How Menopause Destroys Collagen

Article at-a-glance:

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, the ‘glue’ and scaffolding for skin, bones, joints, and organs
  • About 30% of skin collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause, and it continues declining about 2% with each additional year
  • During aging, changes in the collagen network reduce bone strength and elasticity, paving the way for osteoporosis and fractures
  • Supplementing with collagen can help combat the natural loss of collagen in skin and bones as we age
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Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s the scaffolding that holds your body together. In fact, the origin of the word collagen is the Greek word Kolla, or glue. It’s so strong that even the smallest building blocks of collagen are five to ten times stronger than steel.1 An abundant amount of healthy collagen keeps our skin supple and youthful, and our bones and cartilage strong and able to withstand the stress of daily use.

The two most abundant types of collagen in the body are Type I and Type III:

  • Type I. Makes up 90% of your body’s collagen and provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth. It’s the most abundant collagen in bones and skin. In fact, about 80% of the dry weight of skin is collagen. 2
  • Type III. Helps provide scaffolding and support to muscles, organs, and arteries.

Menopause and Collagen’s Demise

Collagen destruction is your visible sign of aging. As we age, our skin gradually loses elasticity and fullness. More wrinkles start to appear when you look in the mirror, skin becomes drier and thinner. Joints may start to creak, crackle, twinge, and ache. Destructions of collagen is an underlying cause of all of this.

Skin is a “sheet-like single organ” formed from cells that “exist as a complex mosaic in complete harmony.”3 That prosaic description of skin applies to young, healthy skin, but as we age that harmony is disrupted. Skins tarts to thin quite early, when we are around 30 years old. As time passes, skin becomes more fragile and susceptible to cuts and bruises. Wound healing also slows down. 

For women in particular there can be a rapid loss in fullness and elasticity that coincides with menopause. About 30% of skin collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause, and it continues declining about 2% with each additional year.4 This change in the appearance and quality of a woman’s skin is linked to a decrease in estrogen, leading to less collagen. There’s also a slow degrading of our skin’s collagen-rich elastic fiber.5 Water content is lost, and skin becomes drier.

We’ve known since the 1960s that the collagen content of skin—and its thickness—is greater in women who are receiving estrogen replacement therapy. Wrinkles are reduced as well. These effects are seen as early as three months after starting hormone replacement therapy.6 One 1997 study of nearly 3800 women found that those who did not use hormone replacement therapy had significantly drier and wrinkly skin.7 These connections further solidified the strong link between hormonal changes during menopause and decreased skin health.

The Connection to Bone

The impact of menopause on skin was first described by a pioneering physician named Fuller Albright. In 1940, he and his colleagues noticed that older women with osteoporotic fractures were more likely to also have thin skin. He conducted research at Massachusetts General Hospital, taking pigeons, removing their ovaries, and noting that their bones lost density and became weaker. He also did work on hormones and their impact on osteoporosis and calcium retention.8 Because of his work, osteoporosis was first defined in 1940 as a disease of low bone mineral density.9

Twenty years later, in the 1960s, this insight was confirmed: scientists noticed that women with very thin skin had a higher incidence of osteoporosis.10 Not surprisingly, the rate of skin collagen and bone mineral density loss are similar, and both are influenced by the loss of estrogen. The amount of collagen in the skin declines in post-menopausal women at the same time as bone mineral density declines.11  Similar to skin, the fastest rate of bone loss is in the years after menopause.12

The importance of collagen in bone may be one reason why bone mineral density alone is not a very accurate predictor of fracture risk. A bone density scan only predicts 44% of women who will break a bone and 21% of men.13 Mineral content is responsible for bone stiffness, but the connective tissue within bone is responsible for tensile strength.14 Collagen fibers in bone are organized in concentric layers that provide resistance against stress.15 During aging, changes in the collagen network reduce bone mechanical strength and elasticity, paving the way for osteoporosis and fractures.

Collagen Supplements Promote Healthy Skin and Bones

Supplementation with collagen peptides helps bone and skin. In a year-long, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 131 postmenopausal women who had age-related declines in bone mineral density, daily intake of collagen peptides improved their status. The women took five grams of collagen peptides daily. Bone mineral density significantly improved in the spine and hip in women taking collagen, while bone density decreased in women taking the placebo.16

In a second clinical trial of 51 postmenopausal women with osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis), taking five grams of collagen peptides daily for three months significantly improved the laboratory marker C-terminal telopeptide (CTX).17 CTX increases when bone collagen is breaking down and is associated with increased fracture risk.18,19 When CTX decreases, it indicates improved bone health and is associated with reduced fracture risk.

A review of over sixty scientific studies on collagen in people with joint pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and skin aging found that supplementing with collagen peptides promotes healthy tissue regeneration, collagen synthesis and supports healthy joints, bone density, and skin.20 Animal studies have also given excellent results. In one study, rats with fractured femurs (the thigh bone) healed faster when they were given oral collagen peptides.21

NBI’s Collagen powder delivers 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen per serving. It was specifically formulated for bone, joint, skin and nail health. Made from the purest collagen, NBI Collagen contains a mixture of non-GMO Types I and III collagen. It’s paleo- and keto-friendly, derived from grass-fed cows, and mixes easily. And it doesn’t contain any of the bad stuff: antibiotics-free, gluten-free, hormone-free, pesticide-free and doesn’t have any solvents. Collagen is fantastic to take alone, or get added benefit and 10% off when you purchase our Healthy Joints Bundle or Stronger Bones Bundle.

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3J. Calleja-Agius et al. Skin connective tissue and aging. In: Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology 27 (2013) 727–740 [Article]

4Brincat M, Moniz CF, Studd JW, et al. Sex hormones and skin collagen content in postmenopausal women. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 287 (6402): 1337-8 [Article]

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9Forbes AP. Fuller Albright. His concept of postmenopausal osteoporosis and what came of it. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1991 Aug;(269):128-41. [Article]

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11Brincat M, Kabalan S, Studd JW, Moniz CF, de Trafford J, Montgomery J. A study of the decrease of skin collagen content, skin thickness, and bone mass in the postmenopausal woman. Obstet Gynecol. 1987;70(6):840-845. [Article]

12Sunyer T, Lewis J, Collin-Osdoby P, Osdoby P. Estrogen’s bone-protective effects may involve differential IL-1 receptor regulation in human osteoclast-like cells. J Clin Invest. 1999;103(10):1409-1418. [Article]

13Liu H, Paige NM, Goldzweig CL. Screening for Osteoporosis in Men: A Systematic Review for an American College of Physicians Guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(9):685-701. [Article]

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15Daneault A, Prawitt J, Fabien Soulé V, Coxam V, Wittrant Y. Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bone metabolism. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;57(9):1922-1937. [Article]

16König D, Oesser S, Scharla S,  et al. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 16;10(1):97 [Article]

17Argyrou C, Karlafti E, Lampropoulou-Adamidou K, et al. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation with and without collagen peptides on bone turnover in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2020;20(1):12-17. [Article]

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