Collagen is a fibrous type of protein that contributes to ageing. There are more than 16 types of collagen, which occur naturally in the body. It makes up around 30% of the total amount of protein in the body and, in combination with elastin, it connects and supports bodily tissues. These tissues are your skin, bone, tendons, muscles and cartilage, as well as the internal organs. It is also present in the hair, nails and teeth.
Collagen is an important element in the body but, as we age, the body produces less and less. It starts around the age of 30 and accelerates in our 40s; leading to the visible and invisible signs of ageing, for example fine lines, wrinkles, dry and/or sagging skin, and aching joints. Although the decrease in collagen is a natural process, it can be sped up by other factors, such as pollution, too much UV-exposure and certain lifestyle choices.
Collagen-loss affects different parts of the body, for example: one of the first signs is firmness of our skin. Collagen provides this and, as it decreases, our skin becomes dryer and thinner; therefore, signs of ageing become more visible. Another sign of collagen decreasing, is our hair and nails. Balding, thinning and weakness of hair start to occur. Hair and nails are made up of primarily keratin, which creates stronger and more resilient hair and nails. Keratin not only strengthens our nails but also protects them from damage and infections. As collagen decreases our nails can become more brittle and break more easily. Just an added note here: calcium and magnesium are just as important for strong bones and nails as collagen (hence you will notice that it is added in collagen-supplements ).
Our bones, joints and muscles also use collagen in order to stay strong and healthy. As collagen decreases, bones can become weaker and more fragile – important to make sure to add the right amount of minerals and vitamins to your daily diet. As we age, our joints wear and tear (especially if we did ballet, sport or any active activity). Cartilage can decrease / thin out over the years, especially around knees, hips, wrists and backs. Staying active regardless of your age is not important – it is vital – as movement keeps the joints lubricated. Even just walking regularly, at a comfortable but not too slow pace, is good; as long as you keep moving!
There are a tremendous number of muscles inside the body, ranging from short to long, connecting and protecting the skeletal system. As mentioned before, the decrease in collagen can cause a decrease in muscle strength and function. This can affect our balance, gait and overall mobility; that is why it is so important to keep moving and making sure your diet consists of the right foods and/or the right supplements.
Collagen have many benefits: it improves skin hydration, firmness and elasticity; it keeps the bones and connective tissues strong, flexible and healthy; it strengthens the arteries; it helps to build lean muscles and promotes muscle recovery; and it regulates sleep patterns. Collagen is an important protein and, from what you can see, used in many parts of the body. Although it decreases as we age, all is not lost, because there are many good supplements of collagen on the market today.
Lastly, I want to let you in on a few interesting uses of collagen. Did you know that collagen is used in food, medicine and manufacturing? For thousands of years collagen was used as a glue and even today, it is used to manufacture strings for musical instruments. In food, collagen is heated to create gelatine and used as casings for sausages and in medicine it is used as a filler in plastic surgery and dressing severe burns!
So, ladies and gents, we cannot stop ageing, but we can help our bodies to age better by looking at our diet, making sure to exercise no matter what our age and to take a good collagen-supplement if need be. instead of dreading the thought of ageing, we should embrace it with gratitude, a positive attitude and help from Mother Nature!