One of many ways the right diet can help you to address cellulite is by strengthening and promoting the formation of collagen in your skin.
You’ll have read about collagen in relation to your complexion – lots of anti-ageing creams are developed with synthetic collagen because together with elastin, it forms a support network for your skin, providing the mattress if you like that keeps skin plump and youthful.
But while collagen is key to the youthful appearance of skin it is also the most abundant protein in your body – accounting for about a third of its protein composition. It is, in fact, one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments; it found in blood vessels (important here – more about that shortly), corneas and even teeth.
Cornea is like the ‘glue’ that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word ‘kólla’, which means glue.
There are at least 16 types of collagen too – the main one accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibres. It gives structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
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So how is collagen generated in the body? Well it starts off as procollagen and your body makes that by combining two amino acids: glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C. To support this process you need to eat a diet with the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries
- Proline: found in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms
- Glycine: found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods
- Copper: found in organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils
In addition, your body needs high quality protein that contains the amino acids needed to make new proteins. Meat, poultry, seafood (there’s your good protein again!), dairy, legumes and tofu are all excellent sources of amino acids.
Equally, some food has collagen-destroying behaviours, so it’s best to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates (no surprises there), which interfere with collagen’s ability to repair itself. In addition too much exposure to UV rays can reduce collagen production, as can smoking.
There aren’t many studies on collagen supplements, but those that exist show promise for benefits in these ways:
- Muscle mass: a 2019 study in recreationally active men showed that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo
- Skin elasticity: women who took a supplement showed improvements in skin appearance and elasticity in a 2019 study. Collagen is also used in topical treatments to improve the appearance of skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles
When it comes to cellulite, supplements with collagen are recommended to reduce the appearance of cellulite by strengthening weak collagen fibres. I talked about this in a recent instagram live with Amanda Henson, founder of Pure Skin Elixir, my go-to supplement brand. In addition, since weak collagen and connective tissue structure of the skin is regarded as the key cause of cellulite your priority should be to strengthen collagen under your skin by using supplements that offer these nutrients:
- Vitamin C (twice a day at 1000-2000mg with meals): according to Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, vitamin C is the most vital vitamin for healthy collagen formation. Another reason you need vitamin C is that its deficiency is to blame for the weak blood vessel walls (another cause of cellulite). Vitamin C boosts collagen even better when combined with amino acids lysine and proline.
- Vitamin E (the most abundant antioxidant found in the skin) is also needed for healthy collagen formation and neutralising the free radicals that age skin and deplete collagen and elastin.
- Copper: a 2010 study published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine & Biology concluded that supplementing with copper increased collagen formation in women. It is recommended to use copper also externally in the form of colloidal liquid copper applying it to the skin.
- Silica: another trace element that promotes healthy collagen production, not only in the skin but hair and nails too.