different from protein; collagen is protein. Just as whey protein is a type of protein you could take as a supplement, so is collagen. Collagen types are important for some specific issues or health concerns you may have. Proteins like whey protein are often cheaply made and are more likely to contain contaminants, as they come from land animals. However, it is formulated with the same purpose as collagen and vegan proteins. Their overall goal is to increase muscle mass and boost your protein intake. Collagen can offer you many other benefits besides this, which is why it is typically considered the superior choice in a supplement. Its benefits include strengthening connective tissues, joints, tendons, bones, hair, nails, and skin. Biomedically and as a biomaterial, it can be used for severe wound healing. Marine collagen, for example, is great for the skin and any issues you may have. It can help prevent wrinkles, boost hydration, and repair dull skin. Our Kalumi BEAUTYfood bars contain 12 grams of hydrolyzed marine collagen and 15 grams of clean protein. The bars also contain other beauty-boosting foods like sweet potato (containing vitamin A and vitamin C), and cocoa butter (containing polyphenols and flavonoids). The formula is designed to help absorb and retain collagen and can be a great way to support your protein intake or boost your skin health





These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846778/
https://portlandpress.com/biochemj/article/473/8/1001/49397/Collagen-structure-new-tricks-from-a-very-old-dog
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
https://www.livescience.com/53044-protein.html

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