As we age, it’s critical to ensure we have enough of this key protein
Collagen—along with hyaluronic acid—forms the “intracellular cement” that literally holds us together. There are several different types of collagen, but type II is by far the most abundant in our bodies, representing 30 percent of total body protein and up to 70 percent of the proteins in our connective tissues.
Aging and Skin Health
As we age, a lot happens in the collagen-rich support structure of the skin (the dermis). First and foremost, the activity of the fibroblasts—the cells responsible for making collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid—slows down. The dermis is also less able to protect itself from damage and is more prone to dehydration. All of these factors ultimately lead to a thinner dermis and structural changes that lead to skin looking old and weathered.
Clinical studies with ChOSA showed impressive results in women age 40–65 with signs of premature aging.
Joint and Bone Health
As we grow older, natural collagen production also slows in our joints and may lead to osteoarthritis. The ligaments and tendons may also weaken. Bone is also rich in collagen. In fact, about 30–40 percent of bone is composed of collagen. It provides the structural matrix upon which mineralization of bone occurs. Collagen is to bone what 2x4s are to the frame of a house. Decreased collagen content of the bone is a key underlying factor in osteoporosis and low bone density. The amount of collagen determines the number of “bone mineral binding sites.” If the collagen content is low, the bone becomes more brittle and fracture risk increases dramatically.
Increasing Collagen Content
Collagen supplements can provide the building blocks of collagen manufacture, but the key to increasing collagen levels is to increase the activity of collagen-producing cells. Collagen supplements have shown mixed results in promoting joint health. In one study, a collagen supplement (2 grams per day) was shown to produce considerable relief of symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.
However, this collagen supplement also contains low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HA). Studies with HA supplementation in osteoarthritis have also shown beneficial effects, so it’s difficult to know if the results are due to the collagen or HA.
Natural eggshell membrane (NEM) is another source of collagen and HA. Studies show that NEM helps relieve the pain, stiffness, and impaired mobility of osteoarthritis and other joint health problems. In one clinical study, NEM reduced pain by an average of 72 percent and improved flexibility by 44 percent after 30 days of use—without side effects.
Rather than simply supply collagen, it is thought that NEM boosts the production of critical joint molecules such as type II collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), including chondroitin sulfate. GAGs are important components of cartilage, providing resistance to compression and contributing to the tensile strength of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
One of the most interesting and well-documented approaches to increasing the manufacture of collagen is the use of a highly bioavailable from of silica—choline stabilized orthosilicic acid or ChOSA (sold as BioSil). Initially, research focused on the ability of ChOSA to increase the levels of hydroxyproline, the key amino acid required for the production of collagen and elastin. Clinical studies with ChOSA showed impressive results in women age 40–65 with signs of sun damage and premature aging of the skin. Those receiving 10 mg of ChOSA daily experienced 30 percent improvements in shallow, fine lines and 55 percent increased skin elasticity.
ChOSA can also promote bone health through increasing the manufacture of collagen. In a double-blind study of postmenopausal women with low bone density, ChOSA was able to increase the collagen content of the bone by 22 percent and increase bone density by 2 percent within the first year of use. The recommended dosage is 6–10 mg per day.
Flavonoids Are Critical
Flavonoids are plant pigments that are more potent than traditional antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. This effect goes a long way in protecting collagen structures from damage. Especially beneficial to collagen structures are the blue or purple pigments—the anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidin oligomers (PCOs)—that are found in grapes and blueberries, as well as in pine bark and grape seed extracts. They affect collagen metabolism in many ways:
- They can crosslink collagen fibers, which reinforces connective tissue.
- They prevent free radical damage with their potent antioxidant action.
- They prevent the release of compounds that promote inflammation.
- They protect collagen structures from enzymes secreted by white blood cells during inflammation.
To insure sufficient levels of these beneficial flavonoids, increase your intake of richly colored berries and other fruits. It’s also a good idea to supplement your diet with a PCO extract, such as grape seed or pine bark, at a dosage of 50–150 mg daily for general support.