The glue that holds the body together

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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This week, I’d like to elaborate on a subject briefly touched on in last week’s column. Sometimes referred to as a “beauty builder,” collagen is a structural protein. Collagen has a unique amino acid profile, composed of amino acids glycine, prolin, and hydroxyproline, which means collagen-based proteins have the same high-quality amino acid levels as other protein profiles, like whey, but often with much lower caloric content. 

Collagen accounts for 40% of the body’s protein. It provides support and strength to skin, muscles, arteries, connective tissues, the cornea of the eye, discs between the spine’s vertebrae, the digestive tract, bones and even teeth. Collagen is sort of an iron-rich glue that holds cells together. In fact, the derivation of the word collagen goes back to the Greek word “kolla,” which means “glue”.

Nowadays, just about every skincare conversation references collagen in some way. That’s because collagen is second only to moisture with regard to skin health. Our bodies do manufacture collagen, but as we age, the amount and quality of collagen production fall over time. It must then be obtained from the diet, or taken in supplement form.

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Bones are actually very complex structures, consisting of many different minerals. Bone also contains a large amount of collagen. Additional collagen can improve bone health and density markers with as little as five grams per day. In fact, a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine found that at the one-year mark, bone formation had increased and bone degeneration decreased significantly in all participants, after supplementing with collagen. 

Collagen can soothe arthritis symptoms. Arthritis refers to inflammation or discomfort in a joint. Collagen possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce discomfort in joints. Hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to exert beneficial effects on joints. 

Of course, collagen is great for the skin. Collagen is most prevalent in the second layer of skin—the dermis. Collagen enhances the moisture content of the skin, especially the outermost layer of the dermis. Collagen also improves the elasticity of the skin, reducing wrinkles and roughness. By the way, exfoliation is one of the keys to boosting skin’s natural collagen production. Collagen is a direct contributor to lean muscle mass, as well. It is critical for keeping muscles strong and functioning properly and also promotes muscle growth after exercise. 

Trying to lose weight? Getting adequate protein is essential to all weight loss programs. Collagen is not only a high-quality protein, but in supplement form, it’s fat-free, ultra-low carb, sugar-free and low-calorie. Taking collagen as part of a fat-loss regimen has been documented in many studies, with one study demonstrating significant weight loss in as little as six weeks. 

Collagen also plays an essential role in all phases of wound healing, in that it attracts fibroblasts to wound sites. Fibroblasts are specialized cells that support and connect other tissues or organs in the body. Collagen also encourages new blood vessel formation to facilitate faster wound healing.    

There are 28 different kinds of collagen protein found in the human body, making up 75% of our skin’s dry weight. Our bodies need vitamin C for collagen production to take place. 

One added benefit of taking dietary collagen is less gray hair, as collagen contributes to the healthy structure of the hair follicle, and produces a pigment that gives hair color.   

Collagen was once used to make certain musical instrument strings. Though the method produced what was referred to as “catgut,” cats were never used, but rather sheep or cattle. Today, most violin, lute, harp and cello strings are made with steel or synthetic material. Fun fact: did you know that violin and bass guitar strings use the same standard tuning, but backward? A violin, from thickest string to lightest, is tuned G, D, A, E, while a bass guitar is tuned E, A, D, G…(I’m a bass player).

Remember, collagen literally is “the glue that holds you together.”

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at, or text to (864) 494-6215.