By Rachel Akuffo, Nutrition Ambassador for ProYouth Nutrition.
Collagen is one of the latest buzz words amongst the health and beauty industry. It has become increasingly difficult to escape the beauty isle or Instagram feed without spotting collagen boosting moisturisers, drinks or supplements promising a youthful appearance. However, it can be confusing when you have too many questions like; Is it right for me? What strength? do I apply it? or consume it?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein responsible for many functions in the body from connective tissue, to wound healing and skin quality. As we get older our natural collagen production beings to relax and slow down over time. This is when the first signs of aging begin to appear, and we start seeing fine lines and wrinkles as our skin losses elasticity. Collagen is a protein in the deeper layers in our skin that provides it with structure, support and elasticity. Collagen can aid in boosting the skins elasticity to reverse and reduce visible signs of aging. Not only does it help to combat the signs of aging it also has additional benefits for our joints, bones and gut health.
Which foods naturally contain Collagen?
Collagen is a protein therefore we can expect to obtain collagen from protein rich food sources. Foods containing collagen include lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes and bone broth.
Collagen nutritional supplements come in the form of capsules, powders, gummies and drinks and may be convenient alternative to increase our uptake of the protein. The collagen we purchase is derived from bones, tendons and connective tissue from animal sources. When we ingest collagen, the body breaks it down into amino acids and peptides which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Collagen supplements often contain a good dose of peptides resulting in a faster absorption into the bloodstream. More recent studies have confirmed collagen in supplement form to be more effective and a little as 5 grams daily can be beneficial to us. Topical collagen skincare products are less effective as they struggle to penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, which is necessary for absorption.
Collagen, Vitamin C and aging
We should consider our intake of vitamin C especially as it is responsible for the normal formation and repair of collagen in our body. Additionally, as we age the vitamin C levels in our skin also begin to decline. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which is beneficial in scavenging free radicals, caused by environmental factors such air pollution and UV exposure that cause damage to the collagen in our skin and body. Similarly, as we age, our collagen levels start depleting and this is when supplementation may become useful.
Perhaps we can use collagen to turn back some time and give us youthful looking skin again. As a recent study conducted by dermatologists discovered improvements in skin dryness, wrinkles, and skin fold depth, and an increase in skin firmness just after 12 weeks of consuming a liquid collagen supplement daily. This study is promising and can suggest that a high-quality collagen supplement can help to counteract some visible signs of aging, as well as promote skin firmness and moisture. Harvard School of Public Health also reported that collagen is the top selling supplement purported to improve skin, hair and nails. Collagen beauty supplements tend to come in combination with other vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Biotin, hyaluronic acid and selenium. These vitamins and minerals are known to enhance the benefits of collagen when used for hair, skin and nails.
We mainly glorify collagen for its key skin care benefits, however collagen’s fascinating blend of amino acids and peptides provide support for our gut health too. Poor diets, lack of sleep, stress and aging are all factors that negatively impact the gut. The maintenance of a healthy gut and strong intestinal lining are vital for the prevention gut and digestive disorders, such as leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome. The gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) is made up of structural proteins which helps preserve the strength of our intestinal lining. The amino acids present in collagen aid in the digestion food and encourage a healthy movement of food through the digestive system. Collagen has been shown to improve the bacterial balance by providing a supportive surface for healthy gut bacteria to latch on to.
Joints and bones
Besides being holy grail beauty product collagen is also present in our joints and bones can help to reduce joint pain, lower inflammation and prevent bone loss. As we age our risk of developing degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis increase. Researches from the University of Freiburg in Germany conducted a study on physically active adults, with activity-related functional knee joint pain saw a significant reduction in joint pain when treated with 5 grams of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks. This study implies collagen is in fact beneficial for relieving joint discomfort and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
Another dilemma associated with aging is that we loss bone mass which may lead to conditions such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis leaves our bones more susceptible to damage and fractures. Menopausal women are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis due the decline in oestrogen resulting in bone loss. Collagen is particularly abundant in our bones, therefore supplementing with collagen can help to maintain the strength of our bones and reduce the loss of bone mass. Collagen supplements targeted for joints and bones are frequently combine calcium, glucosamine and chondroitin to complement it’s bone boosting benefits. A study compared women who took a calcium and collagen supplements against women supplementing with calcium alone. Researchers found over a 12-month period the women supplementing with collagen had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown, than those taking only the calcium alone.
We can conclude from this article that this powerful protein provides several health and beauty related benefits so why not incorporate it into your daily lifestyle? and see if you can benefit from its many uses.
Some useful notes based on our study of collagen are:
Prolonged use of minimum dose of at least 5 grams is shown to promote health benefits.
Liquid supplements are much more effective than collagen in topical skincare products as they are faster absorbing.
Collagen supplements can be useful for improvement skin, joint, bone and gut health.