Essential to the healing of wounds, collagen “is the major insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue,” according to the textbook “Molecular Cell Biology,” published in 2000 by W. H. Freeman and Company. As we age, collagen production slows. One of the visible results of this is that skin loses some of its elasticity, which can cause sagging and wrinkles. Although many nutrients play an indirect role in collagen production by nourishing bodily systems that influence its production, like the hormonal system, some are directly involved in the making of collagen.
Vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin B1, also called thiamine, each has an important role in the production of collagen. Vitamin C is so essential that the collagen-heavy parts of the body will start to break down during periods of extended deficiency, resulting in what came to be known as scurvy. Food is the best resource for these nutrients, because obtaining them in that manner offers the added benefit of the assorted micronutrients that are so subtle and complex pharmaceutical makers cannot duplicate them. However, in some circumstances, supplementation may be necessary. Consider seeking specific advice from a health care professional concerning effective dosages.
Certain minerals take a direct role in collagen production. According to a research article by the Department of Biological Sciences of Salisbury State University, iron is essential in the production of collagen, “an integral component of the arterial wall.” Zinc is essential to the synthesis process involved in both the creating and utilizing of collagen and thus is essential to the process of wound healing. Copper is important to the structure of collagen, helping to produce its tension and strength. If you use supplements in addition to food sources, it is best to do so under the advice of a professional, as too much of these minerals can be as detrimental as too little. Too much iron can be poisonous. Too much zinc can have a negative impact on copper absorption.
Lysine and threonine are two of the essential amino acids that are absolutely necessary for collagen production. The body doesn’t make these, so they must be obtained from the diet via such foods as meats, dairy products, wheat germ and beans, or nutritional supplements. A dietitian can help in the detailed planning of a day-to-day diet that will provide the right nutrients in the right amount. A nutritionist or specially trained health care professional should be consulted if you are planning to achieve nutritional goals by complementing foods with nutritional supplements.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin C
- Today's Dietitian: Healing From the Inside Out
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Complementary Medicine: Lysine
- Realtime: Reference Guide For Amino Acids
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Molecular Cell Biology, Fourth Edition