Aging is an inescapable part of life, and its effects on physical appearance are just as certain. If you're lucky enough to age in this life, then you're going to see some effects from that process. But many of us get a little distressed at that and want to try to stave it off as much as possible.
Claims surrounding the benefits of taking collagen supplements sound enticing, but are they everything advocates say they are? We sifted through the research and found some promising results — and a few important warnings.
The collagen content in our skin suffers a natural decline as we mature, and the process occurs even faster with damage caused by the sun and certain lifestyle choices. Estimates claim that most people lose about 68% of their skin collagen by the time they’re 80 years old. This results in skin that’s dryer, less elastic and more prone to wrinkling. Reduced collagen production can also affect the health of hair, nails and joints.
Research has determined that taking collagen supplements may slow our natural loss, increasing moisture and elasticity and helping with the appearance of wrinkles and overall skin texture. And the effects of 8 weeks of taking them may continue for about 4 weeks after ending the regimen, suggesting long-term benefits.
Some studies point to additional benefits to joint and bone health, which indicates that the effects of collagen supplements may go well beyond skin deep. A supplement could be of particular benefit to people with degenerative joint diseases. Other research reveals great promise in using collagen to treat osteoarthritis of the knee.
Supplements can be a great addition to a healthy diet and exercise regimen, but quality and potency can vary drastically among products. According to a ConsumerLab independent study, the prices of these products can vary as much as the quality, and some products could even be dangerous. One supplement brand they tested showed notable heavy metal levels. ConsumerLab also warns that collagen supplements may cause stomach upset in people who suffer from digestive problems.
Another concern is the source of the collagen itself. Most supplements use hooves, bones, nerve tissues and other parts of slaughtered animals. If these by-products aren’t sourced carefully, the possibility of a disease like bovine spongiform encephalitis— also known as “Mad Cow Disease”—may exist. Consumers who want to go the supplement route should look for USP Verified products, which undergo voluntary testing to ensure their products are the highest quality they can be.
But if you'd rather skip supplements, and want to find better sources of collagen, well, you can do that, too. Some foods can naturally boost collagen levels.
Eggs, dairy, mushrooms, cabbage and asparagus contain proline, one of the building blocks for collagen. The other building block is glycine, which is found in gelatin, chicken skin and pork skin. Foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus and bell peppers, and copper, such as organ meats, cashews and lentils, are also important, as they help the body transform those building blocks into usable collagen.
Added collagen may actually be a great benefit for people looking to improve the health of their skin, hair, nails and joints. There’s merit to the hype, but care has to be taken when choosing the source of collagen. Whether in the form of a high-quality supplement or via added building blocks to a healthy diet, collagen could make a real difference if you're starting to feel the effects of getting a little older. Wisdom may come at a price but we may be able to lower the cost with a little ingenuity if we want to.
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