In a world that seems to be getting more and more obsessed with our outside appearance, you've likely heard the hype surrounding things like anti-ageing products and collagen. But did you know there is more to collagen than what the beauty creams would have you know? Collagen is an essential element in the makeup of our bodies, and not just for those fine lines and wrinkles.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein that exists naturally in our bodies. In fact, it's the most plentiful protein that we have; it makes up one-third of all proteins contained in the body. Collagen is found in our bones, muscles, connective tissues and tendons, and of course, our skin.
Collagen is literally the stuff that holds our bodies together. Without it, our bodies would be like houses without proper foundations.
There are 2 types of collagen. Endogenous collagen is the natural protein in our bodies. Exogenous collagen comes from external sources such as supplements and topical creams in the beauty aisle.
Why is Collagen Important?
Here are five reasons that collagen should be considered for your general health.
1. It Supports Healthy Joints
Studies have shown that introducing a collagen supplement can help in treating joint inflammation such as osteoarthritis. As we age, our cartilage naturally wears and begins to thin. If it thins too much, there is less lubrication surface within the joint and the exposed bony surfaces begin to rub against one another eventually causing inflammation and ultimately joint pain. Cartilage is primarily made up of collagen so protecting your own supply and adding more to your diet is great for anyone concerned about the health of their joints.
2. It Promotes Gut Health
Having a healthy gastrointestinal system is paramount to our overall well-being. Collagen is found in the gut's connective tissue and helps support the lining of the stomach. Collagen also helps to maintain the protective lining found throughout your digestive tract.
The amino acids in collagen also build the tissue that lines the GI tract and the colon. A study found that people with inflammatory bowel disease, concentrations of collagen was decreased.
3. New Research has linked Collagen to Cognitive Function
A recent study has highlighted the link between collagen and brain health. Scientists have found that one type of collagen in particular, (collagen VI) can protect cells in the brain against amyloid-beta proteins. This is a fascinating discovery as it's commonly accepted that amyloid-beta proteins cause degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's.
4. It Supports our Muscles
It's widely known that protein helps promote muscle growth and repair, and now we know that collagen is a protein right? As we age our muscle mass will naturally decline. Supplementing collagen combined with some form of resistance training can help to maintain a healthy muscle mass and add strength to ligaments and tendons which are primarily made up of collagen.
5. It helps us to look our Best
When we think about skincare and health, it's generally about sun exposure; but if you're looking to take overall skincare to the next level? Collagen can do that. The beauty industry will have you think that slathering yourself with the latest formulation of cream filled with collagen is best, but this is not always the way to get the best results.
Taking a collagen supplement will ensure that your insides are getting the benefits of collagen, whilst also supporting your skin elasticity, and potentially slowing the signs of aging. Ingesting collagen will also positively impact your hair, nails, and teeth. It is the protein that is responsible for tougher nails, healthy hair follicles and strong teeth. It's a clique, but beauty really does start from within!
How to Prevent Collagen Loss
As we age, collagen levels will naturally decline. This is particularly true in women after menopause and those in their 60's. While there is no way to stop the decline of collagen completely, there are ways that we can slow it. Here are a few major things you'll want to steer clear of.
Smoking - The chemicals used in cigarette tobacco damage collagen and depletes the skin's natural elasticity Sugar –
Sugar - is quite literally the antivenom of collagen. Along with multiple health implications, a diet high in sugar will rev up the rate of glycation within the body. Glycation is the process of blood sugars locking onto proteins in the body to form new molecules. This process can make collagen weak and dry.
Sunlight – While soaking up a few sun rays is extremely beneficial to your wellbeing, be sure to limit your exposure to approx. 15-20 minutes per day. Excessive sun exposure and not wearing sun protection such as a hat and sunscreen can cause collagen to break down faster than it normally would. It’s not too much of a problem in the winter months but something to consider while we’re enjoying the summer.
How can I help my Collagen Levels?
Collagen contains 18 different amino acids, the building blocks of protein. A healthy diet can help the body produce collagen and also slow down its natural decline that comes with ageing. Certain foods contain vital nutrients that support collagen, these include:
Vitamin C - Found in found in most fruits and vegetables helps your body to produce its own collagen from the amino acids consumed in your diet. Broccoli, strawberries and bell peppers are all great sources of Vitamin C as are any of the citrus fruit family. A great way to start your day is with a glass of warm lemon water to hydrate your cells and provide an early boost of Vitamin C for the day.
Bone Broth - Bone broth is the liquid derived from slow simmering animal bones such as chicken, cow, lamb and fish, and their connective tissue in water to create the broth. This normally takes around 48 hours in a slow cooker and produces anywhere from 1L-3L of broth depending on how many bones you use. You can also add additional spices, herbs and vegetables for flavour.
Once ready the broth can be stored in the fridge or frozen into ice cube trays to make it easy for daily use.
Bone broth packs some serious health punches when it comes to boosting your collagen levels, but that's not all.
It’s incredibly nutritious and supports immune health. Bone marrow is packed with iron, vitamin K & A as well as fatty acids, zinc and magnesium.
This super soup is rich in gelatin which breaks down into collagen in the body. This can promote joint health and reduce inflammation.
Proline - This mineral is found in egg whites, cheese, cabbage, and meat. Copper You can find copper in nuts, red meat, and shellfish like lobster, prawns, and crab.
Vitamin A - Orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, and pumpkin are high in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are great sources of Vitamin A. Also load your plate with dark green leafy vegetables for a Vitamin A hit.
Anthocyanidins - Snack of dark berries such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries. They are rich in anti-oxidants and help to support collagen.
Collagen is not about vanity. It's not just about plump skin and getting rid of crow's feet. Ageing should be considered a privilege by everyone lucky enough to experience it; although slowing down the natural decline in muscle mass, cartilage and skin elasticity allows us to feel better and have more energy.