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  • Aldrin V. Gomes

Collagen and Aging: Should We Pursue a Youth Boost?



Collagen is a naturally occurring protein our body makes to help our skin stay youthful. The idea of getting a youth boost by drinking it in your smoothie or eating a pill is becoming popular in the cosmetic and wellness industry. But can collagen supplements make a noticeable difference to your skin? Or is it just another wellness fad that is trending?


What is collagen?

Collagen is the main structural protein our body produces in connective tissues and skin. As such, it is abundant in skin, hair, nails, tendons, cartilage, and bones. Collagen can be used with other substances, such as hyaluronic acid and elastin, to maintain skin elasticity and moisture (1).

Our bodies naturally produce collagen using the amino acids in protein obtained from foods like bone broth, meat, and fish. Unfortunately, collagen in our tissues degrades with age. Environmental factors (sun damage), lifestyle habits (smoking, alcohol), and poor diet (too much sugar) can increase collagen breakdown.

What are the different types of collagen? There are 28 types of collagen (2). The most abundant ones are types 1, 2, and 3. Type 1 is the collagen found in skin, bone, teeth, tendons, and ligaments (2). Type 2 is found in the eyes and makes up cartilage (2). Type 3 is found in muscles and blood vessels (2).


Can collagen supplements make a difference?

Collagen drinks and supplements often contain collagen from many different sources, such as fish, cattle, or chicken. They contain peptides, short chains of amino acids that play a vital role in constructing indispensable proteins found in the body, including collagen itself and keratin (1).

A review of the literature concluded that collagen supplements reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and they do this by increasing the thickness and elasticity of our skin (3). A randomized, controlled trial (4) found that drinking collagen peptide supplements daily increased skin hydration. After 8 weeks of collagen supplementation, the collagen density in the dermis, which is the area of the skin significant for collagen synthesis, increased and the “collagen fragmentation,” which is the process of collagen breakdown because of aging, decreased. Collagen supplements were effective in wrinkle reduction, skin rejuvenation, and skin aging reversal.

Another experiment (5) found that collagen supplements can increase skin hydration and elasticity. In the study, 10 mg of collagen hydrolysate was consumed over 56 days and showed an increase in skin moisture and collagen density compared to subjects who only received 0.5 mg or placebo, and people who did not receive any collagen. This highlights that collagen improves skin moisture, elasticity, and wrinkles.



What else does collagen help with?

Bones

They can help with our bone mineral density which is especially important for those with osteoporosis (6). A study in 2018 has shown bone mineral density improves in the neck and spine after collagen supplementation (6). Collagen helps reduce bone fracture rates and bone loss, and improves bone density (6).


Joints

It helps improve joint function and reduce post exercise joint pain in athletes. There was a study that adult athletes with knee pain who took 5 grams of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks experienced less joint pain during exercise because proteins repaired micro injuries in cartilage and reduced inflammation (7).


Heart

There is a benefit to your cardiovascular health! In a study in 2017, participants who consumed collagen tripeptide for six months showed an improvement in cholesterol and arterial stiffness (8). This along with a good lifestyle may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


Takeaway

The beauty of collagen is it can be used as a protein powder in a smoothie, stirred into coffee or tea, or mixed into baked desserts because it has no flavor. As we age, our bodies will produce less of it, which contributes to the visual effects of aging such as wrinkles. Collagen is trending in the wellness and cosmetology industry, and we should take part in this trend! Collagen supplements are a great way to combat this reduction in our body's natural collagen production and helpful for those who want to keep their skin looking “young,” with other benefits!


It will also help to:

  • Embrace a nourishing lifestyle and eat a well-rounded diet brimming with protein-packed delights.

  • Limit alcohol

  • If you smoke, quit.

  • Apply sunscreen daily.

In the near future, we can all radiate with collagen joy!



Written by Melody Yang, BS and edited by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD


References

(2) Wang, Hsiuying. “A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies.Polymers, vol. 13, no. 22, 9 Nov. 2021, p. 3868.

(3) Al-Atif, Hend. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Field of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, vol. 12, no. 1, 2 Feb. 2022, p. e2022018.

(7) Zdzieblik, Denise, et al. Improvement of Activity-Related Knee Joint Discomfort Following Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, vol. 42, no. 6, June 2017, pp. 588–595.

(8) Tomosugi, Naohisa, et al. Effect of Collagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans. Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, vol. 24, no. 5, 1 May 2017, pp. 530–538.

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