Is Collagen the New Fountain of Youth?

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | July 5, 2018

By now, you have probably heard of collagen. It’s everywhere, from pills and powders to bars and drinks – even lotions! But what exactly is collagen?

Collagen is a protein that assists with the structural integrity of skin, bones, cartilage, and tendons. We lose collagen as we age, which explains wrinkles and sagging skin as well as all the achiness and stiffness with each passing decade.

This is precisely why collagen supplementation has become so popular in recent years. The promise of turning back the clock is very enticing for many. Supplement manufacturers have created products called collagen hydrolysates, which are small chains of peptides that are absorbed by the body and delivered directly to tissues that lack protein.

We have to keep in mind that, as with any supplement, there are a lot of false claims that have not been scientifically proven to confirm the effectiveness of these supplements. We also need to be mindful that the supplement industry is still an unregulated industry. Any company can say, for example, that a product contains collagen even when it doesn’t necessarily provide a significant amount of collagen in the supplement itself. Always choose a company that was tested by a third party for safety and integrity.

When you find a trusted source of collagen, you can begin to reap its benefits. There is a lot of promising research that supports collagen use.

Several studies showed improved skin elasticity and hydration, along with the reduced formation of deep wrinkles, after taking collagen hydrolysate supplements for at least six weeks. One of these studies was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2017. Its findings suggest that collagen hydrolysates can be transferred through the bloodstream directly to the skin. This would support the argument for collagen’s assistance with wrinkles and skin elasticity.

Another study done in 2017 from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology claimed that collagen supplements might also help improve brittle nails when it was taken for 24 weeks.

In 2018, a study on athletes was conducted and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. They showed a decrease in joint pain in athletes who supplement their diets with collagen. However, they also stated that longer-term studies need to be done on this subject to prove long-term safety and continuous results.

So, should you place your order right now and start supplementing with collagen? Not so fast. Our bodies produce collagen! It's found in our bones, tendons, ligaments, hair, skin, organs, muscles, and blood vessels.

Animals produce collagen, too. Does that mean we can get enough collagen from eating animal protein, especially when our bodies produce less collagen as we age? We simply do not know enough indisputable facts about collagen to say for sure, but we can look forward to future findings.

There are no single miracle foods out there. However, there is a miracle in eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet on a consistent basis. Get back to the basics of eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, grains, nuts, and legumes while also hydrating properly, and you will feel and look younger from the inside out.

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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/ Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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