Collagen – the glue that keeps skin looking younger

It’s the protein associated with supple skin – so how can you give collagen a helping hand to keep the visible signs of ageing at bay?

Collagen is a key human building block, making up almost one-third of the protein in our bodies.

With its job of binding cells and tissues together, it is a vital ingredient in skin, bone and connective tissues like tendons and ligaments.

Even its name gives a clue to its function – the word ‘collagen’ is derived from the Greek word kolla, meaning ‘glue’.

But as we age, our body’s ability to produce this important protein declines.

That’s when skin and body tissues lose the firmness we associate with youth, making way for wrinkles and general deterioration.

How do we get collagen?

Like all proteins, collagen is made up of amino acids.

Three of the most important are glycine and proline, which are produced by the body, and lysine, an essential amino acid obtained through food.

Animal products such as red meat, chicken, fish, yoghurt and milk are among the best sources of dietary lysine.

vitamin c collagen

How to boost collagen

Vitamin C is key to boosting collagen stores.

Not only does it stimulate the production of collagen, it also helps collagen molecules hold their structure.

Vitamin C is known to be in high concentrations in healthy skin, and much lower levels in aged or sun-damaged skin.

And because it is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is excreted in urine and not stored in the body, maintaining a regular intake is vital.

So adding vitamin C-rich foods to your trolley, such as oranges and kiwi fruits, is a good way to boost collagen stores.

Silica, a compound that contains silicon and oxygen, is another important factor in the synthesis of collagen, with studies showing various advantages of supplementation.

One study found adults who boosted their silicon intake over 20 weeks reported significant improvements in their skin surface, as well as noticeably stronger nails and hair.

Another study found hair strands were more resistant to breaking in adults who took silicon supplements over nine months.

There is also some emerging research about the benefits of collagen supplementation.

One European study found that skin elasticity improved in women who took dietary collagen supplements over 12 weeks, while another found a noticeable reduction in dryness and wrinkles in women using collagen supplements over two months.

Habits that damage collagen include:

  • Eating a high-sugar diet.
  • Smoking, which damages both collagen and elastin in the skin.
  • Spending too much time in the sun, because ultraviolet rays break down collagen fibers.

Collagen levels deplete naturally as we age, with menopause speeding up the degeneration of collagen in women.

While this is inevitable, experts agree that a healthy lifestyle – including eating well, exercising and avoiding bad habits that damage collagen – are important when it comes to keeping the visible signs of ageing at bay.

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