Resveratrol and Collagen

Written by October 2015 Phoebe Wynne-Lewis, BHSc, Dip Nat Med, Dip Herb Med – FxMed Technical Support

The search for the mythical fountain of youth may have ended with Ponce de Leon, but millions of us hold out hope that science will discover the secret to beat aging, the special formula or magic bullet that will keep our skin, and our insides, from displaying the wear and tear of our years.

What is happening to our skin as we age?

The shortest answer is that our skin gets old, like the rest of us. In fact, the three layers of skin get old in different ways. The skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis, contains proteins, pigment and skin cells and forms a protective physical barrier. The dermis, or middle layer, contains collagen and elastin, which provide strength, firmness and elasticity. It also contains blood vessels, immune cells, nerves and glands that produce sweat and oil. The subcutaneous layer, the deepest layer, consists of connective tissue, fat, blood vessels, hair follicles and sweat glands. All the layers of the skin contain some connective tissue with collagen fibres for support.

As we age, our skin undergoes a number of changes. Epidermal cells don’t slough off as easily. Skin doesn’t retain
as much moisture. The collagen and elastin in the middle layer break down. As a result, the skin is less firm and less
elastic. A useful analogy is that of a rubber band — as it gets old and dry, it loses elasticity. As a result, when gravity tugs on the skin, instead of bouncing back, it starts to sag: Fine lines form around the eyes, deepened lines appear at the corners of the mouth and across the forehead, and skin in various places (such as under the jaw and in the neck)
starts to hang down.

Other changes may not be as noticeable to you. For example, the skin’s ability to fight infection and regulate body
temperature also diminishes with age.

Collagen

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein and is the primary component of the body’s connective tissues. Derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to produce glue’, collagen is a protein that holds specialized cells together; reinforcing and maintaining tissues in the body including skin, hair, tendons, ligaments, muscles, bone, teeth, gums cartilage and eyes. It is the body’s primary structural protein and so far science has identified 28 types with the main types being types I, II and III.

Collagen types l and III are naturally found together (type III is the primary form of collagen which is modified into type I fibres). They account for approximately 90% of the body’s collagen protein and likewise 90% of the collagen present in the dermis (in a ratio of approximately 60-80% of type I and 15-30% of type III). Apart from the skin, they are the main types of collagen in the other connective tissues listed above except for joints which mainly consist of type II collagen.

Collagen deficit and visible signs of aging

The skin is an elastic connective tissue and needs a strong and resilient structural foundation that’s durable as well as flexible. This collection of fibres (types I and III collagen) is responsible for maintaining the structure and resistance of tissues and it constitutes a dynamic network which anchors the skin in the deeper layers to create a support base.

As the body ages, populations of fibroblast cells decline which results in reduced collagen synthesis, affecting the connective tissue strength and health. Skin begins to show visible signs of aging as collagen synthesis declines and the mechanical strength of the skin decreases resulting in a loss of skin firmness and elasticity.

On a daily basis, the body repeats a cycle of collagen breakdown and rebuilding but after the age of twenty-five the production of collagen declines by about 1.5% per year so Collagen Deficit = visible signs of aging. Collagen is notable for its role in aging because as the body ages, collagen proteins become more cross-linked and rigid. Organs, blood vessels and airways also become more rigid as the connective tissue throughout the body stiffens with age.

Collagen production can be negatively affected by nutritional deficiency in the diet – Anorexia, Celiac Disease, age-related Intestinal Mal-absorption, Metabolic Disease and the pathological effects of Menopause.

The Importance of Nutritional Support

The dynamic physiology of the body needs to continually take in nutrition to help repair or build new tissue. Ingesting specific nutrients provides nourishment to the skin, helping to combat the effects of aging, preventing damage to skin cells, increasing hydration and supporting collagen production. Among them are: Collagen, Omega-3’s, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, A & E, polyphenols, antioxidants, fat soluble vitamins and proteins.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, which means it is a protective antibiotic produced in plants under stress, whether due to fungal attack, drought, ultraviolet irradiation, or inflammation. This molecule helps the plants to fight back and maintain health.

Scientists became interested in resveratrol because of its antioxidant properties. Found in many varieties of plants,
this polyphenolic compound was thought to possibly confer longevity, anti-inflammatory, heart-health and anti-cancer properties through a variety of mechanisms.

It is found in the root of the herb Japanese Knotweed and is also abundant in the skin of red grapes (and the seeds,
stems and leaves of the grape vines). It is also present in cacao beans, peanuts and pistachios, and in berries, such
as blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and mulberries. Not surprisingly, due to its presence in red grapes, it is
found in significant concentrations in red wine.

Longevity actions of Resveratrol

Based on early research Resveratrol promotes a healthy inflammatory response in the body — including helping
to alleviate some of the oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to premature aging.

Research from Harvard Medical School, observed that resveratrol stimulates cellular proteins known as sirtuins
also known as ‘longevity enzymes’. According to a particular study, Resveratrol activates a longevity gene
in certain strains of yeast and extends life expectancy by 70%. It works in the same way as calorie restriction (the
only scientifically proven way of increasing longevity) by activating SIRT genes. In mice, the life span was increased
by 31%. Formal research to date has been restricted to yeast and animals, but it’s worth noting that humans
also possess these genes. Sirtuins help to lengthen life by supporting cell metabolism, normal cell replication and
neuro protective action.

Preliminary research indicates that resveratrol may support the skin against damage caused by ultraviolet light. A 2005 study from The FASEB Journal found that resveratrol may protect against aging when applied directly to the skin. Resveratrol deeply penetrates the centre of the cell’s nucleus, allowing DNA to repair free radical damage.