But what exactly is collagen? And why is it garnering so much interest?
Collagen is The Body’s Youth Glue
Collagen comprises roughly one-third of the body’s total protein, and is the main structural component of the connective tissues, such as skin, bones and joints. Collagen is, quite literally, the ‘glue that holds the body together’.
As we age, our natural production of collagen begins to decline. This means that collagen is broken down more quickly than it can be replaced; a process which begins as early as our 20s.
This process is occurring in many tissues of the body, but the visible signs are evident in our skin.
Collagen is responsible for our skin’s structure and elasticity, but over time this connective tissue network becomes disorganised and irregular. The result is that our skin becomes prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
‘Inside-out’ benefits of collagen
While it is not possible to halt our natural aging process, there are many ways in which collagen can support it in a way that is healthy, both inside and out.
1. Supports healthy skin
There is an expanding body of literature to support the benefits of collagen for skin health.
In one study, eight weeks of collagen supplementation led to significant improvements in skin elasticity among participants. This evidence is further supported by a study reporting beneficial effects such as skin hydration, elasticity and wrinkling, after 12 weeks of collagen supplementation. Neither study reported any side effects.
2. Reduces cellulite
Research has also demonstrated that collagen may improve the appearance of cellulite in women. This is thought to be due to the improvements in dermal firmness and skin elasticity that collagen provides.
3. Strengthens bones and joints
Beyond skin health benefits, collagen appears to be a powerhouse nutrient for our bones and joints.
Pain relief and reduced inflammation are some of the reported benefits that collagen may offer for our joints. A study investigating the therapeutic potential of collagen for patients with knee osteoarthritis demonstrated that collagen may improve the overall physical discomforts associated with osteoarthritis, and may be beneficial for maintaining optimal joint health.
Collagen may even provide support for healthy bones. In a large clinical study, collagen was shown to improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women.
While scientists claim that this research is still in its infancy, the preliminary results are promising.
Boosting your collagen - do you need it?
Now you are more familiar with the benefits of collagen, before filling your shopping cart with all the collagen-packed treats, it is important to first consider whether your body needs more collagen.
Our body naturally produces collagen by using amino acids from protein-rich foods, such as beef, eggs, chicken, fish, beans and dairy, along with key nutrients, including vitamin C, zinc and copper. As such, consuming a nutrient-dense diet containing these ingredients may be enough to boost your body’s natural collagen production.
If you feel you may benefit from additional supplementation, perhaps a chat with your healthcare practitioner or dietitian is a good place to start. While supplements may provide a convenient alternative to getting in enough of this youth-promoting compound, they should not be a replacement for a healthy diet.
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