COLLAGEN- FOUNTAIN OF ETERNAL YOUTH?
Collagen has been a hot topic, and an important factor in the quest for beauty and youth, since ancient times and across ancient cultures- from Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China. Collagen has been an important part of the beauty, medical and - more recently the wellbeing and fitness - industries in more ways than one. Many cultures used collagen to act as a powerful healer of wounds, to stop bleeding, recruit immune and skin cells to stimulate new blood vessel formation.
In the modern era, cosmetic scientists all over the world are working with collagen and considering the importance of collagen in our body, it is no wonder that science has long been working on methods of obtaining this protein for use in medicine and cosmetic science.
For centuries, scientists and beauty therapists alike have strived to improve the appearance of the visible effects of ageing upon the human complexion; searching for ways to reduce facial lines and wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, enhance hair growth and thickness, and strengthen brittle fingernails.. the list goes on.
It is the most common protein found in mammals, and it’s the main protein found in connective tissue: the tissue that binds it all together also known as elastin fibres and 75% of dry weight of human skin is made up of collagen which serves as one of the main building blocks for our bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, arteries, blood cells, intervertebral discs, lungs, liver, prostate and even the cornea of our eyes. In fact the word ‘collagen; is derived from the Greek word ‘Kolla’ which literally means glue.
"Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look."
The human body naturally makes collagen, but with age this decreases. "Starting in our mid-20s, we slowly begin to lose collagen and "For women, we can lose up to 30% of our collagen production in the first 5 years of menopause."
Because we lose collagen as we age, many are using collagen supplements as part of an anti-aging beauty regimen. There is no doubt of the increasing popularity of Collagen in its various forms from topical treatments, to pills, to collagen injections in a constant battle to defy ageing.
This has propagated a multibillion dollar business across the globe. In 2020, in the United States alone, consumers are expected to spend $293 million on collagen supplements, up from just $50 million in 2014, according to market research firm Nutrition Business Journal. Globally, as collagen makes its way into more foods and beverages, topicals, and even the operating room, the market is projected to reach $6.5 billion by 2025.
Let’s take a look at the numerous merits/myths that are associated with Collagen.”
- Amino acid Glycine that is abundant in collagen reinforces our immune system and is necessary for the liver to flush out toxins. Thanks to modern day living and ingesting food/drink that is a constant onslaught the liver has to put up with- it cannot seem to manufacture enough glycine on its own at the pace that is required. This is where supplemental collagen in the form of Collagen Tea for example steps in to boost immunity
- Japanese researchers published a study on the effects of collagen ingestion and immunity in 2015. Japanese men and women between 30-60 with low SIV (Scoring of immunological Vigor) markers and complaints of constant fatigue were tested. They were given a daily dose of 10 grams of collagen supplements and after an 8 week period - they had a marked improvement in their comprehensive immunity.
- Bone broth that is rich in collagen and supplements like Integral Collagen provide soothing and healing to the digestive tract. Because of the amino acid glycine that is so richly found in collagen, stomach acid production is stimulated and supports the body to assimilate nutrients from food. Low stomach acid is a chronic condition thanks to unhealthy and excess/low eating disorders and this leads to poor digestion and inadequate nutrient absorption which then results in hormonal imbalances. Collagen restores a lazy/sluggish digestive system by repairing leaky gut and also the infrastructure of our stomach and intestines.
- The body runs through the sleep cycles more rapidly when it’s core temperature is hot as compared to when we are cooler. The glycine found in collagen supports our sleep cycles by maintaining a lower core body temperature during sleep. Collagen supplements as a daily habit actually reduces daytime sleepiness and supports in improving concentration, learning and memory functions.
- Collagen is known to fire up metabolism and revving the thermogenic temperature of the body by stimulating hormones that expedite digestion. It stimulates the body to release glucagon which is the body’s fat stripping hormone and is needed to form creatine which promotes healthy muscle growth and energy. Creatine also uses up blood glucose thus regulating the body’s blood sugar. Collagen is also rich in proline- which helps the artery walls release fat and fat accumulation in the arteries; and arginine which promotes fat metabolism (breaking down of fat cells) and the release of human growth hormone by building lean muscle tissue.
- Food supplements that contain collagen help the fight against cardiovascular disease as they contain lysine which helps keep the arteries open by providing a conducive environment in the body.
- Collagen makes up 90% of bone mass and 10 grams of collagen peptides taken for 16-24 weeks can result in increased bone mass density, increased bone size and less brittle bones.
- Topical skin care treatments like retinol and tretinoin are scientifically proven to formulate collagen in the body. And antioxidants like Vitamin C reverse the inflammation that causes damage to the collagen in your skin.
- There are various medical facials and treatments that can help with collagen production such as micro-needling (aka dermapen). This treatment is even technically referred to as ‘collagen induction therapy’ as it stimulates the body to produce collagen as part of a controlled wound healing response
- Skin peels also create a controlled trauma to the skin and stimulate cell turnover and collagen production. Same goes for dermal fillers etc. In addition protecting your natural collagen for healthy skin entails the following lifestyle rituals.
- Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks down collagen, so it's important to wear sunscreen daily.
- Eating foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, can also prevent collagen breakdown.
As the largest organ of the human body our skin is astounding. It protects us from infection, endures radiation, senses temperature, and is flexible enough to withstand our everyday activities. What holds this all together is the protein we all know and love:
In a paper published in Scientific Reports a team from Japan found for the first time that collagen in the skin is organized in a mesh-like structure, and that elastic fibers -- the connective tissue found in skin -- follows the same orientation.
This just goes to show that the human body is amazing and the study of collagen actually reveals an Intelligent Design at work and it would do us well to pay more attention to this factor by actually taking a deep look at how we live our lives on a daily basis.
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Author: Dr Amit Goyal, Aesthetic Skin Doctor at MK Aesthetics is also a well established GP Partner at a prestigious surgery in Milton Keynes with an interest in Dermatology and is the lead GP for Dermatology in Milton Keynes. He is also part of the Dermatology team at Bedford Hospital.
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