Research suggests that anti-aging drugs and supplements, particularly collagen, which has been shown to reduce wrinkles and signs of aging, could also increase one’s lifespan. Scientists recently discovered that the genes tied to a youthful appearance and limber joints also seem to affect longevity.
The study evaluated the effect of proven tactics known to increase the lifespan of a species of small laboratory worms, Caenorhabditis elegans. Strategies included limiting caloric intake and using the drug rapamycin. As scientists increased the worms’ lifespans, they also noted an increase in the genetic activity and extra-cellular matrix (ECM) of collagen- producing genes.
“Indeed, the research is proving more and more that the levels of collagen decrease once we reach the age of 25. However, before we jump on the band wagon and start using anti-aging products and supplements containing collagen, we need to pay attention to what kind of collagen is being used by the multi-billion dollar advertising that is being done on behalf of the anti-aging industries across the world,” explains Jacqui Dunal of Naturel Collagen, a Canada-based skin care company.
Collagen is vital to the human body, supporting organs, bones, and joints. It is the primary structural component in the body’s connective tissue, and makes up roughly a third of the human body’s protein.
“Any longevity intervention that we looked at, whether genetic or nutritional or drugs, increased the expression (activity) of collagen and other ECM genes, and enhanced ECM remodeling. If you interfere with this expression, you interfere with the lifespan extension. And if you over-express some of these genes, the worm actually lives a little bit longer,” said professor Keith Blackwell, of Harvard Medical School.
Although the worms used in the research study are far from being human, they mimic the aging processes of higher forms of life. This serves as a strong predictor that the research study’s findings will be applicable to people as well.
As we age, ECM structures and collagen production both decrease. The skin becomes less elastic and loses volume, giving way to wrinkles. Aside from outward appearances, collagen loss due to aging has even been linked to diabetes complications, as well as heart and kidney disease.
Separate studies have also highlighted the link between collagen and longevity. Mice that were genetically modified to live longer also developed stronger and more elastic muscle tendons over time.
“There is only one type of collagen – derived from fish skins, invented in Poland, and revolutionary to the cosmetology and dietary supplements,” says Dunal. “Fish collagen hydrates have been announced to be the most natural ingredient in the anti-aging cosmetics and dietary supplements in the world and have been very popular for the last few years.”
However, until recently, scientists didn’t consider the possibility that ECM remodeling may be a defense against aging. Instead, the focus has been on protecting and regenerating cells. This new discovery could lead to cosmetic products that improve one’s outward appearance as well as their internal health.