Updated: Apr 15
Nutritionist DR JOSH AXE explains how adding collagen to your diet can smooth wrinkles, beat cellulite and give you lustrous hair.
Dr Josh Axe believes collagen is the unsung hero of anti-ageing medicine. He says it can stave off wrinkles and cellulite and improve your mood and sleep. Today, we consume almost none of it yet it's the best defence against ageing. He says he's been blown away its effects on hundreds of patients. Read on to judge for yourself…
Collagen is most famous for being a vital building block of healthy skin, so you may recognise it from the labels on some top-end beauty products. But its importance for health is far more than skin-deep. It can help you stave off wrinkles and cellulite; boost athletic performance (in bed, too!); improve your mood and your sleep; increase post-menopausal bone density; build your immune system; control weight; and maintain healthy nails and hair.
So what do I mean by dietary collagen? Well, though it might be new to us as a superstar ingredient, our ancestors were very familiar with it.
In the days when food was scarce, humans ate every part of an animal they could, routinely consuming organ meats, ligaments, cartilage and tendons — all of which are teeming with life-giving collagen.
In fact, new research is demonstrating that collagen and the compounds it contains may help regenerate new tissue, aid gut repair, even increase your life span.
By the time you reach your early 50s, you produce roughly 30 per cent less natural collagen than you did in your 20s.
You peer closely in the mirror one day and notice small crow's feet at the corners of your eyes and fine lines around your mouth. Your skin isn't as bright as it once was, and it doesn't feel as springy and elastic.
While these signs of ageing are perfectly normal, they're typically the first, most visible signal that your collagen is on the wane.
But there's good news: collagen's ability to preserve and refresh skin has been more widely studied than any of its other uses. By now, scientific paper after paper supports its effectiveness. A number of studies, including those published in the journals Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, Nutrients, and the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, have found that using collagen supplements for four to 12 weeks improves skin hydration, elasticity and wrinkles.
What's more, the trials revealed that older people respond just as robustly to the supplements as younger subjects — sometimes more robustly.
Dietary collagen works by stimulating procollagen, a collagen precursor, along with other aspects of the body's collagen-making machinery.
For instance, collagen ingestion leads to an increase in the number of collagen-making fibroblasts in the skin, so it effectively revs up the engine that is responsible for producing collagen and elastin — the substance that allows skin to resume its shape after being poked, pinched or stretched.
Plus, ingestible collagen bolsters the quality of the collagen in your skin, thereby improving its ability to keep the tissue taut and pliable. Try it for a proven youth boost.
GET LUSTROUS HAIR
Your hair and nails need collagen, too. Hair is primarily made of the protein keratin, and keratin construction relies on a substance called proline, one of the main amino acids in collagen (an amino acid is a compound your body needs to grow and function properly).
Especially when it comes from fish, collagen is a potent antioxidant which can repair that damage. I've heard plenty of stories from women who have taken collagen and rave about its effects on their hair.
As for nails, a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that participants who consumed 2.5g of a collagen supplement once a day for 24 weeks had a 12 per cent increase in the rate of their nail growth and a 42 per cent decrease in broken nails.
In a trial published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers recruited 105 women with moderate cellulite, giving some of the participants a daily 2.5g collagen supplement and others a placebo.
After six months, those taking the collagen supplement had a noticeable improvement in the appearance of their cellulite compared to those who were given the placebo, leading the researchers to conclude that dietary collagen 'has a positive effect on skin health'.
Insomnia is notoriously hard to treat, but collagen can help.
Collagen contains glycine, an essential amino acid and a powerful anti-inflammatory — and it's the glycine that helps people fall asleep more quickly.
Animal studies show that glycine triggers the temperature-controlling part of the brain to drop core body temperature, and research has long shown that as body temperature falls in the evening, it facilitates the onset of sleep.
To maximise collagen growth and minimise its breakdown, include these collagen-boosting herbs and spices in your diet:
Turmeric. When it comes to battling the free radical damage that prematurely ages skin, turmeric is a rock star. It can prevent moisture loss, protect against wrinkles and aid wound healing.
Cinnamon. Who doesn't love cinnamon? This delicious spice's active component, cinnamaldehyde, actually promotes collagen synthesis within skin fibroblasts (the cells that play a critical role in tissue repair), according to research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Ginger. Like turmeric, ginger is a powerful antioxidant, so prevents skin ageing at source by eliminating free radicals. Ginger's antioxidant capacity can also protect collagen, research shows.
Ginseng. This potent, inflammation-reducing antioxidant may help your skin, too, by triggering the production of collagen.
Buy hydrolysed Marine Collagen here.