Collagen is an abundant protein that keeps bones and joints strong and helps skin maintain its smoothness and elasticity—among other benefits.
One natural ingredient that seems to be popping up everywhere in recent years is collagen. You’ve likely seen it in your local natural health store or have had it recommended to you for digestive issues. Here’s the lowdown on the role of collagen in your body, the benefits of supplementing and how to make it a part of your everyday wellness routine.
What is collagen? Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body, making up about one-third of its entire protein content. It’s known as a structural protein because it supports our skin, helping to maintain its smoothness and elasticity. Collagen also helps bones and joints remain strong.
Who should supplement with collagen? As the body ages, its production of collagen naturally decreases. In fact, after the age of 20, 1% less collagen is produced in the skin annually. In addition, collagen in the skin may break down faster because of environmental factors such as excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Smoking, poor nutrition, poor hydration and stress have also been associated with collagen deficiency. Connective tissue diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, can also lead to a reduction of collagen in the joints and bones.
What are the benefits of taking collagen? When collagen stores are depleted, the skin is increasingly prone to lines and wrinkles, joints become less stable and tendons and ligaments are more susceptible to injury.
Increased collagen intake has proven health benefits, which have been demonstrated by clinical trials. A study in the journalClinical Interventions in Aginginvestigated the benefits of collagen on aging skin: 300 participants, both men and women, took a supplement of 50ml of collagen in liquid form once a day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, participants saw a clear reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles and depth of nasolabial folds (laugh lines). They also showed a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness.
Another study addressed the effect of a collagen supplement on the skin appearance of 105 women with moderate cellulite. The study participants were treated with either a bioactive collagen peptide supplement or a placebo for a total of six months. At the end of the study, those who took the collagen supplement showed an improvement in both skin density and elasticity.
Finally, a study in theBritish Journal of Nutritionof 53 elderly men who suffered from reduced muscle mass showed that collagen supplementation combined with resistance exercise training for 60 minutes three times a week improved their overall body composition and muscle strength.
How can you take collagen? Collagen can be found in the foods you eat. Bone broths are excellent sources of collagen. When the bones slowly simmer in water, the collagen is released into the broth. Beef broth is richest in the type of collagen that promotes skin health, while chicken and turkey broths are higher in the type that supports bones and joints.
There are also foods that don’t contain collagen themselves, but can help boost its production in the body:
Pomegranates and some berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and cranberries, contain a nutrient called ellagic acid that prevents collagen breakdown from sun damage. Berries are also rich in vitamin C, which helps link specific amino acids together to form collagen.
Wild salmon contains zinc, a trace mineral that activates the proteins needed for collagen production. Plant-based sources of zinc include kidney beans, chickpeas, spinach, pumpkin seeds and some nuts, like walnuts, cashews and almonds.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which protects the skin from sun damage and prevents collagen breakdown.
For a quick and precise dose, you can also supplement. Collagen supplements can be found at your local health food store and are available in a variety of formats, such as liquid formulations, pills, capsules and powder. The choice is yours, depending on your lifestyle and health considerations.
If you have digestive issues (or just don’t like swallowing pills or capsules), a liquid preparation may be your best bet.Powdersare a popular option because they can easily be added to soups and drinks; simply stir a spoonful into your morning oatmeal and you’re good to go. If you’re on the run and don’t want to fuss with the mixing, then a capsule might be a better choice.
While collagen is produced naturally in the body, its supply can be depleted through aging, stress and environmental factors such as sun exposure. An adequate supply of collagen is important for skin, joints and bones. Making collagen consumption a part of your everyday routine is an easy and excellent way to maintain your health.Deep Marine Collagenis a staff favourite at Fitterfirst.
Learn more about the benefits of collagen and other helpful natural health products by visiting the Canadian Health Food Association’s website atchfa.ca.
Kathy Smart is a bestselling author, TV host, chef, nutritionist, Speciality Presenter of the Year in 2014 from the Canadian Fitness Professionals, North America's gluten-free expert and CEO ofLive The Smart Way™andLive The Smart Way Expo. Kathy is inspiring the world to be healthier one bite at a time.
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