Dear Dr. Hasz, I’ve been reading up on the benefits of collagen recently and noticed that everyone who talks about it brings up vitamin C as well. Can you explain in detail what, if any, connection there is between vitamin C and Collagen? –J.
The simple fact is that vitamin C is completely essential to collagen production. Perhaps you’ve heard of sailors centuries ago getting scurvy. Scorbutus, or “scurvy,” is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, and it affected sailors who went a long time without fresh vegetables. Your gums bleed, and old wounds open up again. Even broken-and-healed bones come apart again, because they all need collagen. So for the sailors it all came down to getting enough vitamin C, without which collagen biosynthesis can’t happen.
Let’s talk about how
We won’t go through the whole process of collagen formation from the atoms to the mature cell. Let’s skip a couple of steps and go to the level of pro-peptides. They form into polypeptide chains, with little residues called proline and lysine on them. These residues are left over from the precursors of collagen and elastin.
Lysyl oxidase is a protein that helps in the formation of compounds called aldehydes in the proline and lysine residues. The aldehydes react and form bonds with aldehydes on nearby polypeptide strands. The bond is like velcro, and leads to cross-linking between strands that stabilizes the collagen fibrils. A lack of lysyl oxidase can cause something called osteolathyrism, characterized by a failure of cross-linking.
Prolyl hydroxylase is an enzyme that starts the hydroxylation process, which also stabilizes the collagen by allowing in to stay together at body temperature.
In cells deprived of ascorbate [vitamin C], as in the disease scurvy, the procollagen chains are not hydroxylated sufficiently to form stable triple helices at normal body temperature (Figure 22-15), nor can they form normal fibrils. Consequently, nonhydroxylated procollagen chains are degraded within the cell. Without the structural support of collagen, blood vessels, tendons, and skin become fragile.
Lysyl oxidase and prolyl hydroxylase need vitamin C. Without it they start to auto-inactivate. This paper found that when they produced prolyl hydroxylase without giving it vitamin C, 90% inactivated within 60 seconds. Without lysyl oxidase we don’t get enough aldehydes or cross-linking. Without prolyl hydroxylase we have no hydroxylation and collagen fibrils will not stay stable.
I know this was pretty in-depth, but in the end there’s a reason Mom always told you to eat your vegetables. And why many food products advertise their vitamin C content. It’s not supplementary to collagen production, it’s central and indispensable to it.
At Prisma Natural they bring an understanding of collagen biosynthesis to their collagen supplements. All products come with the right amount of vitamin C added in, so you don’t have to worry about it. I’ve tried their products for a while and have found they give me the best results of the collagen products I’ve tried. I highly recommend their products.