What is collagen and how can we get more?

Collagen is often seen on the labels of high-end beauty products, but can it really make us look younger? We take a look at what it can do for us from the inside out.

What is collagen?

Found in the connective tissues of all animals, this triple helix protein makes up at least 25% of all the protein in the human body. Bones, ligaments, tendons, skin and even our eyes contain this super-strong, super-flexible protein. It’s essential for skin elasticity, healthy hair and nails, and even our digestion.

These multiple benefits mean it’s not uncommon to see collagen on the labels of some beauty products. But be aware! Molecules are measured using daltons, and the size limit for even surface skin absorption is 500 daltons. Collagen molecules insincere  measure over 10000 daltons, so clearly won’t be absorbed through the epidermis, although it does have very good surface moisturising properties and slows down moisture loss. Smaller dalton weights are used in food supplements, with 2000 being the preferred choice for maximum efficacy within the body.

What happens when it declines?

When we get to our mid-twenties, the body’s collagen production starts to slow down at a general rate of 1-2% every year. Almost 75% of our skin is made of collagen. When it declines through age and free radical damage, our skin starts to lose its elasticity and texture. This important protein is the scaffolding under our skin that keeps it plump and smooth. As deterioration occurs, more wrinkles appear and skin starts to sag.

The good news is that we may be able to give our bodies a hand with collagen production – and even potentially reduce the effect of its slow decline – by eating more protein and collagen-rich foods. Although the collagen we eat does not pass directly into the skin (it’s a protein, so its amino acids are broken down by the digestive process), it does supply the body with the perfect building blocks to recreate more of our own from within.

How can we get more in our diets?

In our Palaeolithic days, it was much easier for us to get more collagen into our bodies as we ate ‘nose to tail’. This diet included foodstuffs that nowadays we tend to avoid, such as offal, tendons and bone marrow. But, by boiling up trotters, knuckles and bones in a broth, we can make use of their collagen content and help give our bodies the building blocks we all need to make more. Gelatine is essentially cooked collagen and there are plenty of ways to use this in the kitchen.

Collagen contains glycine and proline, two vital amino acids. You can enjoy more of these important amino acids in our delicious bone broth recipe.

While one of the best sources is from animal products, vegetarians can find glycine and proline in several common foods such as dairy products and soya beans. These amino acids are used to help build collagen within the skin, although our ability to do this significantly declines with age. Collagen supplements help support our intake too, provided they are the smaller, more effective sized hydrolysed marine collagen that is also encapsulated in a protective coating. This is important as most collagen supplements (liquids and powders) are simply broken down into their component animo acids by our powerful stomach acids. When contained in a protective capsule shell and taken on an empty stomach (so as to avoid being  broken down by the stomach churning), collagen supplements have been proven to be highly effective indeed. Liz loves the Ingenious Beauty Supplement – the only one on the market to have been independently double-blind trialled. You can enjoy 15% off with the code LIZLOVES at checkout too.

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Wellbeing Wisdom

  • Collagen contributes to smoother, younger-looking skin, and is also thought to help with joint mobility and digestion
  • One of the best – and cheapest – ways to get more collagen in our diet is by eating bone broth