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The Real Reason Behind Ageing

Within this sequence of posts I will be reviewing collagen and why it’s beneficial to us. I will also be breaking down anti ageing products and what’s inside them and whether they actually work. But before we talk about anti-ageing products we have to understand what we are treating first which is the most important thing: collagen.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the abundant protein in the human body (there are at least 16 variations but 80-90% belong to types I, II and III in the body). It's the molecule that controls how we will age, and to what extent our features will age and deteriorate. It’s also the molecule that holds our whole body together; in our skin, muscles and tendons. Collagen is strong and flexible too, particularly type I, which is known to be predominantly tensile and even stronger than steel, gram for gram.

Collagen is secreted by a variety of different cells in our body, but primarily by connective tissue cells. The body consistently produces collagen until around the age of 40.

The macromolecule is most commonly found in the skin, bones and connective tissue within the body, providing structural support, strength and a degree of elasticity (in combination with elastin). Particularly, collagen can be found in the extracellular matrix - a complex network of macromolecules that decide the physical properties of body tissues.

Collagen infographic - Click to enlarge.

Why do we age?

Why do we age and lose all elasticity in our skin and our features become all wrinkly and unfamiliar?

Everybody worries about ageing, at the first sight of a slight wrinkle or forehead crease, we run to find solutions to prevent / slow down the ageing process. The breakdown of collagen is the main reason why our skin starts to lose its elasticity and show wrinkles.

As we age, especially after 40 years old, collagen production in our body starts to slow down naturally, making the skin lose its elasticity causing sagging skin, formation of lines and wrinkles and the weakening of cartilage in joints.  

This is the point where people may start to look for treatments against the ageing process and spending copious amounts of money on anti ageing products.

A new lab technology has emerged which aims to combat the effects of ageing. It is the first of its kind. Published in the 8th March issue of Science the research proves that a single anti-ageing enzyme in the body can be targeted, with the potential to prevent age-related diseases (such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes) and extend life spans.

"Ultimately, these drugs would treat one disease, but unlike drugs of today, they would prevent 20 others," says the lead author of the paper, Professor David Sinclair, from UNSW Medicine, who is based at Harvard University. "In effect, they would slow ageing."

The researchers, partnered with Galaxo Smith Kline, found that the new potential drugs can be administered orally, or topically. So far, there have been no drugs developed targeting ageing skin, but one major skin care range has developed a crème with resveratrol in it (an activator of one of the targeted enzymes in this study).

What do you think is the right age that someone should start using anti-ageing products?

Come back tomorrow to find out what exactly is inside anti ageing creams that makes them work.

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  1. So, is your point that the anti-ageing enzyme has some influence on collagen? What's the connection? I'd like to read more about the biochemistry of collagen.

    1. The target enzyme in the study I have written about, SIRT1, is switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise, but it can also be enhanced through activators. The most common naturally-occurring activator is resveratrol, which is found in small quantities in red wine, but synthetic activators with much stronger activity are already being developed that can activate SIRT1 enzyme.

      The scientists didn't directly say that it has influence on collagen, but the new class of anti-ageing drugs could ultimately prevent cancer, Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes, age-related diseases.

      I am planning on writing more about the biochemistry of collagen and new research around it.

      If you subscribe via email (its free!) you can keep up with my latest posts which hopefully will answer your questions in the future.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!


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