One of the key ingredients in our Beauty & Go range of beauty drinks is collagen. I recently attended a lecture on the research into health benefits of collagen at this year’s Food Matters Conference and wanted to share some of this with you. Collagen is one of those ingredients that we’ve all heard of and know it’s good for our skin, but don’t really understand why, so I want to explain a bit more about how it works.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is one of the main structural proteins of the body, forming the various tissues known as connective tissues – these include skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and muscles. It is actually the most abundant protein in the human body, comprising 25-35% of the total protein in our bodies. Collagen has great tensile strength, (meaning strong when pulled), giving strength to these important structural tissues. In the skin specifically, it is essential for maintaining strength, firmness and elasticity.
Collagen is produced by cells called fibroblasts and there is a constant turnover of collagen in the body, meaning it is continually being broken down and new collagen is synthesised to replace the old. If this balance is disturbed for any reason, for example by stress or a lack of nutrients, the result is collagen loss. Collagen is made from two amino acids (glycine and proline), which can be made by the body, but are also present in protein foods. Vitamin C is essential for enzymes that produce collagen to function.
As we get older, collagen production by the fibroblasts naturally slows down, and this results in signs of ageing such as wrinkled, sagging skin and deterioration in tissues such as bones, joints and muscles. Minimising these losses and boosting collagen levels in the body will therefore have wide-reaching benefits!
How does it get from a drink into my Skin?
The collagen from your Beauty & Go drink is absorbed via your digestive system, in exactly the same way as nutrients from food, and from here it is naturally attracted towards the collagen-producing fibroblast cells, where it has its effects. Research has shown that taking collagen orally enhances its availability to the body compared with applying it topically in a cream.
The collagen in Beauty & Go is in the form of collagen peptides, which means shorter fragments or pieces of collagen. These peptides have been shown in tests to be more easily absorbed by the body than larger, whole collagen molecules. Scientific studies have shown collagen peptides to be highly bio-available, meaning readily absorbed and able to exert a beneficial effect (1).
Bioactive collagen peptides (BCPs) take about 12 hours to arrive at the tissues and here they work by stimulating the body’s own collagen synthesis as well as the formation of other beneficial substances called proteoglycans.
Collagen is used therapeutically in medicine in the treatment of burns, in heart surgery, wound care and healing, bone grafts and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Taken as a supplement as well as its amazing effects on the skin, it has various other health benefits, especially important as we get older.
As we age, collagen production naturally slows down, and this results in the typical signs of skin ageing such as wrinkles, sagging and loss of elasticity. BCPs stimulate both collagen and elastin production in the skin. In one study, this was shown to result in a 20% reduction of eye wrinkle deepness after just 8 weeks (2).
With an estimated 85% of female adults affected to some degree, cellulite is characterised by puckering, dimpling and ‘orange peel’ skin. A new study published this week found that collagen peptides may help reduce the appearance of cellulite, by helping to restore the normal structure of dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin. Over a hundred women aged 25-50 received 2.5g collagen peptides daily for 6 months. Compared with the placebo group, there was a reduction in cellulite scores of 9%. This may sound modest, but every little helps with this notoriously hard-to-shift condition, these results are also comparable to those of most creams on the market. (3)
Joints, Tendons and Bones
Studies have found that BCPs reduce pain and the need for pain medication, as well as improving joint mobility in people with osteoarthritis (4). Supplementation with BCPs has also been shown to reduce injuries to tendons, ligaments and joints in athletes. In terms of bone health, BCPs increase the action of osteoblast cells, which are the cells that make new bone and at the same time reduce the action of osteoclasts, the cells that breakdown old bone. This produces an overall effect of less bone breakdown, stronger bones and reduced fracture rates.
As we get older, we lose about 8% of our total muscle mass per decade from the ages of 40-70, after 70 it gets worse and goes up to 15% loss per decade. The muscle fibres we lose are instead replaced with fat, leading to a less healthy body composition and a condition called sarcopenia, which involves weakness, loss of strength and balance and reduced ability to perform everyday tasks. Taking collagen peptides has been shown to increase muscle mass and reduce fat mass, limiting the effects of sarcopenia in older people. Staying as active as possible is the most important factor to limit sarcopenia.