You’ve probably heard of collagen by now and all of its hidden goodness. People have been flaunting to collagen products in hopes of bettering their skin, joints, hair and nails. What people don’t realize is that they can further help themselves by being conscious of their lifestyle choices. You want to stay clear from habits that can be detrimental towards your body’s natural production of collagen.
First off, collagen is a fundamental protein that acts as a crucial part to the foundation of our skin, hair, bones, joints, muscles, and other connective tissues. Collagen proteins account for more than 25% of the total protein content in our bodies!
As we get older, our bodies’ natural ability to produce collagen slows down. This leads to wrinkled skin, thinning hair, frail bones, weaker joints, and other detriments (2, 5, 6). Lifestyle choices like poor diet or too much sun exposure can lead to an even further decline of collagen production. Unfortunately, in most modern diets, we aren’t consuming enough foods with collagen to help counteract and slow the aging process down.
In fact, many modern lifestyle choices may actually be speeding up the aging process. While we can’t actually stop ourselves from aging, we can stay away from these certain lifestyle choices that can be harmful to the body’s collagen.
Just as we’ve mentioned before, one of the main enemies of collagen is aging. Starting in our 20s, our bodies natural ability to produce collagen declines. And this is something that we cannot control.
However, there are some things that we can control. Certain habits are damaging to collagen and collagen production, so staying away from these lifestyle choices will help with your collagen upkeep!
Once upon a time, smoking was widely advertised; from simple family dinners to glamorous Hollywood films. Since then, we have discovered the numerous damages that smoking has on our health. Not only is smoking linked to lung cancer and heart disease, but also collagen degradation.
Studies have shown that toxins from cigarette smoke lead to the breakdown of collagen proteins themselves (2). Smoking has also been linked to a decrease in collagen synthesis, leading to premature skin aging and further internal damages (3, 5, 6).
Lack of Sleep
Both a lack of sleep and poor sleep quality have been linked to many health detriments, ranging from depression to weight gain. Those crucial hours of sleep help regulate your body’s cells and organs, keeping them healthy and rejuvenated. A lack of sleep makes it so your body is running on overdrive, without the proper rest that it needs.
Sleep loss has been linked to an elevation of cortisol levels in the body (7). Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps regulate blood sugar, metabolism, inflammation and more. However, elevated levels of cortisol has been linked to decreases in collagen synthesis and the breakdown of pro collagen (8, 9, 11).
Excess Sugar Consumption
We know how bad excess sugar consumption can be for you, especially artificial sugars. Consuming too much sugar has been linked to weight gain, heart disease and more. Sugar molecules also affects our body on a molecular level as well, damaging collagen proteins.
If we consume too much sugar, our bodies can have a difficult time digesting it. Those excess sugar molecules then cling onto fats and proteins in a process called glycation (12). Glycation then creates AGEs, or Advanced Glycation End products, that have been linked to being extremely destructive to collagen proteins (13). AGEs accelerate the aging process of cells by decreasing the effectiveness of collagen fibers that are present in the skin.
Back in the day, we didn’t fully understand how damaging the sun can be on our skin. We have since learned how the UV-rays from the sun can lead to skin damage as well as skin cancer. The sun also has harmful effects on our skin’s appearance, causing premature skin aging.
Without the protection of sunscreens and proper attire, your skin is exposed to the harmful UV-rays of the sun. Those UV-rays damage the extracellular matrix of your skin that collagen makes up (15). The sun also accelerates the activation of certain genes that are related to premature skin aging, also known as photoaging (16, 17).
Stress (Physical and Emotional)
Elevated cortisol levels are not only linked to lack of sleep, but also to stress. Stress has been linked to many health problems like insomnia, increased risk of cancers, elevated heart rates and more. Stress also has been linked to increased levels of cortisol hormones. This increase in cortisol can lead to a degradation of collagen proteins and damages its’ effectivity (19).
Maintaining a healthy diet is critical to keeping your body strong for both now and the future. Healthy diets are correlated with more than just your weight, as it affects your mood, health and more. A poor diet, filled with junk foods and a lack of nutrients, can be detrimental to your body’s health.
Without the right diet, your body won’t get all of the proper nutrients that it needs to maintain a healthy system. The right nutrients are needed to help synthesize collagen, and a poor diet would only inhibit that production. Eating the right protein-filled foods and vitamins is beneficial to utilizing the body’s collagen supply and production (20).
An unhealthy gut can be linked to a poor diet, as they go hand in hand. An unhealthy gut releases toxins and transcription factors, like matrix metalloproteinase. These biological enzymes break down extracellular matrix proteins like collagen (21). They reduce the efficacy of those collagen proteins and inhibit its production. Those toxins and transcription factors aren’t only damaging collagen proteins, but all sorts of proteins throughout the body.
To put simply, toxins that are released from an unhealthy gut can damage these sorts of proteins all through the body.
When an oxygen molecule splits into atoms that have unpaired electrons, they become known as free radicals. These atoms then travel throughout the body trying to find an electron to complete it’s pair. This ultimately causes molecular damage to your body. Antioxidants can help counteract free radical damage; consuming foods with a high antioxidant count can help, such as blueberries, red grapes, red berries and more.
Free radicals are linked to factors like processed foods, cigarette smoke, air pollution, UV-rays and more. Studies have shown that these free radicals breakdown collagen proteins, as well as hyaluronic acid (22). Further studies have also linked premature skin aging and decreased collagen production to these free radicals (23, 25).