When it comes to age there are two markers we can go by. We have our chronological age, which is the amount of years we have been alive, and then we have our biological age. Our biological age doesn’t always reflect our chronological age and it represents our overall health from a physiological standpoint. It is entirely possible for our biological age to be much lower than our chronological age (ie- looking and feeling younger than we actually are). There are many factors that come together to dictate how fast we age, our appearance throughout the lifespan and our biological age. Lowering our biological age is the most effective “anti-aging” strategy. The amount of collagen we produce is reflective of our biological age and therefore one of largest predictors of overall health.
What is collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s most known for its role in keeping skin firm, wrinkles at bay and hair thick and strong. Collagen is responsible for these aesthetic markers of aging, but the role of collagen in anti-aging extends beyond aesthetics, into functional aspects as well.
Collagen is needed for bone health, for the integrity of blood vessels and for joint health. When the body doesn’t have enough collagen joint pain can occur, and it is often a contributing factor to pathologies often associated with age, such as osteoarthritis. Collagen is also present in our muscles, tendons, ligaments, teeth, gums and eyes.
We can see that low amounts of collagen in the body impact several biological systems. As collagen decreases, we begin to see development of aches, pains and again, chronic conditions that are typically associated with aging. The good news is, a lot of what we are seeing is simply a loss of collagen.
When the production of collagen is low, the collagen we do have will be allocated to important systems such as the skeletal and cardiovascular systems. This means that our skin is going to suffer. In fact, our skin and hair is the last place collagen goes. Solution? Ensure we are making enough collagen to benefit the whole body!
What impacts collagen production?
Collagen is a sensitive protein that needs optimal conditions to stay intact. What happens in the aging processes is that collagen is broken down faster than the body can make it.
When we look at slowing down the aging process, the goal is to decrease the rate of collagen breakdown and increase the rate at which the body produces collagen.
The inflammatory processes attacks collagen fibers. The Inflammatory molecules produced during inflammation, when in contact with collagen make its structure weaker and cause a gradual breakdown. Compounding on this, inflammation drives free radical production. Free radicals also promote collagen breakdown, which is one reason they are a key contributor to premature aging.
When there is excess sugar in the diet, it can get stored in the skin and make collagen and fibers rigid. Collagen is meant to be fluid, when the fibers become rigid we see pockets of sagging facial skin and deeper wrinkles.
The stress process requires a lot of nutrients. Several of the nutrients that the stress process uses are needed for the body to make collagen. When the building blocks for collagen production are not there, as is the case in chronic activation of the stress response, we see a deficit in the cycle of breakdown and synthesis- resulting in a net loss of collagen.
Where does collagen come from?
Collagen is a special protein. It’s known as a tripeptide as it’s made from three amino acids: proline, lysine and glycine. Plants do not produce collagen and thus it is a characteristic of and only found in animals.
From a dietary perspective, collagen comes from the consumption of animal products. Bone broth is a great source of collagen, as well as chicken and fish. Consumption of high-quality animal products by nature increases collagen content in the body.
Alternatively, instead of eating foods that contain collagen, consuming the building blocks (from plants) can have positive effects on collagen production, and reduce the rate of breakdown.
How to Increase Collagen
Amino acids are the backbone of collagen. Ensuring adequate dietary protein is the number one strategy to improve collagen quality and content throughout the body. In addition, providing the body with the micronutrients that are needed to essentially knit proteins together to create collagen is essential.
Examples of micronutrients needed are: vitamin C, copper, silicon, zinc, vitamin A, manganese and selenium.
Consuming a diet rich in micronutrients and minerals that primarily come from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds goes a long way in preserving and increasing collagen content.
In addition, reducing stress and removing inflammatory foods are collagen protective. Above diet, exercise stimulates production of collagen.
Living in the modern world depletes nutrients at a faster rate than we can replenish with food. When it comes to ensuring collagen production is sufficient to slow down the aging process, incorporating targeted supplements can be helpful.
Without vitamin C, there cannot be collagen production in the body. vitamin C is a nutrient that is needed for myriad biological functions in the body. This proves a limitation, and a lack of vitamin C is often a rate limiting step in the body’s ability to make collagen. Due to this, we recommend saturating blood plasma levels of vitamin C to ensure adequate collagen production. Our Lypo-spheric Vitamin C has been clinically shown to reduce wrinkles by stimulating collagen production.
Advanced Vegan Collagen
This formula is 100% plant-based and provides a comprehensive blend of both amino acids and nutrients such as selenium, copper and silicon which are all needed for the production of collagen. In addition to prompting the synthesis of collagen it contains hyaluronic acid which keeps skin plump and moisturized, and joints lubricated! Using Vegan collagen builder has been shown to not only improve outwards side of aging but has implications in dental health, eye health and joints.
Adopting lifestyle habits that are collagen protective and adapting your diet to promote collagen synthesis is the number one way to decrease your biological age, independent of your chronological age. Having adequate collagen is best long-term insurance policy to live a vibrant life- both internally and externally. Collagen not only helps keep our appearance vibrant but it protects the tissues and helps us stay pain-free throughout the lifespan.
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin