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Collagen, Gender, and the Menopause

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

Men and women are different. Our physiologies vary in numerous ways: from the fat content in our bodies (women’s tends to be higher while men normally have greater muscle mass), to our blood pressure (women’s tends to be lower), to our heart rate (women’s heartrate is faster), to our hormones.

It is also the case that male and female bodies work differently when it comes to collagen. The estrogen in female bodies reduces the collagen density in connective tissue, including skin.[1][2][3] As a result, men have a higher collagen density which causes their skin to be roughly 25% thicker than a woman’s. Male skin is also tougher than female skin. With this lower collagen density, it has been observed that skin ageing can affect women more quickly than men. 

GENDER, AGE AND THE MENOPAUSE

These changes exacerbate over time. For while male skin will thin at a slow and steady rate, woman’s skin (thinner to begin with) thins slowly until menopause, when it will suddenly thin at a significant rate.[4][5]

A similar pattern has been noticed with collagen levels. It has been observed that collagen levels are high in young people but begin to fall when people reach their mid-20’s, and then fall at the rate of roughly 1.5% a year. What is not often mentioned is that this pattern differs for men and women. Once women hit menopause the rate of collagen depletion increases significantly, falling at a much faster rate than for men. In fact, it has been shown that female collagen levels fall by around 30% in the first five years after menopause before levelling off to fall at approximately 2% a year. With skin thinning and collagen levels falling, it is clear that (without any intervention) the menopause is a difficult time for women when it comes to ageing.[6]

COLLAGEN AND THE WHOLE BODY

So what can be done? Firstly, it is important to remember that collagen exists everywhere in the body. It is present in not just our skin, but our hair, nails, bones, joints, ligaments and organs – it is even in our eyes and teeth. So, when a women’s collagen levels plummet suddenly in the dermis (skin) around menopause, it is also falling quite quickly everywhere else. You see one of the reasons a woman’s collagen levels decrease so rapidly after menopause is, paradoxically, a result of falling estrogen levels. Some studies have shown that estrogen use after the menopause helps increase collagen synthesis and hence dermal thickness and elasticity, and decreases the likelihood of dry skin and other collagen loss related problems.[6][7] This reduction in collagen synthesis can also be offset by collagen peptide supplementation with a high grade product which protects the peptide from the digestive action of the stomach.

Equally, while many women may wish to take collagen to protect their skin, men can also benefit from replenishing their collagen levels. The effects of collagen are felt all over the body. 

COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTATION

Many people have embraced collagen supplementation as a way of combatting the effects of collagen loss. Both men and women take collagen supplements, and both have reported feeling healthier and stronger in their joints and bones as well as in their skin, hair and nails. Collagen supplementation can begin anytime from the mid-20’s onwards, although when people begin before the age of thirty, it is generally not because they wish to alter their appearance, but as a preventative measure. For women especially, building up collagen levels prior to menopause can be a way to help slow and soften the worst effects of ageing that occurs so suddenly and dramatically.

COLLAGEN AND CLINICAL TRIALS

Over the past decade, numerous clinical trials (commissioned by the companies that manufacture collagen peptides) prove that collagen supplementation works. From aiding wound healing to reducing wrinkles, taking collagen in a supplement has a multitude of benefits. However, most clinical trials were based upon 10g or 10,000mg of high-quality collagen powder, and many supplement companies which purchase collagen peptide, to include in their supplements, quote these findings while not using the same quantities of collagen in their products. 

Few of the actual supplement companies in the collagen market have done any proper clinical trials on their own products – proving how effective their particular formula is with its quantity/ quality of collagen peptide. These supplement companies rely instead on consumer opinion. This is an issue which goes right across the board when it comes to beauty. Phrases such as “90% of women felt their skin was smoother” are plastered across advertising campaigns and on expensive beauty cream bottles. However, such statistics are meaningless. Without any clinical measurements and without any control group, opinions are subjective and cannot be trusted. Any scientist will tell you that opinion is hugely influenced by something called the placebo effect (whereby people believe there has been a positive change, even when none has occurred).  

One collagen company stands out from the crowd, however. INGENIOUS recently commissioned a huge independent trial on their signature collagen supplement: Ingenious Beauty. This was the largest clinical trial ever carried out on a collagen supplement and was the gold-standard of clinical trials – being both double-blind and placebo-controlled. It was conducted across a huge age range of women starting at 30 years and going up to 60 years. The group taking Ingenious Beauty showed significant improvements in their skin compared to the placebo group in all age ranges and in all four clinical measurements:

  • Hydration
  • Elasticity
  • Wrinkle Reduction
  • Overall skin appearance

For more information on the clinical trial click here.

References

  1. M. Kjær et.al. From mechanical loading to collagen synthesis, structural changes and function in human tendon. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport Volume 19, Issue 4, August 2009, Pages 500 – 510
  • 2.  Jeffry S. Nyman et.al. Age-related effect on the concentration of collagen crosslinks in human osteonal and interstitial bone tissue. Bone Volume 39, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 1210-1217
  • 3. Gary Kwan et. al. Effects of sex hormones on mesangial cell proliferation and collagen synthesis. Kidney International Volume 50, Issue 4, October 1996, Pages 1173-1179
  • 4. C.Castelo-Branco et. al. Skin collagen changes related to age and hormone replacement therapy. Maturita Volume 15, Issue 2, October 1992, Pages 113-119
  • 5. M. Brincat et. al. Decline in skin collagen content and metacarpal index after the menopause and its prevention with sex hormone replacement. International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Volume 94, Issue 2, February 1987, Pages 126 – 129  
  • 6. J Calleja-Agius et. al. Skin Ageing. Menopause International, Volume 13 issue 2, June 2007, Pages 60-64
  • 7. C. R. Lovell et. al. Type I and III collagen content and fibre distribution in normal human skin during ageing. British Journal of Dermatology Volume 117, Issue 4, October 1987, Pages 419 – 428

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