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Collagen Supplementation: Friend or Foe?

Collagen supplements are promoted as the miracle cure to eliminate wrinkles, get rid of lines around the eyes, and make your face look years younger, but can you really turn back the hands of time by taking a pill?
Collagen and Your Skin
Collagen is made by fibroblast cells that exist among collagen fibers. They make up about 70% of the dermis layer of the skin, which lies under the epidermis. Collagen has great tensile strength, being cross-linked into collagen fibrils that come together into small groups of fibers, which are then organized into thin, wavy, fiber bundles. Fiber bundles are arranged in a mat-like pattern, in such a way that each bundle is at a right angle to the one above and below it. As we age, the amount of skin collagen decreases. Aged collagen is also less dense and stiffer. In addition, the fibers of collagen appear thicker and stain differently. The three dimensional meshwork of collagen becomes distorted from many years of mechanical stress, and, in this way, contributes to the laxity, sagging, and wrinkling of older skin. Men have a thicker dermis than women. Collagen density is also greater in men. However, the rate of age-related collagen loss is similar between the sexes. These differences may explain why the facial skin of women appears to show greater deterioration with age.
The Case for Collagen Supplements
Collagen supplements have been around for a long time. In the last couple of years, however, they have been promoted more widely as a cure-all for wrinkly skin. They come in the form of capsules, powders, and drinks. The claim is that the supplement will cause the body to rebuild its own lagging collagen levels from within. So, where’s the proof that collagen supplementation really works? One recent study is of interest. A 2014 double-blind placebo-controlled study involved a group of middle-aged women taking 2.5 grams of a hydrolyzed collagen peptide daily. The trial lasted for 8 weeks. The results showed that the collagen group experienced a 20% reduction in wrinkle depth around the eyes. What is even more significant is that the levels of pro-collagen, the precursor to collagen, increased their production by an average of 65%. This study was conducted by the Collagen Research Institute in Kiel, Germany. The co-author of the study, Steffen Oesser, commented on the results: “If you lose the collagen structure in your bones, that’s osteoporosis. Lose it in your skin, that’s wrinkles.” Although researchers don’t know exactly how supplementation encourages the body’s natural production of collagen, it is believed that the partitioning of collagen into tiny chains of amino acids is a key factor. It allows the collagen fragments to be transported more readily through the bloodstream. This is believed to stimulate the body to produce more of its own collagen. Oesser states: “What’s exciting is that we can directly influence the dermis, the deepest layer of the skin, by supplementation. It’s stimulating our own body cells by a natural pathway.”
Should You Supplement with Collagen?
More research is required to validate the findings of the 2014 study. Still, the impressive results of the study are hard to overlook. Supplementing with collagen is something that anyone who is concerned about age-related wrinkles should consider taking. Test it out for yourself and find out whether you get similar results to those found in the German study. In addition to supplementing to reduce wrinkles, you should take some proactive steps to protect your skin from age-related wear and tear. Make sure that you follow a proper skin care regimen. In addition, try to avoid excessive sun exposure by your skin, and don’t smoke cigarettes. A healthy diet that is rich in colorful vegetables and fruits is vital for healthy skin. Tomatoes, grapefruits, and watermelons are smart food choices for your skin, as they contain the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene has been shown to prevent the age-related deterioration of collagen.

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