Collagen is the anti-aging secret that has finally stolen the spotlight! For centuries people have consumed collagen without even realizing it, in the form of whole meat soups, bone broths and the delightful “fish-head” soup, common to so many Asian cuisines. Unfortunately, most Americans follow the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which does not promote the consumption of whole animal proteins, including bones and organs. Collagen is abundant in these parts of the animal and nearly non-existent in the main meat of the animal, which of course is what westerners prefer to eat. Now that more people are catching on to its many different anti-aging benefits, people are starting to give second thoughts to eating the turkey giblets or chicken livers that frequently get tossed during family dinners. Dr. Pacholec describes below how adding collagen to your diet can benefit your health, mental function and even assist in weight loss! Make an appointment at either our Lutz, FL or St Petersburg, FL location to discuss with Dr. Pacholec how you can start implementing collagen into your anti-aging regimen today!
Collagen is made up of 19 different amino acids and is known as a “complex protein”. It is found in all living animals and is most abundant in the bones and organ tissues. The main building blocks of collagen are proline, glycine, glutamine and arginine.
Proline makes up roughly 15% of collagen and is important for cardiovascular health, maintaining the integrity of blood vessels and improving joint health.
Glycine makes up nearly 1/3 of collagen and is responsible for building and maintaining healthy DNA strands. It is also required to produce creatine, which promotes muscle growth and increases energy during workouts.
Glutamine is one of our favorite anti-aging amino acids! It is essential to nearly every system in the body and improves health from head to toe. As a quick overview, it improves anxiety, tension, sleep disorders/insomnia, a lack of concentration, poor digestive health, a weakened immune system, stubborn weight loss and low energy. Check out our blog post on Leaky Gut Syndrome for a more in-depth overview on the magical benefits of glutamine.
Arginine breaks down into nitric oxide within the body, which is an important compound for arterial and heart health. It also improves circulation, strengthens the immune system and may even improve libido! These four amino acids have powerful anti-aging effects, making collagen one of the most beneficial natural products to slow the aging process and increase energy. Read on for information regarding the top 6 issues collagen is most beneficial for.
Improves the Health of Skin, Hair, Nails and Teeth
As we age, our skin gets noticeably looser, more wrinkled and less elastic. For decades, people were expected to believe that this was just a natural part of aging. Thanks to advances in anti-aging medicine, we know no many of these processes can be prevented and even reversed with certain dietary supplements. Collagen is a beneficial supplement which has been found to increase skin firmness, make skin smoother and increase elasticity to naturally prevent and even reverse cellulite, stretch marks and wrinkles (ref: Collagen Peptides have Beneficial Effects on Human Skin).
Improves Joint Health and Arthritis
Another assumed negative impact of aging is the deterioration of our joints and bones. Anti-aging medical research has now found that myth can be debunked as well through the use of certain dietary supplements, such as collagen. Ingesting a hydrolyzed collagen compound has been found to reduce joint pain and degeneration and research has also proven it to be an effective remedy for osteoarthritis (ref: Collagen for Treatment of Osteoarthritis). It also helps to rebuild cartilage and buffers our bodies against the effects of vibration or shock, which often deteriorates as we get older.
Improves Gastrointestinal Health
The amino acids present in collagen help to create new connective tissue, which is the underlying reason why collagen has so many beneficial properties. It is especially beneficial for leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel disease, Chron’s disease, acid reflux and ulcerative colitis since it is able to protect and repair the gut lining, due to the high concentrations of glutamine. Research has found that patients who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease have decreased serum concentrations of collagen (ref: Collagen in Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
Improves Weight Loss
As we age, it also gets more difficult to lose weight. Collagen not only repairs degenerating connective tissue, it also increases metabolism by aiding in the conversion of essential nutrients, like glucose, to be used as energy and fuel for muscle cells during workouts. This creates more lean muscle mass and reduces fat storage (ref: Collagen Improves Body Composition and Increases Muscle Strength)
Assists in Liver Detoxification
Glycine, which is one of the main amino acid building blocks of collagen, improves liver function and can even reverse alcohol induced liver damage (ref: Glycine Accelerates Recovery from Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury).
Improves Cardiovascular Function
Collagen helps to release fat buildup in your arteries and minimizes fat accumulation. It also prevents arteriosclerosis (i.e. hardening of the arteries) since it helps to clear dangerous plaque buildup. It also improves vasodilation, which allows arteries to widen and relax which improves overall blood circulation (ref: Effects of Collagen on Atherosclerosis).
As you can see, collagen has many different beneficial properties, which is why it is considered one of the “miracle” supplements in anti-aging medicine. One of the best ways to increase your collagen level is by making and consuming your own bone broth, made from organic, free-range or wild-caught chicken, fish or meat bones, or by consuming organ meats. If you don’t have time to slave away at the stove making broth, a daily supplement is another easy way to increase collagen consumption. Be wary of processed or store-bought bone broth, especially ones that are shelf stable, since these will not have collagen levels needed to see health improvements. Dr. Pacholec sells a pharmaceutical-grade collagen supplement, called H-S-N Complex, which contains not only collagen peptides, but extra glutamine, biotin, vitamin C and aloe vera to further strengthen its effects on the integumentary system (i.e. hair, skin and nails) and gastrointestinal system. Vitamin C is needed to help convert the collagen into useable proteins in the body, so if you are making your own bone broth it is important to also take a vitamin C supplement or add oranges and other foods rich in vitamin C to your bone broth recipe.
While the ingestion of collagen has been proven to help improve the skin, hair, nails and teeth, effects from its topical application to the body are less conclusive. Many skin products boast of the added collagen in their formulas to naturally prevent and reduce wrinkles, fine lines and tone skin, but collagen is not as readily absorbed through the skin as it is through the gastrointestinal system. Don’t be fooled by the expensive price and fancy packaging on these skin care products. The best way to treat skin conditions is from the inside out!
A great way to get your dose of collagen every morning is to add it to your coffee. Bulletproof coffee is a health fad that is sweeping the nation, and for good reason! Coffee plus collagen, grass-fed butter and coconut oil extract (MCT oil) makes a great start to your day. It keeps you full longer and burns energy to help your body reach ketosis faster, which is helpful if you are following a ketogenic diet. Check out the recipe below on how to make your own bulletproof coffee!
1 cup coffee
1 scoop H-S-N Complex powder
1 tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee
1 tsp MCT oil
1 tsp cinnamon (to taste; optional)
1 tsp raw maca powder (to taste; optional)
What are some other ways you like to incorporate collagen into your diet? Do you have a bone broth recipe to share? Post it in the comments below!
Barbara Pacholec, MD
Dr Pacholec is Board Certified in Bariatric Medicine and Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. She has run a successful practice specializing in medical weight loss, hormone replacement therapy and anti-aging/regenerative and functional medicine for the past 20 years in Lutz, FL in Tampa Bay. In January 2018, she opened a satellite practice in St Petersburg, FL which also specializes in medical weight loss, hormone replacement therapy, and anti-aging/regenerative and functional medicine.