What Is Collagen?Collagen is the most abundant protein in the entire human body. While there are at least 16 different types of collagen, the vast majority located in your body and skin consists of types I, II, and III. No matter the specific type, however, the primary purpose of collagen is the same: to provide tissues with a structural support system that will also allow for stretching and flexibility . Thus, the collagen within your skin is responsible for providing that firm, yet supple texture that is characteristic of a younger, healthy complexion. Like all other proteins, collagen is comprised of a specific sequence of amino acids. On a molecular level, collagen proteins are formed in a triple-helix structure that contains the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline .
What Causes Collagen to Break Down?
Around the age of 20, our bodies gradually begin to produce less collagen, which can give way to many common signs of aging, including the formation of lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. This type of collagen loss is part of the natural, intrinsic, aging process and is, therefore, inevitable. However, there are also a number of external factors that contribute to collagen loss due to the degradation of its structure. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of all visible signs of aging are due to these external factors, leaving the natural aging process responsible for a mere 10 percent of these unwanted effects . Most notably, years of sun exposure, air pollution, cigarette smoke, and high-sugar diets have a significant impact on the premature breakdown of collagen or its loss of function within the skin, leading to virtually all signs of skin aging.
How to Promote Collagen Production with Amino Acids
Collagen is comprised of amino acids, and collagen loss is responsible for many signs of skin aging. Putting that knowledge together, it would stand to reason that a successful anti-aging strategy would require a supply of the building blocks necessary to produce new collagen. The answer lies with the proper use of amino acids. There are many research studies and clinical trials to support this, including one noteworthy paper published in Amino Acids that has shown a link between the oral administration of certain aminos and an improvement in collagen production, mitigating the effects of UV radiation on the skin . According to this study and much other research, the key to using amino acids to improve collagen production and help restore a younger appearance is to provide the right combination of aminos. Researchers in this particular study found that when administered individually, the amino acids arginine, glutamine, and proline did not have an effect on the impaired collagen production due to UV damage. However, when administered in a combined formulation, these same amino acids had a very noticeable positive effect. The bottom line here, then, is that although each individual amino acid may have its own set of benefits, the most effective amino acid skin care products will deliver a combination of the 20 aminos required for protein synthesis. This is especially important when it comes to promoting collagen synthesis, as a variety of amino acids are needed to perform specific functions in the creation of any one particular protein.
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 Molecular Cell Biology, 4th ed.