Most of us have heard of collagen. It’s the major component of connective tissues that make up many of our body parts, from tendons and muscles to ligaments and skin. Collagen has some vital functions, so it’s no wonder it is abundant in our bodies from a young age. However, from our mid-20’s, our collagen production naturally begins to slow down and this can be a contributing factor for why we get wrinkles , thinning hair, brittle nails10 and joint ache, as well as a number of other medical conditions.
To help counteract this, it’s important to understand collagen’s health benefits and the simple ways you can increase the levels in your body. Here are the main things you need to know.
The health benefits
Not only that, it helps maintain the cartilage that protects your joints. When the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you age, you are at a higher risk of experiencing joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis. Some studies also suggest that increasing your collagen can improve symptoms of these joint disorders by reducing pain and discomfort6.
The majority of our bones are made up of collagen – it helps keep them strong and structured7. A decrease in collagen levels can cause loss of bone mass may lead to conditions like osteoporosis. However, there have not been as many human studies on the role of collagen in bone health, so more research needs to be conducted to confirm this.
As 1-10% of our muscle tissue is composed of collagen, increasing the collagen in your body can aid muscle health, keeping them functioning properly8. One study focusing on people with sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass due to age), found that increasing the collagen levels in the body can help boost mass and improve strength9.
Scientists have also found that increasing collagen levels in the body may reduce the risk of heart-related issues as collagen provides structure to your arteries – the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
How to increase collagen levels
There are many ways you can support your body’s collagen production and increase the levels in your system. You should mainly focus on maintaining a good diet, using specific skincare products and taking collagen supplements.
Hyaluronic acid is an extremely important collagen in the skin. It can be found in foods rich in amino acids, such as beans, soy and root vegetables like carrots, onions and sweet potatoes, and ensuring you are eating foods that are high in amino acids can really help boost collagen levels. Hyaluronic acid is also available in supplement form, as well as in specific skincare products.
Dermatological studies have also shown that vitamin C can play an important role in increasing collagen levels in the body11. It is a vitamin that the body itself cannot produce, so it’s vital that we get it from our diet. Citrus fruits, leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli and strawberries are all vitamin C rich foods. You can also use skincare products that are high in vitamin C and take daily supplements to further increase your intake.
Another study shows that ginseng can increase the amount of collagen in the bloodstream12. Very popular in traditional medicine, Ginseng has been used for centuries to treat a variety of different ailments and can consumed raw, slightly steamed or stewed in water to make a tea. It can also be taken orally through capsules.
Retinol is a popular antioxidant that can be used to boost collagen levels, especially in the skin. Not only does it help increase the lifespan of the pre-existing collagen, it can block enzymes that are known to destroy collagen. As the benefits of retinol have become more commonly known, its use in skincare products has increased dramatically, with many dermatologists recommending that people start using it in their skincare routine in their mid 20s to help keep skin looking youthful.