It’s easy to get into the habit of assuming that certain things “just happen” as we get older. As the years pile up, we brace ourselves for brittle bones, expanding waistlines, failing eyesight—and a propensity for falling asleep in front of the T.V.
Statistically speaking, they do loom largely. This is what we often see around us after all. But, of course, we know it’s not the whole story. We certainly can resign ourselves to a common fate, but that’s probably not why anyone is reading today. Most people who visit this blog (and definitely those who frequent it) want more. They want something better, and they’re willing to learn, move, and eat to get it.
And as with our bodies, so with our skin…
The body’s most abundant protein comprises around a quarter of your overall protein makeup and as much as 80% of the protein in your skin alone. Of the more than 16 different types of collagen, an estimated 80-90% of collagen in the body is types 1, 2 and 3.
The premise of collagen is simple: keep the skin elastic, the hair strong, and the connecty bits nice and stretchy. Without it, your muscles, bones, connective tissues, GI tract and even blood cells would be in a tough spot.
But that’s not always easy.
Collagen is comprised of 4 amino acids: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. When the collagen protein is digested, these are the individual elements left over for uptake. But in order to produce collagen within the body, we need to have good levels of glycine, proline and lysine, along with a decent amount of vitamin C as a cofactor .
Of these three, lycine is an essential amino acid, meaning the body is unable to produce it intrinsically—it must be obtained from protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy and legumes. Glycine and proline, on the other hand, are considered “conditional” amino acids: the body can produce them to a small extent, but most people argue that this isn’t near enough for our daily collagen needs.
Glycine, for example, is synthesized from serine and threonine at a rate of around 3 grams per day . This, in addition to between 1.5 and 3 grams glycine per day from the average diet, doesn’t quite add up to the estimated 10 grams/day required for metabolic purposes. That 4-5.5 gram gap in your daily glycine stocks is bound to hurt collagen production, and in turn undermine healthy skin, joints and musculature.
What’s Really At Work Under the Surface
As the external manifestation of our health , the condition of our skin is kind of a big deal. Needless to say, the cosmetics industry has been cashing in.
While those topical skincare products offer little effect (being that collagen molecules are larger than our skin pores), their messages at least bring our attention