Collagen is a component of all cellular tissue, and is composed of proteins synthesized by fibroblast cells. It looks like fibers under a microscope, and makes up about 80% of skin content, especially in the dermis region. This is because its role is an essential one in maintaining the firmness and elasticity of skin; once collagen levels decline, the skin starts to get damaged easily, develop wrinkles, and sag. Clearly, if you want to look young, your collagen levels need to be high as well.
There are almost thirty types of collagen known so far, but the most common collagen types are Type 1 to Type 5. All types of collagen have a role to play, but Type 1 is the most abundant collagen type in the body, being abundant in the skin. As we age, collagen levels begin dropping as less and less collagen is produced by the fibroblast cells while the breakdown of collagen increases at a faster rate.
Many factors like UV rays from the sun, bad diet, smoking, insufficient sleep, stress, and some enzymes produced by certain disorders can break down collagen and lower its levels in our body. The stress hormone cortisol is known to degrade collagen, which is why people under prolonged stress end up aging more rapidly.
To replenish your collagen levels, you need to take sufficient vitamin C every day. Without vitamin C, your body cannot synthesize collagen at all. This is why it pays to take a couple of grams of vitamin C per day. Besides vitamin C, vitamins A and B complex are also beneficial for collagen production, but vitamins generally should be obtained from food sources, where possible.
Hyaluronic acid, lycopene, lutein, and the amino acid lysine, are some of the other nutrients that increase collagen production as well. Lycopene is a strong antioxidant by itself, and has anti-cancer properties; it fights collagenases, which are enzymes that destroy collagen in the body. Lutein improves eyesight and may also prevent macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid binds water to the skin cells and thus helps with moisturizing the skin. All these nutrients also stimulate collagen production in way or another, which is why eating a diverse, nutritious diet that contains such nutrients, is the best way to keep your collagen levels up.
As far as diet is concerned, the foods that you should be eating would be lots of garlic, tomatoes, dark green vegetables, and soy products. Garlic has plenty of sulphur, lipoic acid, and taurine, which are necessary to manufacture collagen and rebuild damaged collagen fibers. Dark green vegetables contain a lot of lutein, while tomatoes contain good amounts of lycopene. Meanwhile, soy isoflavones and genistein found in soy products can also increase collagen production and consequently, ease wrinkles and return vigor back to aged skin.
What about collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements are numerous and exist in oral, topical, and injectable forms. They can be helpful, but it depends on what type of collagen you are taking. Most collagen supplements or beauty products contain what is called hydrolyzed collagen. This is collagen that has been broken down into a simpler state using water molecules. With the exception of injectable collagen that produces fast but temporary results, most topical and oral collagen does not get absorbed easily, resulting in a lot of wastage.
When it comes to oral collagen, most are manufactured using collagen extracted from bovine, chicken, or shark cartilage, but the absorption rate is believed to be low. As for topical collagen, unfortunately there is no concrete proof that topically applied collagen can be absorbed through the skin and then used by the body, because of its large and complex molecules.
To date, conclusive research on the efficacy of oral supplemental collagen seems to be lacking, but it does not stop plenty of companies from marketing various collagen products. For other uses, such as arthritis and wound healing, collagen supplements seem to work to a certain extent, but for anti aging purposes, many health practitioners seem to concur that it’s hardly effective.
If you intend to take a collagen supplement, choose a product that at least contains other synergistic ingredients that work alongside collagen, such as coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and zinc. In the long term, the best way to obtain collagen is still from your food, and maintaining your body’s health (e.g – keeping your HGH levels high) so that it continues to manufacture adequate collagen at all times.