Collagen

A few days ago, someone from a local Facebook group I belong to asked if I had any information on collagen and collagen formation in the body. Oddly enough, I’d just watched a new story on the subject, so my interest was already peaked. I did a little research, and this is what I found.

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Collagen Type I is found primarily in skin. Collagen Type II is found in joint cartilage.

  • Collagen works with keratin to provide skin with strength, smoothness, elasticity and resilience. As we age, our bodies stop producing as much collagen.
  • Skin is made of three layers: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Collagen is produced in the middle layer, the dermis. Topical attempts to increase collagen must get through the epidermis to the dermis to be effective. The epidermis is porous, so this is not unheard of. However, some topical treatments can actually harm the skin and make it appear older. It’s even harder to increase collagen production in hair and nails through topical applications. That’s why internal attempts to increase collagen production are preferred.

There are many plant foods that can increase collagen production in the body.

Soy – contains genistein that not only helps increase production of collagen but also helps block enzymes that break down and age skin.

Dark Green Vegetables – contain lutein, an antioxidant that helps increase natural collagen production, and Vitamin C. You need about 10 mg daily of lutein to help increase collagen production (4oz spinach/2oz kale).

Beans – contain hyaluronic acid, a powerful anti-aging enzyme. Just two tablespoons of beans a day can provide the hyaluronic acid you need to reap its benefits.

Red Fruits & Veggies – contain lycopenes, which are powerful antioxidents that can increase collagen production. Cooking helps concentrate the lycopenes in these foods. As a side benefit, these same antioxidents help prevent sun damage, but you need about 6 servings (1c raw/.5 c cooked) daily to see a true sunscreen benefit.

Fruits & Vegetables High in Vitamin C – are natural sources of college production.

Prunes – contain antioxidents that prevent free radicals from breaking down and aging skin. Blueberries contain similar anti-aging antioxidents. You’ll need to consume 5-6 prunes or about ½ pint of blueberries to see maximum benefits. Side benefit – prunes are great for your bones! They help your body’s uptake of calcium, and the extra calories from adding prunes to the diet seem to be negligible – probably from their high fiber content.

Omega 3 and 9 Fatty Acids – help create an ideal environment for collagen production. Skin cells are surrounded by a fatty layer made from fatty acids and other fats. Theoretically, the higher your Omega 3 and 9 fatty acid intake, the stronger that fatty layer will be, which will plump your skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. (Hydration creates a similar affect, so drink your water!)

Fruits & Vegetables High in Vitamin A – also naturally help keep collagen levels high.

Cacao – can increase blood flow to the skin, which helps nutrients get where they need to go.

Avocado & Avocado Oil – is packed with plant sterols that can help reduce the appearance of age spots and blemishes when applied topically. It has also been shown to stimulate collagen production when applied topically.

Lysine, Manganese, and Copper – can help increase collagen and elastin production. However, lysine is found predominantly in animal products (red meats and cheeses), and excess copper can collect in brain tissue, which can ultimately lead to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. (See Dr. Barnard for more information on heavy metal buildup and memory issues.)

Collagen creams are seemingly not very effective. Collagen supplements can be. But…even though a collagen supplement says it’s vegetarian or vegan, you really have to look at the ingredients. If it says “marine sources,” it might include plankton and/or shellfish shells. Otherwise, vegan/vegetarian sources should be made of seaweed or a mix of vitamins. (Be careful of large amounts of fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A. Diets already heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables are also full of natural sources of Vitamin A.)