Over 30% of the protein mass in the human body is collagen, which is the main component of connective tissue, different types of which are found throughout the body. It also goes to make up over 70% of the protein in skin – the body’s largest organ – which protects us and helps to regulate our temperature. Collagen is the main building block of the skin – an essential protein that gives skin its smoothness, elasticity, and youthful look and feel.
Collagen is found in all vertebrates but not in plants. In nature, collagen occurs exclusively in animals, so using the term collagen in relation to plant protein is misleading (despite the fact that many companies use the term for marketing purposes).
And although collagen is immediately associated with the skin and how it looks, it is abundant throughout our entire body. Bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are made up of proteins, of which collagen is one of the most predominant; and their strength and flexibility depend on the quality of collagen present.
Collagen is also present in all smooth muscle tissues, blood vessels, the digestive tract, corneas, the heart, gallbladder, kidneys and bladder… holding the cells and tissues together. Collagen is even the major component of hair and nails.
Collagen protein is like the cement or scaffolding that holds everything together and plays an important part in many living processes.
How collagen is formed?
Amino acids are the basic building blocks of collagen, forming peptide strands which then wind around one another evolving into pro-collagen – which then forms more complicated fibrils, and finally fibres. Fibres and fibrils are insoluble and play a supportive role in the body, giving its structures strength and flexibility.
The body is constantly renewing its collagen, creating new fibres all the time. However, the fibroblasts (cells that produce collagen fibres, found in connective tissue) become less active with age.
Collagen fibres get thicker and easier to break, and after the age of about 25-30, the amount of collagen they produce reduces by about 1% a year. This gradual degeneration of our collagen accelerates over time, and we start to notice the symptoms of ageing: wrinkles, joint paints, sagging skin, varicose veins and so on. So, the quality and quantity of collagen in our bodies can directly affect our quality of life.
Our skin’s condition and appearance depend on the quality of the collagen fibres. Weakened collagen fibres mean wrinkled and sagging skin.
For years, the beauty industry struggled to find an effective formula to slow down or even reverse the degenerative processes. Once the link between collagen loss and ageing was proven, scientists and beauticians turned their attention to ways of supplementing lost collagen in the body.
Originally, collagen was obtained from veal necks and used on a large scale basis in cosmetology and aesthetic medicine.
Most collagen available on the market as supplements is so called hydrolysed collagen – in other words, gelatine. It is produced from bovine, porcine, or fish fibres or cartilage and (because those fibres are insoluble) it has to be processed by enzymes or temperature to break it down into digestible chunks of protein.
Many companies claim that they use so-called ‘plant collagen’. These substitutes for animal protein are often made from hydrolysed wheat or soya bean protein, and result in denatured simple proteins which – like bovine collagen – are biologically inactive. This means that it cannot penetrate the skin, making it little more than a great moisturiser that binds lots of water on the skin’s surface.
Collagen by Colway is a new generation of this essential protein. It is not made from hydrolysed fibres; it is actually a pro-collagen, which means it has not yet turned into fibrils, making it still soluble. It is a fish triple helix collagen (tropocollagen) that has a very similar chemical structure to human protein, so it is easily absorbed by the body. It is biologically active which means it is still living as protein, not destroyed by processing, but preserved in the form that it naturally occurs in nature.