Why Collagen May Be The Fountain of Youth
For hundreds (if not thousands) of years, people have been searching for the so-called "fountain of youth." Whether this be a diet, a pill, or a magical potion, the idea that something you consume could somehow extend your life and increase your youthfulness has had scientists and researchers exploring the world of longevity in hopes of finding the secret to everlasting youth.
While there is yet to be a magic pill for turning back the clock, a handful of nutrients have presented as vital components to a healthy diet that may slow the aging process.
If aging is really just wear and tear on the body, anything supporting its structure and function should naturally slow things down and keep you feeling younger.
Collagen, which is the most abundant protein in your body, has proven to be one such nutrient.
Collagen: The Fountain Of Youth Nutrient
Collagen is not only the most abundant protein in your body, but it also makes up a crucial component of your connective tissue. You can find collagen in your joints, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and even your teeth. Collagen can also be found in the layer of tissue outside your vital organs, protecting them from harm.
Unfortunately, as you age, your collagen levels naturally start to decline. In fact, by the time women start going through menopause, they may lose up to 1-2% of collagen per year. And as men start getting on in the years, they'll notice a rapid loss in collagen as their testosterone naturally begins to decline.
Collagen plays a vital role in the health of your joints, bones, and skin, which makes sense as issues in all three of the areas seem to increase as both men and women get on in the years. The good news is, what is lost is not necessarily gone forever.
Research shows that when you supplement with collagen, it can increase the health of your bones, your joints, and your skin -- leaving you looking and feeling much younger. In this way, you might call collagen the "fountain of youth."
Collagen Supports Joint Health
It's not uncommon to start experiencing achy joints as you age. For some people, it's little more than a nuisance, while for others, joint issues can be fully debilitating. It makes it incredibly difficult to exercise and move about when every step you take is accompanied by a sharp ache or pain.
Many people experience issues with joint health due to age because of the gradual wear and tear on your joints. The job of your joints is to protect your bones from rubbing together and creating friction. When you're young and you have healthy cartilage in your joints, you can jump, run, climb stairs, and so on without an issue.
However, as you continue to use your joints, the cartilage in them slowly wears away year after year. The result? Bone on bone friction. Eventually, this can lead to arthritis, which is inflammation in your joints, resulting in stiffness, swelling, and a lot of pain.
Research shows that supplementing with collagen can reduce the impact of wear and tear on your joints. It's suggested that when you consume collagen, it accumulates in your cartilage, which translates into healthier, more resilient joints.
For those that are already experiencing joint pain due to cartilage breakdown, collagen supplements have been shown to significantly reduce the pain while enhancing their quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks like walking and running.
Collagen Improves Bone Mineral Density
As you age, your bone mineral density (BMD) slowly begins to decline. Bone mineral density is a measure of how strong and dense your bones are as a measure of mineral content. Due to hormonal changes, bone loss typically starts around the age of 50 for women (as estrogen drops) and around the age of 70 for men (as testosterone drops).
Women going through menopause and in their postmenopausal years are at the greatest risk for bone loss, and this is why BMD is so crucial for this population.
As your bones continue to lose their mineral content and become weaker, conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis may develop. Osteopenia is the beginning stage of bone loss, while osteoporosis is marked by significantly reduced bone mineral density and an increased risk for bone fractures.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a prevalent bone disease. In fact, studies show that about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. What's more, it's estimated that one in two women and one in four men will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime.
Therefore, anything you can do to keep your bones healthy and strong as you age is vital, as bone loss can lead to serious injury.
In addition to getting enough minerals in your diet, especially calcium, collagen is a key nutrient to support bone mineral density.
Research shows that supplementing with collagen can enhance bone density as well as bone formation while reducing bone degradation. It appears that collagen has an impact on bone cells called osteoblasts, which are responsible for creating new bone.
One study found that when a group of postmenopausal women took collagen supplements for 12 months, they saw significant increases in bone mineral density. In addition, the women experienced decreases in bone degradation, which is a common issue in this population.
Other research backs up collagen's bone-enhancing effects through its positive therapeutic impact on osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Collagen Slows Skin Aging
Although it may not inhibit your ability to function from a movement perspective, the health of your skin can significantly impact your quality of life from a social and physiological perspective. You can call it vanity if you like, but research shows that your skin's health can impact your confidence and happiness.
And for even the most confident of us, it just feels nice to look as good as you feel.
Skin aging is a natural process and happens due to a combination of factors like UV rays from the sun, toxins in the environment, poor diet, smoking, and so on. From a biological perspective, skin aging results from the breakdown of the extracellular matrix which lives under your skin. This connective web of proteins and fibers holds your skin together like scaffolding on a building.
Collagen is one of the primary components of your extracellular matrix and helps to provide structure and function.
As the years pass and your skin comes into contact with sunlight, toxins, etc., it naturally begins to break down your collagen, which impacts the health of your extracellular matrix. The result is sagging, wrinkled skin. This is why you may see people who have spent years in the sun with skin that looks leathery and worn.
Researchers have found that collagen supplementation in women with aging skin can make a significant difference in their skin appearance. Specifically, research shows that collagen can enhance your skin's elasticity, which is involved in the formation of wrinkles, and increase hydration and texture.
In one study, a group of women aged 35 and older were given collagen supplements for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, the researchers reported enhanced skin elasticity and improved hydration, with a reduced appearance of wrinkles.
What To Look For In A Collagen Supplement
With the growing number of collagen supplements on the market, it can be difficult to choose which one to go with. Therefore, it's a good idea to know exactly what you're looking for in your supplement. When choosing a collagen supplement, consider:
In the world of supplements, you never really know what's added to your pills and powders as filler ingredients. Many supplements will contain known allergens like nuts, soy, corn, wheat, and dairy -- so keep an eye out for them. If there is an allergen in the ingredients list, it will be listed in bold.
In general, your collagen should be free of wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, milk, and shellfish.
On its own, collagen has a pretty bland taste. This can make it easy to add to foods or shakes as you'll barely notice the difference. It also makes it an easy supplement to add different flavors to, like chocolate or vanilla, for instance.
The problem is that many companies that sell supplements in powder form will add extra sugar to make them taste good. While it is totally unnecessary to add copious amounts of sugar to a collagen supplement, some companies see it as a smart marketing move to improve the taste.
Check your ingredients and nutrition label and make sure that if sweeteners are added, they're either monk fruit or stevia -- two natural and safe sugar alternatives.
Type I and Type III Collagen
There are over 15 different types of collagen, but 90% of the research has been done on either type I or type III. When you see "mixed collagens," this gives you very little information about what type of collagen is present in your supplement.
Therefore, if you want to get the most bang for your buck, always look for type I and type III collagen on the label.
You can get collagen from a range of sources, but the most well-researched source of collagen comes from bovine. Bovine provides both type I and type III collagen and is well absorbed by the body. Again, if you want the most bang for your buck, choose bovine sourced collagen.
Although you may not be able to halt the aging process altogether, there are steps you can take to improve your quality of life and slow the clock significantly.
When you take collagen, it provides your body with some of the crucial components necessary for joint, bone, and skin health. As research continues to uncover the long-term benefits of collagen supplementation, it will be no surprise to find that collagen is truly the key to the fountain of youth.
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