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Skinny Without Willpower

Friday, March 4, 2011


So what is collagen? And why has it received such widespread attention lately?

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body. It s a tough elastic protein that forms the connective tissue in our ligaments, tendons and skin. My main interest in collagen was after my rotator-cuff surgery when I was looking for ways to quickly heal my ligaments. So I started reading up on how I could naturally boost collagen production in my body. After some research I found three main ingredients that aid collagen production. I ordered the supplements online and put myself on what I call collagen therapy. I took the recommended dosage (on the packaging) and compared my activity milestones with the orthopedic surgeons recommended timeline. The ‘prescribed’ chart suggested that I would be able to perform normal over head activity after 6 months of surgery. Two weeks before the 6th month anniversary of my surgery I was not only performing the overhead activities but was able to swim 4x50m laps in the pool. The prescribed chart suggested I would be able to start light exercises with dumbbells by 9 months after the surgery but on the 9th month anniversary I was already benching about 95lbs. The average recovery time for a rotator cuff tear surgery is 51 weeks but by my 1 year anniversary I was already benching about 175lbs. 

So did the collagen therapy help me recover faster? Or was it a placebo effect? Or was it muscle memory? Well there is no sure way to find, is it? It wasn’t a controlled experiment to begin with since the recovery pathway without collagen therapy wasn’t explored for comparison. I thought I would still share my research with the readers since collagen not only builds healthy connective tissue in the tendons and ligaments but also gives our skin the much needed elasticity without which the skin would sag and form wrinkles. It is the foundation for a healthy and youthful looking skin and true beauty comes from the inside, as they say! With age the body’s natural collagen production capacity declines and hence it would benefit to naturally increase the production with diet and supplementation.  

So what are the special ingredients that promote collagen production in the body? They are (drum roll please!):

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): It’s one of the most powerful antioxidant and abundantly found in all citrus fruits, peppers and many other vegetables. Nobel laureate Linus Pauling (the only person to get two Nobel prizes in two different areas) postulated that vitamin C consumed in large doses (over 2000% RDA) can prevent plaque formation in the arteries and can prevent CHD but obviously the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t like us to believe that the answer to plaque formation lies in something as simple as large doses of vitamin C. But that is a discussion for another day. For this article it will suffice to know that Vitamin C is also one of the most important building blocks of collagen. It is an essential micronutrient that is not synthesized in the body and must be ingested from external sources.

Lysine: It’s one of the essential amino acids and must also be ingested from external food sources. The vegetarian sources of protein lack this vital amino acid except Soy derivatives.  It’s abundant in animal sources of protein like dairy, meat and seafood. It’s also one of the key components in collagen.

Proline: It’s a non-essential amino acid that is produced in the body from L-Glutamine and Ornithine. Its most abundantly found in collagen and is also responsible for lowering arteriosclerosis. It also helps in speedy recovery of injuries because of its ability to form collagen in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and lysine. Supplementation is not needed in normal individuals but has been shown to be non toxic even in large supplement doses and is prescribed for individuals with arteriosclerosis, blood pressure and slow healing problems. 

Apart from these three ingredients a sufficient intake of antioxidants is also necessary to prevent oxidative damage (from free radicals) to several other amino-acid chains that are responsible for protein regeneration in skin and other connective tissue. Consuming sufficient quantities of fruits that are bright orange, yellow and red in color like oranges, apples, carrots etc will ensure ample supply of antioxidants in the body. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that is found in nuts and fish.  Retinol which is another form of animal vitamin A, is also found in fish oils and is essential for a healthy skin. 

So you see there is nothing special about these ingredients and they can be found all around you. If you already eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish and stay away from processed packaged foods (that increase free radical generation) you are already enjoying the benefits of healthy collagen production: a radiant youthful skin and good joint health. But if you lack any of these ingredients in your diet then they are readily available in supplement form. When buying these supplements, make sure they are pharmaceutical grade and GMP (good manufacturing practice) certified.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the article. wanted to raise an issue:

    Add a great antioxidant rich anti aging deal with cream to this diet along with your skin is bound to look stronger and younger. Remember, collagen creams will moisturize tend to be not ideal for wrinkle lowering due to the large molecules. Antioxidant rich creams will minimize dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles and also reduce inflammation
    Add a great antioxidant rich anti aging deal with cream to this diet along with your skin is bound to look stronger and younger