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Certain Lifestyle Habits Can Contribute to Collagen Loss and Premature Aging

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Posted April 29, 2016

The science of finding ways to keep people looking youthful is constantly evolving, and many new treatments include the use of animal collagen to repair fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen, which is a fibrous protein that exists naturally in the body, is responsible for keeping the skin taut and firm. The skin produces collagen on a daily basis; however, production begins to slow as the body ages, causing skin to lose its elasticity and tautness. As a result, wrinkles start to appear. While it is difficult to stop collagen loss, some new studies show that certain lifestyle habits can cause a rapid loss of collagen and lead to premature aging.

Sugar Consumption 

While it is well known that eating too much sugar can have a negative effect on body weight and cause medical problems such as type 2 diabetes, which must be treated with insulin, eating too much sugar can also damage collagen. When sugar consumption increases, a process called glycation creates a by-product known advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. While glycation is a natural occurrence in the body, eating too much sugar increase the amount of AGEs molecules, which attach themselves to healthy collagen, turning them brittle and dry. The more AGEs that are created by glycation, the more collagen they damage.

Not only does glycation cause direct damage to existing collagen, it can also make changes to its stability. Skin contains three types of collagen, with type II being the most elastic and beneficial. However, when individuals consume large amounts of sugar, the glycation process transforms existing type II collagen into type I, which is not as stable or long lasting. As a result, the skin contains collagen that is more prone to damage and breakdown, and this can contribute to premature aging. Changing to a low-sugar diet and replacing sugary drinks with water will assist in protecting healthy collagen.

Tobacco Usage 

The negative effects of tobacco have been well documented, but what many people may not know is that smoking can damage the skin’s collagen. While it is true that the repetitive puckering of the lips to draw in tobacco smoke can cause wrinkles around the mouth, the chemicals that tobacco smoke contains can cause irreparable collagen loss as well. When the skin comes into contact with cigarette smoke, it constricts the blood vessels and drastically reduces blood flow. As a result, collagen turns dry, brittle, and eventually dies. When large amounts of this protein are lost, wrinkles, dryness, and discolored skin occurs.

Some studies indicate that those who smoke also experience slower collagen production. This is most likely due to the skin congestion that occurs when smokers exhale smoke, as the chemicals affect its healing process. When this occurs, lost or damaged collagen cannot be replaced as quickly, especially as people age. In order to protect collagen, especially after age thirty, reducing or quitting tobacco is strongly recommended for those who want a healthy and youthful complexion.

Exposure to UV Rays 

While there are many factors that can damage collagen and cause premature aging, few are as harmful as the UV rays of the sun. Sunlight does contain elements that are good for the body; however, when skin is exposed to bright sunlight for a long time or to UV rays from a tanning bed, it absorbs what are known as free radicals. These are unstable, uncharged molecules that attack healthy cells and scavenge electrons and other elements from them, which causes once-healthy cells to become unstable, mutate, and die. While free radicals tend to self-destruct in a short period of time, they can do a great deal of damage in the meantime.

The most effective way to protect the skin from free radicals and a breakdown of collagen is to use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and wear protective clothing when venturing outdoors. While pharmaceutical professionals such as Bruce Eaton PhD are constantly working toward improved health solutions through technology, it is costly and time consuming to repair fine lines and wrinkles caused by free radical damage, so prevention is key.

Is There a Way to Naturally Increase Collagen? 

Changing negative lifestyle habits, such as eating too many sugary snacks and using tobacco, can drastically reduce the risk of collagen damage. However, there are also a few ways that individuals can help their bodies give collagen production an all-natural boost. Some nutrients, such as copper, proline, vitamin A, and vitamin C all support the formation of collagen, and these can all be found in certain types for food. For example, proline exists naturally in egg whites, meat, and most cheeses. Vitamin C is abundant in many types of fruit, such as oranges and berries. Both vitamin C and vitamin A can also be taken as an oral supplement.

It is important to remember that since these elements only boost collagen production and do not drastically increase it, protecting and nurturing existing collagen is the most effective way to maintain a youthful appearance. Individuals who want to increase their intake of vitamins and change their diet in order to promote healthy collagen should consult their physician before doing so to ensure optimal health.

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