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Collagen Levels Decline as You Age & What to Do About It
By Jill Levy
August 30, 2023
Did you know that collagen is the second most common substance in the body, second only to water? And that collagen is also the most abundant protein in the human body, making up nearly 30 percent of all the proteins in the body?
This structural protein is found throughout the body — in our skin, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bone. Its fiber-like structure helps make our connective tissue, but as we age, our natural collagen production begins to decline. This is completely normal.
The human being can give the body certain “building blocks” to make its own collagen through specific diet changes and careful supplementation, similar to how our ancestors ate a collagen-charged diet full of broths and stocks to support the entire body.
Today, however, dietary collagen is virtually non-existent in the American diet. Because of that shortfall, we’re often feeling it in our gut and joints — and noticing it on our skin, such as “crow’s feet” and less skin elasticity, and with our hair.
Let’s examine why you need collagen, why and when collagen levels can drop, and then what to do about it.
Found in our flesh, bones and connective tissue, collagen is like a glue that holds our bodies together.
What is collagen exactly? Collagen is a protein made up of building blocks called amino acids, and this protein is responsible for the health of our joints, our skin elasticity (its stretchiness) and even contributes to our hair strength.
Collagen resides in our muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones and even blood. All of these areas of the body play incredibly important roles for our structural health. Our bones are living tissue and serve to provide overall structural support for the body. Ligaments are a type of connective tissue that attaches bones together and holds joints together, while tendons are bodily tissues attaching muscles to bones. Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue found in joints between bones and other bodily areas.
Collagen also makes up about three-quarters of our skin. It functions to help skin retain and maintain its firmness and smoothness, while playing a large role in healthy hair and nails.
Once we reach our 30s and 40s, nearly all women and men produce less collagen. In fact, sometime after the age of 20, collagen production naturally begins to diminish (sometimes by up to 1 percent each year). That shortfall can really add up over the years.
We can thank this process and lower levels of collagen for contributing to “normal signs of aging,” such as fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, as well as impacts to the hair, joints and the gut.
Other lifestyle factors — like eating a diet high in sugar, smoking and high amounts of sun exposure — can also lead to diminishing collagen levels. On top of that, poor intake of collagen-rich foods (like bone broth) can contribute.
Our ancestors followed earlier traditional diets that incorporated whole-animal eating. Simply put, they ate many animal parts, like skin, tendons and ligaments, that we now commonly avoid or discard.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to “get back to the basics.” A surefire way to increase collagen consumption is by making a homemade bone broth. It’s a health-conscious, delicious and cost-effective (no waste!) way to use parts of an animal that can’t be eaten directly.
Bone broth is simply very good for you. As these inedible animal parts simmer for hours or days, they release collagen in an easy-to-absorb broth.
Collagen supplements, like Multi Collagen Protein (with its 10 types of collagen from four food sources), are another easy way to increase your collagen intake. Make sure that you get your collagen powder from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows (raised without antibiotics or growth hormones), such as at Ancient Nutrition.
Collagen supplements can be conveniently mixed into smoothies, soups or even into baked goods to provide health benefits without adding any taste to your favorite meals.
Using a collagen supplement like Multi Collagen Protein is perhaps the most easy and effective way to help boost the building blocks of collagen levels, which can do the following:
Support healthy skin, including skin elasticity and less visible crow's feet after just a week of usage
Support a healthy gut and help gut lining integrity
Support the health of your joints, tendons and connective tissue, impacting comfort and mobility
Help promote healthy hair and nails
Can assist in building muscle
Supports the health of the heart and blood vessels
Food-wise, it’s also helpful to employ a nutrient-dense diet that includes lots of antioxidants and vitamin C — such as from fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices — is also helpful for maintaining higher collagen levels. Vitamin C is required for the production of type 1 collagen, which is the most abundant form of collagen in the body.
Finally, consuming enough quality protein-rich foods and healthy fats also plays a role in supporting collagen synthesis.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including supplementation.