Collagen is the most abundant protein present in our body. It is a fibrous protein which provides structure to our body. Collagen plays a crucial role in keeping our bones, joints, skin, tendons and ligaments healthy by acting as a building block. Collagen protein contains 19 amino acids and requires vitamin C for its synthesis. Amino acids present in collagen are utilised by our body to keep our hair and nails healthy. It gives elasticity to our skin, responsible for providing tight and youthful skin. Lack of collagen results in skin ageing, weak bones, joint pain, weakens our cartilage, making us more prone to stress and fall fractures.
Collagen plays a very important role in keeping us healthy, but as we grow old, our body tends to lose it naturally. But there are some lifestyle and eating habits which make us lose it more rapidly. In this article, let us discuss some of the reasons that damage our collagen.
1. Faulty Eating Habits - Diets rich in refined carbohydrates, processed, packaged & junk foods, whereas low in proteins, fruits and vegetables are some of the reasons which cause depletion of collagen in the body. Collagen is a protein, and for its synthesis, we should have an adequate intake of protein in the diet. Fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients like vitamin C, copper, etc. essentially required for the production of collagen. Hence, a well-balanced diet is a key to prevent loss of collagen.
2. Excess Sugar Consumption - It is well evident that excess sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In addition, it also significantly contributes to the depletion of collagen levels. High sugar intake promotes the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Elevated levels of AGEs products tend to attach themselves to our healthy collagen, which makes them dry and brittle. Therefore, high sugar intake means more AGEs and greater damage to collagen. It makes us more prone to wrinkles and premature ageing.
3. Lifestyle habits like smoking and alcohol intake - Overindulgence in alcohol and tobacco consumption damages our skin collagen. Tobacco smoking causes wrinkling of skin as smoke results in the constriction of blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow and decreased collagen synthesis. It has been observed that collagen damage caused due to exposure to smoke and other chemicals is often permanent and very difficult to reverse, especially in the later stages of life.
4. Excess caffeine intake - Excess intake of caffeine also decreases our body’s ability to produce collagen. It interferes with collagen biosynthesis and reduces the moisture level of the skin. This makes us lose collagen more rapidly. Hence, limit your caffeine intake up to 300 mg per day, as guided by nutrition authorities.
5. Stress - Stress is yet another factor that affects both our physical and psychological health. It hinders collagen synthesis because stress causes an increase in the level of cortisol hormone, which is called the foe of collagen. Stress alters our skin integrity leading to fine lines, wrinkles and premature ageing.
6. Exposure to UV Rays - Exposure to sunlight results in the absorption of UV or ultraviolet rays in our skin. It increases the magnitude of free radicals in our body which vandalises our healthy cells, tissues and DNA causing the breakdown of collagen.
To sum up, making small changes in our diet and lifestyle can slow down the rate of collagen exhaustion. Although collagen loss with age is a natural process, still we can slow down the progression rate. Ensure the intake of foods like bone broth, chicken, eggs, fish, amla, guava, orange, kiwi, capsicum, broccoli, berries, garlic, beans, nuts, green leafy vegetables and tomatoes in the diet as they are considered as collagen boosting foods. Opting for a collagen supplement is also a great alternative.