Collagen is a naturally occurring fibrous protein that is important in maintaining the health and vitality of connective tissue. Collagen is found in virtually all body organs, including the bones, skin, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Collagen works with elastin, another structural protein, to maintain connective tissue elasticity. It is destroyed by inflammatory processes, and its synthesis in the body is dependent on the abundance of amino acids. Collagen fibers may benefit from the two amino acids lysine and proline, and the presence of collagen promoting nutrients such as vitamin C.
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According to Dr. Howard Murad, a board certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at Los Angeles, collagen production within the body's connective tissue depends on adequate levels of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids, which can't be manufactured by the body itself and must be obtained through diet. Generally, animal sources such as poultry, fish, cheese, milk, and eggs provide all nine essential amino acids.
Lysine and Proline
According to "The World's Healthiest Foods," collagen fibers are comprised largely of hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline. Although there is insufficient evidence to draw a clear connection between foods rich in lysine or proline and collagen synthesis, foods high in these amino acids may support collagen formation. Lysine is an essential amino acid and must be obtained through foods; proline, on the other hand, is a non-essential amino acid that can be manufactured in the body. Good sources of lysine include lean meats and legumes. For optimal collagen synthesis, however, add dietary sources of proline such as egg whites and wheat germ.
Fruits rich in the bioflavonoid anthocyandins, according to WHFoods, have been shown to link collagen fibers and support the connective tissue matrix. Anthocyanidins are present in deep red and purple food sources such as cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. According to Michael T. Murray in his book, "Healing Foods," anthocyanidins increase vitamin C levels in cells, protect against free-radical damage and help prevent the destruction of collagen in skin and connective tissue.
According to "Healing Foods," the nutrients vitamin C and copper are of particular importance in collagen production and tissue repair. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as kiwi, broccoli, watercress, oranges, peppers, cantaloupe and dandelion greens. Regarding copper, according to Patrick Holford, author of the book "The New Optimum Nutrition Bible," daily copper requirements are met simply by drinking water that has passed through copper pipelines.