Aching joints and loose skin are inevitable parts of aging. While most of us accept this fact, we still want to do our best to preserve our bodies.
The good news is that there are many natural ways to help minimize the effects of aging. But unfortunately the anti-aging industry also churns out many “remedies” that do nothing but lighten your wallet. Dietary collagen appears to be one of these so-called remedies.
You’ve probably seen collagen powders and supplements on the shelves at the health food store. It seems to be gaining popularity as more and more popular health websites write about it. But does it really help tighten your skin and ease your sore joints?
To answer that question we should first consider what collagen really is. You can think of collagen as your body’s glue, holding together bones, skin, blood vessels, cartilage and other connective tissues. On a microscopic level, collagen is made up of a network of amino acids that link together to form long chains that bind together to give your connective tissues strength.
With that in mind, you can see how dietary collagen is such a popular trend. If you need the stuff to keep your tissues strong, why not consume more high-quality collagen in your diet?
There are three main reasons why dietary collagen isn’t really the fountain of youth that some people claim:
- We have many types of collagen in our body.
It turns out that we don’t have just one set of collagen fibers holding everything together. In fact there are many versions of collagen. Humans have at least 28 types of collagen.
Most of our different connective tissues require several different types of collagen working together. For example, skin requires multiple types of collagen – each performing slightly different roles – in order to function properly.
But do most collagen supplements make this distinction? No. You are probably getting one or two types of collagen (derived from animals, no less) in your expensive collagen powder. The company selling it just hopes you won’t know the difference.
2. We need our own collagen.
The fact is, our bodies make collagen on their own. Our cells take individual amino acids, which are the building blocks of collagen, and create large collagen fibers from scratch. And our genes give very specific instructions for how to do this. There can be very small but important differences in our collagen chains from person to person.
It seems unlikely, then, that some generic animal collagen would be of much use. If our skin is made up of a carefully-designed network of our own specific collagens, it’s hard to see how a blend of collagen from many non-human animals can do anything to further strengthen our tissues.
3. It all gets digested anyway.
The collagen you ingest will not reach your skin and joints in tact. Since collagen is just a long chain of amino acids, our digestive system breaks it down into component parts just like it does to any other protein.
In that sense, collagen supplements do provide you with the raw material for your body to make it’s own collagen. But you don’t need store-bought collagen to do that. You can get the same amino acids from actual whole foods, and for less money too.