Did you know that in your 20s and 30s your own natural collagen production declines? So, what does that mean exactly? In simple terms: loose skin, wrinkles, joint pain and slower metabolism—and that’s not all.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. But as we age, we begin to produce less. In fact, women experience an even greater reduction in collagen after they reach menopause. Additionally, too much sun exposure and smoking causes collagen to become damaged.
Thankfully, there are ways you can increase your collagen production. But first, here are signs you’re body is screaming for more.
You have loose skin, more wrinkles and less elasticity
When collagen declines naturally or is damaged by UV rays, skin appears more wrinkled and less firm. Although this is a natural and inevitable process to aging, restoring some of your body’s natural collagen can help you look younger while increasing your skin’s elasticity.
A study from the department of dermatology at the University of Kiel in Germany looked at collagen supplementation and its effect on aging skin. Sixty-nine women aged 35 to 55 years were chosen and split into groups. Some were given collagen and the others were given a placebo. Skin elasticity, moisture, water loss and roughness were measured before, during and after the trial.
At the end of the study, those who took collagen saw a significant improvement in skin elasticity. There was also a significantly higher elasticity level in elderly women after four weeks of follow-up treatment. Additionally, there was a positive effect on skin moisture and skin evaporation.
You have brittle nails and split ends
If your nails are short and brittle, and you continually struggle with split ends, then you most likely need more collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and it helps strengthen many tissues. So, if your collagen is damaged or depleted, it may show in the form of brittle nails and damaged hair.
You have stiff joints and achy bones
Unfortunately, wrinkles aren’t the only problem that come from collagen loss. Glycine, an amino acid found in collagen, is essential for keeping the connective tissue around joints lubricated and healthy. As you age and during exercise, your joints and ligaments get stressed. Cartilage can wear, causing joints to deteriorate and your bones to grind against each other. This leads to pain and inflammation. Although your body usually produces enough collagen to keep this tissue healthy and your bones strong, with age and the amount of naturally produced collagen declines.
A 24-week study from Penn State University investigated the effect of collagen hydrolysate on activity-related joint pain. Researchers concluded that collagen can support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in high-risk groups such as athletes. Adding collagen to your diet can help like ibuprofen or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) but without the harmful effects these drugs have on the body. Collagen also helps heal bones form breaks and tears. Additionally, it will keep your joints well-oiled and inflammation free.
You suffer from arthritis
A study from Harvard, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that supplementing with type 2 collagen helped relieve painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by decreasing swelling in joints. Meanwhile, another study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences found that type 2 collagen also helped people who suffer from joint pain from osteoarthritis. Type 2 collagen significantly improved activities such as climbing stairs and sleeping, and a general overall improvement in quality of life.
Hydrolyzed collagen versus type 2 collagen: which is best?
Clinical research generally speaks of either “hydrolyzed collagen” or “undenatured type 2 collagen.” Here’s the difference. If you want to improve the elasticity of your skin, fight wrinkles, brittle nails and split ends, then you need to supplement with hydrolyzed collagen. Hydrolyzed collagen also works to reduce the risk of joint deterioration.
However, if you have stiff joints due to arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, then you should opt for type 2 collagen.
Research from the department of pharmacy sciences at Creighton University Medical Center in Nebraska found that small doses of orally administered type 2 collagen effectively deactivates the killer T-cell attack. In both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, the main cause of inflammation is exposed collagen and the subsequent attack by alert killer T-cells.
University of Nebraska scientists were surprised to find that chicken soup calmed inflammation. Upon further examination, they discovered that a soluble component of the chicken broth delivered anti-inflammatory activity. It was, in fact, the type 2 collagen from the chicken bones in the broth that provided this beneficial anti-inflammatory effect.
How to get more collagen in your diet
Before you rush out to purchase collagen-based creams and lotions, save your cash! The idea of increasing collagen levels topically is highly unlikely since collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin.
Instead, take collagen orally. Studies show that the best way to get collagen is by consuming it. A healthy diet can help the body produce more collagen. Our bodies naturally make collagen from amino acids, vitamins A and C, and minerals like copper.
Additionally, we can get collagen from consuming animal proteins such as dairy, eggs and meat. In fact, bone broth (the contemporary word for stock) contains glucosamine, which also helps promote the formation of new collagen. But, if you just can’t get enough collagen-building foods in your diet then consider a daily supplement.
Look, the natural decline in collagen is really no biggy — it happens to all of us. But since collagen really is the glue that holds our bodies together, it may be worth adding more into your diet!