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April 21, 2019

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Does collagen truly slow signs of aging?

THE Aesthetic Show

Steve Marcus

Women look at a “before” photo at the Evolence collagen dermal filler booth during THE Aesthetic Show 2009 at Caesars Palace Friday, June 4, 2009.

From granola bars and bone broth to skin creams, vitamins and powders, collagen consumption has risen in popularity. Celebrities have praised it for making their skin, joints and body radiate youth. Some are even dubbing collagen the new Fountain of Youth, and it seems all the rage with health and beauty experts. But why? Is this a craze that is just going to come and go like so many others? Let's take a look.

Types of collagen

There are 16 types of collagen, but 80 to 90 percent of the body’s collagen is made of types I, II and III, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information.

• Type I: skin, bones and tendons

• Type II: cartilage

• Type III: reticular fibers (part of connective tissue) and other proteins

What is collagen?

Collagen is the term for the building-block proteins that make up the skin, tendons, joints, muscles, nails and more in humans and animals. Our bodies produce it naturally until that production begins to decline around the age of 25. Our joints slowly lose strength, and our skin thins. This is why you begin to see those pesky signs of aging in the form of wrinkles and why some people battle aches and pains. It’s also why many are looking to boost their collagen intake via beauty products and their diet. Ever wonder what makes your grandmother’s chicken soup broth or gelatin dessert jiggle when chilled? Collagen.

What are collagen supplements made of?

It depends, but many supplements are not vegetarian or vegan. They’re usually made from ground-up parts of cow, chicken, pig or fish. It might sound gross, but it’s actually often flavorless. Vegetarian and vegan supplements do exist, but instead of containing collagen itself, these supplements actually support and aid your body’s natural collagen production, The New York Times reports.

Really though, how do I get younger looking skin?

If you’re interested in making your skin look better, Dr. F. Victor Rueckl says one of the best things you can do is use sunblock every day and stay hydrated. In Las Vegas especially, it’s nearly impossible to avoid UV rays, which break down the skin’s elasticity and wrinkle it. “Smoker’s lines” around the mouth and face are not usually a result of smoking, but rather from the sun, Rueckl says.

Click to enlarge photo

Ejiao, walnut and sesame donkey hide gelatin cubes

Does it work?

Can you eat your way to endless youth? Preliminary studies by the National Institutes of Health do show that some oral supplements can slightly reduce the signs of aging and aid in joint health, although the organization is quick to note that more studies are needed.

Ejiao

In traditional Chinese medicine, people use ejiao, or donkey gelatin made from the hide of the animal, to relieve physical ailments, slow aging and boost libido, Newsweek reports. In fact, demand for ejiao was so high in 2017 that the donkey population in South Africa became threatened. Some farmers were forced to protect their herds from poachers, while others took it upon themselves to kill their animals to meet the demand.

In regards to digestive health or muscle repair sought after by athletes, not many scientific studies have been conducted, so the verdict is still out, despite the many health food claims.

For your skin, it’s also too soon to tell, said Dr. F. Victor Rueckl, a dermatologist at Lakes Dermatology.

Companies can claim a product increases collagen, but the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate many of them. For the most part, a company can write whatever it wants on a product label, and catchphrases are attracting millions of customers regardless of a product’s efficacy, Rueckl said.

He does note one product that has been proven to work for skin—A.G.E. Interrupter from SkinCeuticals. The anti-aging cream is made of blueberry extract, proxylane and phytosphingosine, a chemical found naturally in your body. Rueckl said the company has taken biopsies of customers and measured the amounts of collagen before they started applying the cream and three months after. Results showed an increase in collagen.

Are there any risks to taking collagen supplements?

Potential risks of collagen supplements have been at the center of many debates between doctors. Some medical practitioners believe it’s just protein and therefore safe. Time magazine reports that others are concerned that collagen supplements could have increased levels of contaminants and heavy metals because they are an animal product. And just as consuming anything can have its risks, The New York Times reports that collagen supplements can cause allergic reactions or digestive discomfort. Moral of the story? If you’re considering supplements, consult your doctor and start slowly.

What does the future look like with collagen supplements?

While it’s hard to truly say, Rueckl thinks this isn’t a fad that will pass quickly. Companies might start to invest in studies to prove whether or not supplements work to increase collagen to support a market that will likely continue to boom. In 2018, it was worth about $3.5 billion and is estimated to increase to $4.6 billion by 2023, according to The Associated Press.

Bone broth basics

If you're considering collagen but feeling nervous about consuming supplements from the store, give this collagen-packed food a try. The options here are endless when it comes to vegetables and herbs. Have fun and mix and match to create your desired flavor. Here are some basics to get you started, but add to the list as you see fit.

• Organic bones from poultry, cows or fish. The more cartilage the better. Think: knuckles, marrow, chicken feet, neck bones, etc. This is how you get your collagen.

Pro tip

For a richer, cleaner flavored broth, Bon Appétit recommends blanching the bones first and then roasting them in the oven until browned before simmering in your broth.

• Onions

• Carrots

• Celery

• Fresh herbs of your choice

• Himalayan sea salt

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• Black pepper

• Garlic

• Water

Want a bigger flavor? Play with parsley, thyme, rosemary and more.

Method tips

The quantity of veggies, herbs and aromatics depends on your desired flavor. Maintain a proper bones-to-water ratio—there should be just enough water to cover the bones without making them float—and the rest is up to you.

In a large kettle or slow cooker, add water, bones, veggies, seasonings and aromatics.

Simmer on low for eight-plus hours. The longer the better.

Strain when done. Bone broth with collagen benefits will be gelatinous when cooled.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.