The Glue That Holds Us Together: Collagen
It’s the most common protein in your body, but it diminishes with age. Sun exposure, cigarette smoke and pollution can also accelerate collagen breakdown.(1) It is quite literally the glue that holds us together, strengthening the body’s tendons and ligaments,(2) and lately it has been getting quite the reputation. Available in protein powders, oral supplements, certain collagen-rich foods, injections and face creams; however you want it, you can probably get it. The question is, why?
While collagen is getting all the hype these days in the health and wellness world, it’s important to be weary of looking at it as a cure-all. This is especially so, given many of the new uses of collagen are relatively new and still undergoing studies, but there are a few reasons why you should consider boosting your collagen intake long term and trying one of our favourite not-so-secret Korean anti-aging treatments. Let’s start with a little ‘Collagen 101’.
While the collagen craze may seem new, it has been studied for years, especially when considering athletic or human physical performance and joint pain. As mentioned, since collagen is the glue that holds us together, any boost or increase in collagen synthesis can help bolster the strength of your tendons and ligaments. The stronger these are the less risk you run of twisting an ankle or you can better your chances of relieving different joint and muscle pains. If you’re consistent with it, a collagen supplement has the potential to fortify your bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, thereby preventing injury and helping you move better in workouts and in day-to-day life.(3)
In addition to increasing your bodily physical performance, there have been studies showing that increased collagen can be favourable to your appearance.(4) Supplemental collagen taken internally is touted as a way to improve skin, hair and nail health as well as reducing the tell-tale signs of aging, like wrinkles.(5) Due to this, it’s pretty clear why the collagen craze is sticking around, but the doctor is still out on exactly how big of an impact supplemental collagen can be, especially when used topically. While a great moisturizer due to strong water binding qualities, it doesn’t stimulate collagen synthesis or growth as it doesn’t penetrate the layers of skin far enough to affect production.(6)
In addition to these benefits there are even some who believe that collagen, or at least the amino acid glycine which is a component of collagen, helps to improve sleep quality. While studies around the exact benefits are still emerging, there is one thing that is agreed upon: a little extra collagen never hurts. There is nothing wrong with boosting your collagen intake, however you see fit.
While collagen is a protein, simply eating protein-rich foods isn’t enough. Collagen is really only three amino acids — glycine, proline, and lysine — and those aren’t found in skinless, boneless chicken breasts, dairy products or other protein sources we typically think of.(2) While not common in the West, the best foods to support collagen production are those such as organ meats and skins, tendons, and other gelatinous cuts of meat. Think the ‘nose to tail’ trend, not just a global supply chain issue or green movement, these are the cuts that carry the kinds of protein that will boost collagen production.
Another great source is bone broth. Bone broth is rich in gelatine, glycine and glutamine, all the amino acids linked to promoting healthy collagen production and increased gut health.(7) Unfortunately, increasing collagen-rich foods in your diet isn’t a choice for those who are vegetarian or vegan. There is no such thing as a true collagen supplement for vegetarians, but you can find powders and protein supplements that support collagen formation. Another option is to try and eat a few more foods that can boost your body’s natural collagen production, like berries or tropical fruits.(8)
While increasing your intake of collagen-rich foods is an easy lifestyle tweak to get more of the necessary proteins and amino acids into your diet, you could also turn to supplementing in other ways.
When choosing how to supplement your collagen intake, it’s important to consider your exact goals. For example, if you’re taking it for the performance-enhancing benefits, a powder or pre-mixed drink with collagen in it is going to be your best bet. Same goes for increasing the potential sleep benefits, the powder ingested around an hour before going to bed is going to give the best results. But if you are interested in any potential gut-healing properties you’re better suited to ingesting the whole protein gelatin found in bone broth or certain gummies. In general, it is probably not going to make a big difference where it comes from, as long as there is a consistent intake every day. You often will get more bang for your buck when using a powder, since it can be easily incorporated into foods and drinks, but there is nothing wrong with gummies or collagen in pill form.
The anti-aging benefits of collagen is one of the reasons it has garnered such attention from the health & wellness communities. If those worrisome wrinkles or that saggy skin is staring you in the face, you might be interested to try some anti-aging treatments that biohack collagen production. ScarLet RF is a Korean anti-aging secret beloved by many to achieve a younger and more contoured appearance. With innovative, face-firming thermo-controlled radiofrequency technology, ScarLet RF renews collagen production to tighten skin, reduce fine lines, improve skin elasticity, and reduce puffiness.
How does it work? ScarLet RF relies on radio frequency energy, or intense heat, delivered by dozens of small needles to warm tissues deep in the dermis. While many other external or topical treatments do not produce the same results since they cannot penetrate far enough below the dermis to be effective, ScarLet RF treatment penetrates well below the dermal tissues, increasing the build up of collagen and providing long-lasting and trusted results. Of course, as always, you will begin with a consultation to ensure that the treatment is recommended for your personal goals.
- J. Varani, M. Dame, L. Rittie, et al. Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin. The American Journal of Pathology. 2006; 168 (6): 1861-1868.
- M. Shoulders, R. Raines. Collagen Structure and Stability. Annu Rev Biochem. 2009; 78: 929–958.
- Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.
- Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
- Inoue N, Sugihara F, Wang X. Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhance facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduce facial ageing signs in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study. J Sci Food Agric. 2016;96(12):4077-4081.
- Ulloa, Gabrielle. Are There Benefits to Collagen Supplements? New York Times Online. 9 November 2019. Updated: 11 November 2019. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/09/style/self-care/collagen-benefits.html
- Liu D, Nikoo M, Boran G, Zhou P, Regenstein JM. Collagen and gelatin. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2015;6:527-557.
- Marengo, Katherine LDN RD. 13 Foods That Help Your Body Produce Collagen. Healthline. 26 February 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/collagen-food-boost#berries