Where Does Collagen Come From? How Is It Made in the Body?
If you have read some of our prior collagen posts, then you probably have more than a layman’s understanding of the protein by now. In short, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is an invaluable building block for life.
However, where does collagen come from? If our bodies produce it naturally, then why do we also need to get it from food and/or supplements?
Collagen Production at a Glance
Collagen fibers are made up of the amino acids proline, glycine, arginine and hydroxyproline. These amino acids, in turn, are made up of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen.
For a more in-depth explanation, we’re going to have to get a bit scientific. Collagen production begins with what is known as procollagen. This is a smaller molecule made from vitamin C and protein.
As procollagen is produced, the molecules bond together to form fibrils. A fibril is a strand similar in structure to a strand in a carpet fiber or a fabric string in a garment. The fibrils grow and eventually take the form of collagenous fibers that make up our skin, ligaments, tendons, hair and nails.
If you want to know where does collagen come from, that is essentially the easy-to-understand explanation. The full assembly process, though, is far more complex. The process also isn’t always smooth sailing. Factors like a poor diet and aging can inhibit natural collagen production, hence why you need to obtain the protein from external sources.
Collagen Under a Microscope
A single collagen fiber takes on a triple-helix or quasi-hexagonal shape. Thanks to modern advents like the electron microscope, we have clear images of what the collagenous fibers look like at the molecular level. Here is a closeup image of collagen fibers at the microscopic level. Here’s an illustration of fibers bundled together. A single hair-thin strand is the fibril, and those fibrils are wounded in a tight bundle that makes up the collagen fiber. The fibers themselves are bundled until they become large enough to form your skin, muscles, hair, etc.
Sources of Collagen
Since collagen fiber is made naturally in the human body, then it stands to reason that production also occurs in animals. However, if you regularly consume meat, don’t think for a second that you’re getting enough collagen. Chances are, you’re probably not. The collagen isn’t found in sufficient quantities in the meat itself.
In beef and chicken, the collagen is mostly in the bone. To extract the collagen fibers out of the bone, you make broth. By letting the bones simmer in heated liquid, the collagen leaches out of the bone marrow.
Other sources include fish. The scales actually contain an ample supply. Think twice before de-scaling your salmon or halibut fillet. Finally, you can also get collagen from egg whites.
These are the top sources in terms of natural food. Of course, you can also acquire your daily serving from supplements. This is just as valid provided the collagen powder or tablet is made from organic sources.
Provided that it’s a high-quality and natural product, collagen supplements also have the advantage of higher bioavailability. It may also contain multiple collagen fiber types.
Do You Need More Collagen?
You and I both can use more collagen. If you’re over 50, then you definitely need more. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be the case as we can just continuously rely on our own body’s collagen production mechanism. However, various external factors can interfere with this process.
We mentioned a while ago that a crappy diet and aging are two factors that put a wrench in production. Other factors include:
- Vitamin C deficiency: Vitamin C contains hyaluronic acid, an essential collagen fiber component
- UV ray exposure
- Excess alcohol intake
- Exposure to pollutants in food, water and air
Your body needs collagen from external sources much the same way it requires vitamins and minerals.
More Collagen Will Only Benefit You
If you wonder where does collagen come from and how it’s made, now you at least have a primer. With the knowledge, you now understand why collagenous fibers are so important for a healthy body.
This is precisely why we released Total Collagen, our collagen supplement. We understand that too many people just don’t get enough in their diet. After all, can you honestly say that you consume foods like bone broth on a daily basis?
Use Total Collagen powder like you would with a whey protein supplement to avoid deficiencies. We are confident that you will notice more than subtle differences in your body.