You’ve probably heard collagen getting mentioned numerous times, even if you aren't entirely sure what it means. People talk about collagen being important in things like maintaining skin elasticity, especially as you get older. But what is collagen made of, and where does collagen come from?
What is collagen?
Three chains of amino acids make up the protein that is known as collagen, which can only be found in animals - it is largely humans and other mammals that produce collagen. It is a vital connective tissue not just in skin but in tendons and ligaments.
As the body's most abundant protein, collagen is found just about everywhere in the body. It is in your blood vessels and your organs, including your heart, bladder and kidneys.
Collagen products for your health
When the amino acids in collagen are broken into shorter chains, they are called collagen peptides. You can purchase collagen in this form or as a powdered gelatin.
Collagen is always made from the tissue of animals. There is no such thing as vegan collagen because plants do not have collagen.
Where does collagen come from?
Your body manufactures collagen. In your connective tissues, you have cells known as fibroblasts that create the natural collagen in your body.
However, understanding what collagen is in the human body still doesn't quite answer the question of where the collagen in your collagen supplements comes from.
Other animals manufacture collagen as well, and it is extracted for use in powders that can help improve your quality of life.
What is collagen made of?
The collagen that you purchase as a supplement comes largely from the parts of cows that are generally not used in regular meat cuts. Their hides and connective tissue are processed to make collagen products rather than going to waste.
Collagen can also be made from chicken bones and cartilage as well as the membranes of eggshells. In addition, there is a type of marine collagen, which comes from fish scales, bones and skin.
It is often recommended that you seek high-quality collagen products just as you would seek meat products that are grass-fed and free from antibiotics and impurities. Fish should be wild-caught.
How collagen is made
Whatever the source, the process of making collagen essentially involves purifying the material, extracting the collagen, drying it and milling it.
In the case of cow hides, they are cleaned and treated with lye to get rid of any additional fat.
A hot water vinegar soak helps release the collagen from the hide.
Finally, the collagen goes through a process of evaporation, and then it is ground to a fine powder.
The uses of collagen
Why do you need supplemental collagen if your body makes it? Unfortunately, with age, your body's ability to keep manufacturing collagen diminishes.
Collagen production is also affected by certain lifestyle factors, including how much sun you get and what you eat.
But no matter what you do, your body's collagen production will peak in your 20s and then start to slow.
Supplemental collagen helps improve the health of your skin, hair, nails, joints and even your organs. Its usage is an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle.