New research shows this time-tested supplement can help you defy aging—from the inside out
As you know, I like to stay on top of cutting edge developments in the world of alternative medicine. After all, my non-stop research and unique medical connections around the globe help me to stay on top of the most groundbreaking natural discoveries and healing techniques as they happen—sometimes decades before they trickle out to the mainstream.
Still, there are plenty of old standbys out there with solid research, too. (Some of which I have been recommending since the very beginning of my career.) And sometimes, the worlds of “new and exciting” and “tried and true” collide.
In fact, I can’t tell you how many of my patients have reported that a certain time-tested “beauty” supplement is working absolute wonders for them. And not just for erasing age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles… but for improving heart health, joint pain, and even brain power, too.
I’m talking about collagen. And I’ll admit that, until recently, it wasn’t really on my radar. But after seeing and hearing about these amazing results—and after combing through the volumes of scientific evidence—I’ve come to the conclusion that it may well be one of the most promising, yet least-hyped supplement superstars out there.
So, let’s review exactly what collagen is and what it does for your body—and then, I’ll tell you how you can defy aging by defending your own stores of this vital substance.
Benefits are more than skin deep
You’re probably most familiar with collagen for its role in skincare—and, more specifically, for helping to prevent wrinkles. And there’s a good reason for that.
Collagen and elastin are the proteins that keep skin firm and supple. Indeed, collagen is the most abundant protein in the body—which is why it’s so important. However, it starts to break down in your 20s. So by the time many people hit age 40, those laugh lines and forehead creases have already started to set in.
Of course, collagen isn’t just necessary for keeping skin youthful and wrinkle-free. Other research has shown that collagen plays a key role in all phases of wound healing.1
In fact, when you apply collagen powder externally, it can stop bleeding, recruit key restorative immune and skin cells to the injury site, and stimulate the formation of new blood vessels. It’s also as effective as stitches after a skin biopsy! And it provides all of these advantages without causing irritation or inviting bacterial infection.
But collagen isn’t just in your skin. You’ll also find it in the lining of your blood vessels, as it helps them to expand and contract. Which means maintaining peak collagen stores can offer general protection against high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, too.
In addition, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continue to explore the role that collagen degradation and remodeling—mediated by a group of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)—plays in diseases ranging from arthritis to cancer.2
And recently, some exciting new research has analyzed the connection between collagen and the brain.
A buffer against amyloid-beta
As I mentioned above, collagen is one of the essential building blocks that line your blood vessels and capillaries. As it breaks down over time, this loss can lead to leaky capillaries and a damaged blood-brain barrier. Which is one way collagen replacement can help save your cognition.
But new research from the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND), UCSF, and Stanford has discovered at least one other way that collagen guards the brain against decline.3
Scientists found that brain cells generate a certain type of collagen—called collagen VI— as an important form of protection against amyloid-beta proteins, which play a pathological role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). (This also helps explain why patients with AD have increased levels of collagen VI in their brain tissues.)
In this particular study, lab experiments on brain cell cultures showed that higher levels of collage VI guarded neurons against amyloid-beta toxicity—establishing it as a critical defense mechanism against AD, in particular. And ultimately making collagen an important substance for brain health.
Common collagen saboteurs
Clearly, the benefits of collagen are more than skin deep. Which is why fancy creams and serums aren’t the best solution for boosting your body’s levels of this essential substance. Instead, you need to shift your attention to what’s going on inside of your body. And as always, that starts with what you eat.
Poor food choices cause inflammation right down to the cellular level. Slowly but surely, that inflammation leads directly to premature aging—in the form of wrinkling, sagging skin, and a higher risk of chronic disease.
Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 offender here is sugar… or anything that quickly turns into sugar in your body. (Think white foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and other refined grain products.)
That’s because sugar bonds with protein in the body and creates something called advanced glycation end products. (Otherwise appropriately known as AGEs.) These AGEs directly sabotage collagen—causing it to become inflamed and stiffen.
Eating sugar also leads to free radical formation which depletes your collagen and elastin stores.
But the good news is, it is possible to rebuild your collagen—and restore suppleness to both your skin and your blood vessels—simply by eating more protein.
Protein helps build and strengthen collagen
Your skin cells get replaced every 24 days. And protein is an integral part of that process—as it helps build and strengthen collagen. So of course, eating more protein will help keep your complexion firm and radiant, and your hair and nails healthy and strong.
But protein is also the basis for all new body tissue—including antibody formation, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells. And don’t forget that your liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, nerves, brain, and sex glands are all comprised of protein, too.
So if you don’t replenish your body with enough protein—and the fact is, most people don’t—your collagen stores will inevitably suffer.
Here are some telltale signs that you’re not getting enough protein: Puffy eyes in the morning, water retention, thin or ridged nails (or nails that won’t grow quickly), thin hair, hair that doesn’t grow quickly, or split ends.
If any of these red flags apply to you, then it’s time to take a closer look at your diet and start giving your body the protein it needs.
Of course, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. That’s less than 60 g daily for a 165-pound person! But you need a lot more than that to boost collagen production.
So, here’s the simplest way to get the right amount: Eat your body weight in grams of protein on the days that you don’t exercise. And eat 1.5 times your body weight on the days that you do exercise. (For a 165-pound person, that’s 165 g of protein on non-exercise days, and about 250 grams on exercise days.)
Now, I know that may seem like a lot. But if you include protein with every meal (in the form of eggs, nuts, cheeses, and/or meats), you shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching this goal every day. And as always, make sure you mind the quality of the food you eat, and stick with wild-caught, organic, and pasture-raised animal products as much as possible. (If you need a little extra protein throughout the day, you can also add a whey protein shake.)
But to ensure a truly effective collagen boost, you should consider adding a few supplements into the mix, too.
Three collagen-preserving essentials
For starters, make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin C. This nutrient is essential to building collagen, and humans are among the few species that don’t produce vitamin C internally.
That’s one reason why this tried-and-true supplement remains on my “desert island” supplement list to this day. I recommend 1,000 mg of vitamin C, three times daily. But I also encourage you to add vitamin C-containing foods to your healthy diet.
These include red and green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, cantaloupe, and of course, citrus fruits (which I only recommend consuming in moderation, due to their high sugar content).
Second, lycopene is a potent antioxidant that fights the free radicals that feed on your skin’s precious collagen stores. That’s why I advise adding a high-quality lycopene supplement to your regimen. I recommend 30 mg daily.
You can also add lycopene-containing foods to your diet—like fresh tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and red peppers. (Just keep in mind that the peppers and tomatoes need to be cooked in order to get the most lycopene from them.)
Third, clinical research has shown that one of the primary ways French maritime pine bark extract benefits your circulation is by targeting collagen and elastin, helping to replenish these two critical substances in our body. So, I always recommend 100 mg of pine bark extract daily for general health.
Of course, you can always add a collagen supplement to your daily routine as well, which comes in the form of a powder. I recommend looking for an organic, grass-fed, unflavored version. Then, simply add a scoop to your water, coffee, or tea each day.
In the end, aging younger isn’t simply about reducing the visible signs of aging. It’s also about warding off the internal effects of aging. So, protect your collagen stores with the methods I outlined for you here, starting today, and you’ll be on the road to achieving optimal health—and ongoing youth—in no time.
- Qureshi A, et al. “A Head-to-Head Comparison of Topical Collagen Powder to Primary Closure for Acute Full-Thickness Punch Biopsy-Induced Human Wounds: An Internally Controlled Pilot Study.” J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jul 1;18(7):667-673.
- Dittmore A, et al. “Internal strain drives spontaneous periodic buckling in collagen and regulates remodeling.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201523228
- Gladstone Institutes. “Collagen May Help Protect Brain Against Alzheimer’s Disease.” Science Daily, 12/10/2008. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210150713.htm)