But the thing is, an astounding 90 percent of cancer-related deaths aren't because of complications caused by malignant tumors. Instead, they are due to cancer cells spreading to surrounding tissues. In most cases, this invasion of cancer cells, called metastasis, results in site-specific cancers that affect the bones, the breasts, the prostate, the colon and the brain.
According to recent studies, collagen, the protein responsible for giving bones, skin, tendons, ligaments and other tissues structural support, may be able to stall metastasis and reduce the risk of other chronic conditions, such as heart disease.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a structural scaffold that directs the adhesion and migration of cells. It also regulates the growth of cells.
This important structure is composed of water, minerals and a variety of macromolecules, including proteoglycans, which cushion cells, and fibrous proteins, which provide tensile strength and resilience. One of the main fibrous proteins found in the ECM is collagen.
According to Dr. Matthias Rath, a German physician and the founder of Cellular Medicine, the ease by which cancer cells are able to spread may be due to a weak ECM. This is because cancer cells need to first break through the ECM before they can metastasize.
Because collagen is one of the main proteins that hold the ECM together, the loss of this protein or insufficient amounts of it can cause structural weakness and promote the spread of cancer.
For this reason, many experts, including Rath, consider cancer a “collagen disease.”
Additionally, cancer cells have been found to use destructive enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) to erode the ECM. A fragile ECM is especially vulnerable to MMPs.
Therefore, strengthening the ECM by boosting one's collagen levels is a sensible way of keeping cancer cells from metastasizing. To do this, Rath suggests increasing the intake of certain micronutrients that can boost collagen production.
Vitamin C, for instance, is crucial for collagen synthesis. High amounts of this essential micronutrient are needed to form and store collagen. It is also responsible for holding cells together during collagen production.
Vitamin C is also a potent cancer-fighting nutrient. A recent study published in Redox Biology reported that high doses of vitamin C can kill cancer cells and tumors.
The amino acid lysine may also help stop cancer metastasis, according to Rath. Lysine helps inhibit the deterioration of collagen by blocking sites on collagen fibers that are susceptible to enzymatic degradation.
Besides lysine, the amino acid arginine can also help keep the ECM's structural integrity. Arginine is an important building block for collagen synthesis.
Besides protecting against the spread of cancer, collagen also supports heart health. In fact, according to Linus Pauling, one of the most influential chemists of the 20th century, a shortage of collagen contributes to heart disease, but adequate doses of vitamin C, which promotes collagen production, can help prevent its onset. (Related: Groundbreaking study reveals that heart disease is an early indicator of vitamin C deficiency.)
That said, it's important to note that too much collagen can raise the risk of heart disease. In one study, researchers found that excessive amounts of collagen end up forming a cement-like mesh around the arteries and blood vessels, which results in poor blood circulation.
Over time, these encased arteries make it difficult for the heart muscles to contract, increasing the risk of heart failure and organ damage due to high blood pressure.
Therefore, maintaining healthy collagen levels is crucial for preventing heart failure and other complications that arise due to high blood pressure.
Collagen is essential for heart health and cancer prevention. To help your body create collagen, eat a balanced diet that contains protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, beans and eggs. You can also increase your consumption of vitamin C-rich foods or take supplements to boost your heart health.