Why Does Our Collagen Production Decrease? The Science Behind Aging
While we'd love to turn back the clock on father time when it comes to those smile lines and perhaps the speed at which we used to run up the stairs, aging is inevitable. But what is to blame for our creaky joints and saggy skin? Most would say a decrease in collagen production.
At ProT Gold, we talk about collagen all the time, so if you’ve read any of our other articles, you’ll know we often mention that collagen production begins to decrease in your mid-twenties for most people.
Even if you haven’t read our content before, if you’re someone that is interested in collagen anti-aging effects, then you may already know that collagen production decreases with age, hence the wrinkles and achy joints.
But why does collagen decrease? And what's really happening in our body to cause an increased chance of wrinkles, sore joints and weakened bones over time?
Until now, we haven’t explained exactly why our body's natural collagen production slows down as we age or what other environmental factors can contribute to a decrease in collagen production. So let’s dive right in!
What is collagen and why is collagen production important?
Collagen proteins are a protein that our body naturally produces to create and repair structural parts of our bodies like our bones, cartilage, skin, ligaments, and other connective tissues. It is what provides elasticity to our skin and our joint structures and creates walls for our arteries and blood vessels.
Collagen is one of the most important parts of our structural body, which is why the effects of a decrease in collagen production are so noticeable as we age.
Collagen proteins are made up of a variety of amino acids. When synthesizing collagen, our body takes the necessary amino acids and builds collagen by binding the amino acids together. These complex structures (elongated triple helix fibrils) then connect to one another to make up many connective tissues within the body.
Without enough collagen, our bodies can still function, but we will start to divert collagen that is produced to the most important parts of our body, like our vital organs. That means that our skin, cartilage, and other “less important” connective tissues often get left out, and will not have as much collagen to recover or rebuild.
The less collagen production we have, the longer it may take us to recover from injury, surgery, and workouts, and the easier it may be for us to develop structure related disorders like arthritis.
Why our natural collagen production decreases as we age
Despite any other health or environmental factors, the natural aging process results in producing around 1% less collagen per year by age 20. The commonly touted reason for this, especially when discussing collagen production in the skin, is because the collagen and elastin fibres within the skin loosen over time.
While many scientists believe and agree that natural collagen production does decrease with age, there is some disagreement about the exact cause of that decrease. Some believe that many internal factors like DNA repair capacity, oxidative stress, telomere shortening, and other molecular interactions contribute to a loss of collagen with age.
Another general thought is that these internal factors only account for a small percentage of collagen production decrease, and that sun exposure, smoking, air pollution, and other external environmental factors influence collagen loss more dramatically.
In either case, there is still a consensus that collagen production does indeed decrease as we age. Because there is a lot supporting the effect of external environmental factors on collagen production decrease, let’s take a look at some of them and how they affect our collagen levels.
4 external factors that impact collagen production
Since there are so many environmental factors that can play into the decrease in collagen production as we age, we felt it important to include that here as well.
Keep in mind that although everyone’s collagen production decreases, you may lose more collagen more rapidly with increased exposure to some of these external factors.
1. Too much sugar
Our diets have a lot to do with our collagen production and collagen synthesis. Sticking to a well-balanced nutrient dense diet is important, especially as we age. Plus, eating too much refined sugars can actually make it harder for our bodies to produce and synthesize collagen.
When we consume foods with refined sugars (candy, white bread, juice, etc.), they usually contain fructose or glucose, or their derivatives which can lead to glycation. What is glycation you ask? When a protein becomes glycated it means that a sugar molecule was able to bond to it, and the end result is a stiff, inflexible molecule.
Glycation produces advanced glycation end products (AGE), which are lipids, or proteins, that when exposed to sugars become glycated. Many health professionals will look at a patient's AGE level as an overall marker for health since the AGE molecules damage and cause premature aging in normal cells, and can lead to oxidative stress.
When eating sugar, other junk foods, or high-fat animal products in excess, the AGE molecules stick to collagen proteins in our bodies. As the collagen gets weighed down by AGE molecules, they become stiff, unable to maneuver properly, and often are damaged. This can cause our skin to lose a lot of elasticity.
Eating too much sugar can damage the collagen that is already within our bodies, but it can also make our collagen production less stable over time. This happens when we eat a large amount of sugar at one time because the glycation converts collagen being produced into a less stable type of collagen that is more vulnerable.
2. Tobacco use
Smoking and tobacco use is one of the most damaging external factors that can influence collagen production, especially the collagen in our skin. Many smokers may notice the skin near their lips (that comes into direct contact with smoke) is the skin that loosens first over time. That is because the collagen in that area is losing its elasticity.
Smoking can also restrict or reduce blood flow and constrict blood vessels. The lack of proper blood flow can influence collagen production and existing collagen, making the molecules rigid and unusable.
The lack of blood flow, combined with smoking's impact on oxygen transport in the body to tissues, results in even more collagen damage. The less oxygen and blood that can reach collagen in tissues as it is regenerating, the lower the likelihood that molecule has of surviving.
3. UV damage
UV rays have long been tied to skin damage, and their influence on collagen production in the skin is one of the reasons why. UV rays damage collagen production in the skin in various ways, some of them being internal - like DNA damage.
Skin exposure to UV rays can also produce free radicals. Free radicals can seek out and damage collagen molecules, making it hard for them to produce and repair damaged areas. One way to combat these free radicals is through the ingestion of antioxidants.
Some examples of foods high in antioxidants include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
Stress can have a huge impact on our mental health, but it impacts our physical health as well. It may be a surprise that stress and collagen production are tied, but stress is known to increase inflammation for some people, as well as increase hormones like cortisol, which both can influence collagen production.
High-stress individuals often produce less collagen because the body is in a fight or flight mode, and most resources are being redirected to focus on the cause of the stress and the inflammation the stress creates.
That leaves less time for the body to produce collagen, and even if it is producing collagen, it likely is being brought to areas experiencing inflammation because of the stress.
How to naturally boost collagen production
There are so many ways that our natural collagen production is impacted. For some, our genetics work against us and we naturally produce less collagen. For others, it may be because of environmental factors like growing up in a home with secondhand smoke or a job that requires us to work long hours in the sun.
Whatever the cause, the question everyone comes back to is always, “Is there a way to naturally boost collagen production?”
The short answer to that question is, yes. You can boost and restore collagen production in your body.
One of the most accessible ways to increase collagen production is to add a high-quality collagen supplement to your diet.
How to increase collagen production will depend a lot on personal needs and dietary restrictions. Since collagen is derived from animal sources, vegans and vegetarians will have a much harder time accessing things like collagen supplements to replenish collagen.
However, vegans and vegetarians can still utilize collagen boosting foods, foods high in vitamin C, and supplements that help the body boost collagen production.
If you do not have dietary restrictions, integrating collagen into your diet can be as easy as using a liquid collagen supplement like ProT Gold.
ProT Gold is one of the best collagen products on the market today, and is medical grade. Unlike many other collagen supplements, ProT Gold is tested and trusted by over 3,000 medical facilities for medical nutrition.
ProT Gold is a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, which means that it is a collagen peptide protein. Unlike the collagen proteins your body already produces, these collagen peptides go through a process to break them down into smaller pieces, making them more digestible and easier for your body to use once consumed.
Once consumed, your body can take the amino acids from the collagen peptides and reconstruct collagen as it would during natural synthesis.
Unfortunately, your body will continue to lose collagen as you get older, and with each year you will likely start to see more and more of the effects.
By integrating a hydrolyzed collagen protein into your diet, you will provide your body with the tools it needs to continue to synthesize collagen and apply it to areas in need.
Just don’t forget that there are several external factors that also contribute to collagen production and synthesis. These factors may also impact the effectiveness of a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, so using ProT Gold as a part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle is recommended.