Dr. Nick Bitz, ND
You’ve heard you should consume collagen daily, but have you heard of hydroxyproline? Hydroxyproline is at the heart of what makes collagen so important. Here’s why. Collagen is a structural protein. Like all proteins, it’s composed of amino acids. Most of these amino acids are found abundantly in other protein sources. But hydroxyproline is an amino acid found almost exclusively in collagen. Hydroxyproline plays an important role in collagen’s stability and enables collagen to twist into its strong triple helix shape. The body is able to manufacture some hydroxyproline on its own (using vitamin C), which in turn produces healthy collagen. In the absence of vitamin C to make hydroxyproline, the body stops producing collagen (and scurvy results). Here’s the interesting part: Preliminary studies suggest that boosting the amount of hydroxyproline circulating in the bloodstream may actually trigger skin fibroblasts (special cells whose main job is to make new collagen) to multiply. As a bonus, hydroxyproline in the bloodstream also appears to “turn on” hyaluronic acid production in the skin. Hyaluronic acid helps skin retain moisture, which has a direct impact on how youthful skin appears.
Collagen peptide supplements are likely the best source of “usable” hydroxyproline because they can be well absorbed. They contain a specialized type of collagen that has undergone hydrolysis (an enzymatic process that breaks the protein into smaller fragments). These supplements provide small bioactive peptides (including hydroxyproline) that can reach the bloodstream in meaningful quantities. How much collagen do you need? Not as much as you might think! It’s easy to consume the 2.5 g per day that research supports as effective in improving skin and nail health.