Our skin is as elastic as a jelly, and the secret of its elasticity comes from the collagen in the skin. As people age, the collagen in the skin will gradually lose, and the skin will lose its youthful elasticity and firmness. And, collagen isn’t just about the skin.
The “elastic net” of the human body
Collagen is very tough, very strong in tensile strength, and is the main component of fascia, which is an important part of muscles and ligaments. In addition, there are traces of collagen in our skin, bones, eyes, teeth, internal organs, etc. Collagen is like an elastic net, which binds various tissues and organs of the human body together, and plays a triple role of support, protection and repair. When the human body lacks collagen, a series of conditions can occur in the body, such as: old wounds will open; blood vessels are prone to rupture; cartilage will wear away and cause arthritis.
The collagen molecule is composed of three helically wound polypeptide chains, a bit like a twist, and it is this special structure that ensures it is strong enough. So far, humans have discovered 28 kinds of collagen, and their common feature is that they contain at least one triple helix structure. More than 90% of the collagen in the human body is type 1 collagen, and the main collagen component of cartilage is type 2 collagen.
Human Utilization of Collagen
① Collagen is active around us in various forms, such as gummies, glue, capsules, sausage casings, and dental absorbent gelatin sponges, etc., all contain collagen.
②In ancient China, people boiled the skin and tendons of animals to obtain glue. Humans used animal glues, especially bovine glue and isinglass glue, long before the advent of modern chemical adhesives.
③ Bows and arrows were important weapons in ancient wars. A good bow cannot be made without strong and flexible materials. Animal tendons are rich in collagen and have excellent toughness, so they are the best choice for making arched backs.
④ The use of collagen in foreign countries is also varied, such as using sheep intestines to make strings. Because sheep intestine is rich in collagen, it is very tough and not easy to break, so it is a good material for making strings. Later, people also used catgut to make badminton rackets and so on. Although the ancients did not know what the structure of collagen was like, this did not prevent them from using it in various fields.
⑤ Due to the shortage of meat during the war, France even wanted to use gelatin (hydrolyzed collagen) to replace meat for a while. However, this method is not advisable. Although collagen is very important to the human body, it is not a high-quality main protein source.
⑥Eight kinds of essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the human body, while the amino acids contained in collagen are almost all non-essential amino acids, and they do not contain tryptophan at all.
Why is collagen lost?
The collagen in the skin is like the spring in the mattress, supporting and protecting the skin tissue. Only when the collagen is sufficient, the skin can store enough water and various nutrients. However, studies have shown that the collagen content in human skin decreases at a rate of 1% to 1.5% per year starting in the twenties. Collagen is produced by fibroblasts. As we age, the ability of fibroblasts to synthesize collagen decreases. In addition, the UV rays we receive in the sun every day also activate the degradation of collagen.
If you want skin collagen full, you need to maintain good work and rest habits
A 2020 study showed that staying up late can also lead to collagen loss. This is because the synthesis, secretion and degradation of collagen all depend on the circadian rhythm, and disrupting the circadian rhythm will lead to the accumulation of collagen fibers, disordered structure, and greatly reduced elasticity and strength. From this point of view, if you want the skin to be full of collagen, firm and elastic, you need to maintain good work and rest habits.
How to increase collagen content?
Many beauty lovers eat all kinds of collagen-rich foods, such as pig’s trotters and bird’s nest, for their own “frozen age” cause. But in fact, collagen is a macromolecular substance that cannot be directly absorbed by the human body. After any protein is eaten by us, it must first be broken down into amino acid “parts”. The body then resynthesizes these amino acids into new proteins based on specific needs. Some people think that we can at least provide raw materials for collagen synthesis by eating collagen. In fact, there are tens of thousands of protein types in the human body. It is really impossible to guarantee that the collagen that is eaten will be decomposed and will be synthesized again intact.
Since you can’t expect how much collagen you eat to replenish your face, can it be used externally? In fact, most topical collagen products are not directly absorbed by the skin.
Although it is true that the collagen content in the skin can be increased through medical cosmetic methods, it is not a “once and for all” method after all, and natural aging of people is inevitable. The production of collagen depends on the body’s own synthesis function. In order to produce collagen, the body needs amino acids, vitamin C, zinc and copper, etc., and these substances can be ingested in the daily diet.
Scientists study collagen and use it in medical products based on its properties, such as surgical sutures, skin wound dressings, regenerative scaffolds, and more. Scientists are also trying to use 3D printing technology to print human tissues and organs with the help of collagen. In the future, whether humans will make bionic materials based on collagen, and whether they will use the properties of collagen to delay aging, let us wait and see.