What IS Collagen?
IMAGE FROM: Nijhuis WH, Eastwood DM, Allgrove J, et al. Current concepts in osteogenesis imperfecta: bone structure, biomechanics and medical management. J Child Orthop. 2019;13(1):1–11. doi:10.1302/1863-2548.13.180190
Collagen is a protein. Like all human proteins, collagen is constructed using the raw material building blocks of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that function like letters of the human alphabet that spell about 20,000 different human proteins in your body. When it comes to spelling out the collagen protein, the amino acid sequence is very simple. Like a basic three-letter word, collagen is composed of the three amino acids proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, which is actually a derivative of proline. These three basic constituents make up a huge component of your physical flesh and blood!
How is collagen formed?
The strand of proline and glycine amino acids is assembled based on the transcription of DNA to mRNA, and the translation of mRNA into those amino acids. This strand is known as procollagen, which mush be modified with the addition of the hydroxyl group onto every other proline amino acid. This critical hydroxylation step requires a very important nutrient as a cofactor; vitamin C.
Without adequate vitamin C, we cannot synthesize the basic strand of amino acids that compose the collagen proteins that make up a huge part of your physical form. Much more on this in part 2 of this article series. Two different chains of amino acids, alpha-1 and alpha-2, are ultimately formed. These strands of amino acids interact with one another in ways to form helical structures, aggregating into collagen fibrils and then into collagen fibers. Depending upon the composition of alpha-1 or alpha-2 chains, different types of collagen are formed. Types 1 and 3 collagen are the most predominant, making up about 90% of the collagen protein in the body. Type 2 collagen is created by chondrocytes, cartilage cells. There are actually 28 different unique types of collagen, all of which have the same basic amino acid building blocks, but tangled in unique ways to serve different functions in various parts of the body.
With 1/3 of your physical body composed of these collagen proteins, the importance of ensuring sufficient levels becomes clear. So much so, in fact, that you may be susceptible to being sold a tub of collagen to keep your body healthy and strong. However, this claim couldn’t be further from the truth.
Collagen supplements are primarily derived from cow bones and connective tissues. You may have also been told to make a pot of bone broth to get a good dose of collagen. It's true that the bones and connective tissue of all animals - cows, chickens, fish, goats, cats, dogs, elephants, zebras, and humans are a rich source of the collagen protein. It makes sense then that we would look to these sources as being a rich source of this essential protein. Those with thyroid issues may be prescribed a thyroid glandular supplement derived from ground up pig thyroid gland. Similarly, those with adrenal fatigue may be sold ground up adrenal gland to boost adrenal function. These remedies can support human physiology by providing the raw materials for biologic function. Similarly, buying ground up cow bones or making a bone both may provide some raw materials for your body, but it doesn't come without a consequence.
The Dark Side of Collagen and Bone Broth
The fact of the matter is that these products are a source of toxins, which over time, further exacerbate ill health. All animals store heavy metals and toxins in their bones. This is a safe and secure place for such harmful substances to be stored to ensure these things stay out of harms way. When we extract collagen and minerals from bones, we solubilize and mobilize these toxic substances, and introduce them into our bodies.
One of the most popular and harmful toxins that we get an especially high dose of through collagen or bone broth is glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient of the herbicide roundup, which is dumped on conventional farm fields and weeds around town. This toxic compound is actually a derivative of the amino acid glycine, the same glycine that makes up the bulk of the collagen protein. The toxic effects of glyphosate stem from multiple modes of action - it’s a potent antibiotic, mineral chelator, and hormone disrupter. The primary mechanism that glyphosate uses to carry out such a broad array of toxic effects is by replacing essential glycine amino acids in human and animal proteins. This simple little amino acid switch is done easily due to the fact that the glyphosate chemical is derived from the amino acid glycine.
Glyphosate replacing glycine amino acids in your body may not seem that worrisome if it weren’t for the fact that this glyphosate is a water soluble toxin. That means that once it is sprayed on the earth, it makes its way into the water supply, evaporating into our air, and raining back down on our earth to be reabsorbed in the soil, plants, and grasslands. The very same grass that our beloved grass fed cattle graze. All animals accumulate all toxins from the environment, even humans. When humans eat high on the food chain, or source supplements that are derived from animal bones or other parts, we take this toxic blow. There is no way around it.
So What's A Human To Do?
In part two of this article series on collagen, you will learn how and why so many humans are in fact depleted in this all essential protein in the human body. You will also learn key ways to enhance natural, healthy, and sustainable collagen production in your body. The best part about the information to come is that there are no products, supplements, powders, or potions needed to keep radiant and resilient hair, skin, nails, muscles, joints, and gut.
Stay tuned for part 2.