Collagen is the most plentiful protein found in the body and is a vital part of healthy skin, bones, joints, organs and the cardiovascular system. A number of vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in rebuilding collagen -- a constant process in the body which is at least partially responsible for healthy aging and the prevention of disease.
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According to two-time Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling, vitamin C is the most important vitamin for healthy collagen formation. Robust vitamin C levels in the body contribute to healthy joints, skin and, according to Pauling, may lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Pauling devised a theory about cardiovascular disease which claims that cholesterol is not, in fact, responsible for atherosclerosis and heart disease -- rather, vitamin C deficiency is to blame for damage to the arterial walls. Vitamin C works in conjunction with other nutrients, like the amino acids proline and lysine, to build healthy collagen.
Fat-soluble vitamin E is also essential for healthy collagen formation, being the most abundant antioxidant found in the skin, according to acupuncturist Chris Kresser. It works synergistically with vitamin C to stimulate collagen formation, and can be consumed as part of a healthy diet through foods like nuts, seeds, avocados and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E can only be absorbed if there is adequate fat in the diet. It may not be advisable to heavily supplement with vitamin E, according to Kresser, as high doses have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease. He advocates getting vitamin E from food sources.
While toxic in large amounts, trace quantities of this mineral are necessary for proper collagen formation. A study published in the “Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology” in July 2010 revealed that copper supplementation increased collagen formation in young women. Copper peptides can be applied topically to the skin to increase collagen production, as well.
Another trace element necessary for healthy collagen production, silica supports skin, hair and organ health. According to Kresser, silica is involved in certain key enzymatic activities crucial to normal collagen formation. Silica can be found in foods like leeks, green beans, strawberries, mangoes and cucumbers as well as in the herb horsetail -- also called equisetum.
A diet full of healthy, whole foods can contribute to skin and cardiovascular health by providing dense, collagen-supportive nutrition. Make a point to eat healthy fats like olive oil every day to support vitamin E absorption, lots of fruits and veggies like oranges, red bell peppers, asparagus, cantaloupe, strawberries and grapes to harness the power of vitamin C and mineral-rich foods like sea vegetables, nuts, seeds and lentils to get enough copper, silica and other important mineral co-factors for healthy collagen formation.