When I was asked to write the foreword to Sally Kim’s book, The Collagen Glow, I was thrilled for many reasons. Most importantly, Sally shares my belief that nutrition is the key to health. I am in my late 40’s now and I certainly have observed through experience and my own research that nutrition is key to health and beauty. In fact, I am probably one of the first dermatologists to talk to my fellow doctors and patients about nutrition and supplementation because as we know we can effectively apply antioxidants, botanicals and vitamins on our skin topically, we can also provide our skin with the building blocks it needs by ingesting key ingredients through our diet and proper supplementation. Given our modern diet and busy lifestyle, supplementation is not only a suggestion but a necessity when it comes to achieving both health and beauty.
My interest in supplementation started with my husband’s health journey and recovery from a brain tumor. His tumor was treated with chemotherapy but the experience sparked a passion for brain health and how to approach it holistically. We put our Stanford MD brains together, used our biochemistry and molecular biophysics education, and did our research on essential ingredients for brain health. In the process, we became believers that food has to be thought of as a means to deliver the parts and pieces, the biomolecules that are necessary for protein synthesis, energy production for maintenance, repair and regeneration. We thought of our bodies as biochemical machines and with any machine you have to give the proper parts and maintenance. If you only had one car for your entire lifetime, how well would you take care of it? If a car doesn’t get oil it’s obvious that it would eventually breakdown. But what about the timing belt, spark plugs, etc? All of these parts are necessary or the car won’t run optimally. And isn’t the goal to run optimally? We are biochemical machines - and eating is the only way we can provide the machine it’s proper parts to maintain, repair and rebuild.
Secondly, like my husband James, Sally is Korean. And I believe there is absolutely something to be said about that. My husband is Korean American and truthfully, one of the qualities I loved about him from the beginning was his beautiful skin! And as Sally told so beautifully, her grandmother’s recipes for beauty truly involved recipes for food! Koreans (just like my fellow Filipinos and other Asian cultures) incorporate varying and rich sources of collagen in their native dishes which were historically born out of necessity and poverty! My husband and I enjoy the oxtail soups and most of the Korean soup bases are from broths from boiling bones and marrow for hours - not usually thinking about the fact that these are all all great sources of collagen. I believe that years of regular ingestion of collagen rich foods such as these naturally increase the levels of biopeptides and amino acids that circulate in the blood stream and just like in the studies, end up concentrated in the dermis for days after eating the meal! So no wonder, Sally found her Grandmother’s recipes healing not only from a spiritual sense but also from a biochemical and biomolecular level. She uses her culture and background to highlight the intrinsic beauty and skin benefits of a Korean diet. Not all of us have grandmas who can cook these amazing soups and dishes for us, but with today’s technology we can all have access to ingestible collagen, ingestible precursors to essential components to our skin’s health and beauty. Through her book, Sally shows us an innovative, modern, and unconventional way to achieve our best! Who doesn’t love food, recipes and cook books?
The skin is the largest organ of the body and as Dermatologist I am fully aware that it also has the most psychological impact to our overall well being. Our skin is made up of the epidermis: the outermost layer and the dermis: the innermost layer. Although what our eyes see is the epidermis, the dermis is where it all begins. Collagen plays a huge role in the health of this crucial layer. The structure of the dermis, the collagen, must be maintained in order to provide the proper structural support to the epidermis and allow the skin to function normally and appear healthy and youthful.
Although there is still some controversy out there and the exact mechanism of action of ingestible collagen is not yet fully elucidated, more and more credible studies are showing skin benefits of ingestible collagen. In Asserin J, etc all. j Cosmetic Dermatol. 2015, they looked at two placebo controlled clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of daily supplementation of a daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides on skin hydration measured objectively by corneometry, collagen density by high resolution ultrasound and collagen fragmentation by reflectance confocal microscopy. Their results showed that collagen density significantly increased and collagen fragmentation decreased after 4 weeks of supplementation. They also performed ex-vivo experiments that showed collagen peptides induce collagen as well as glycosaminoglycan, an extracellular matrix component.
Proksch E, et al. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014 showed that oral supplementation with collagen hydrolase improved skin elasticity in a double blind, placebo controlled study.
There is also persistent questions whether ingestible collagen can cross the intestinal barrier, reach the bloodstream and then finally the skin to have clinical effects. In a thorough discussion of absorption, bioavailability and distribution, Borumand and Sibilla cited studies that show that after ingestion, collagen peptides are digested, distributed throughout the body and can reach the dermis in the skin where clinical benefits is observed. The level of sophistication of the objective measures used to demonstrate each step along the pathway from radioactive labeled amino acid study to specifically looking at the percentage of hydroxyproline-containing peptides (breakdown products of ingested collagen) in blood to the number of subjects in their multicenter study (300 subjects) convinced me that there is growing scientific evidence to what I have personally observed as a Dermatologist and heard anecdotally. The other reassuring fact is that there were no side effects noted from taking oral collagen throughout these studies mentioned.
In fact, when I was asked to be the anti-aging supplement expert on The Dr Oz show, we discussed one specific study showing the positive effects of oral collagen on skin and showed the audience some compelling before and after photos. Even Dr Oz was impressed! Of course we know that those before and afters are the best case scenarios.. but I am personally convinced ingesting collagen whether as powder or pill supplement most likely will not hurt you but likely will help and I am passionate about optimizing my biochemical machine!
Speaking of optimization and dare I say it, biohacking, I am all for it! I love the results of optimizing my mind, body and soul and I love that when I tell people how old I am, people are usually shocked.. Sally Kim was amazed when I sent her my 20th wedding anniversary family photo. Of course, I attribute some of my youthful looks to the cutting edge cosmetic dermatology and regenerative aesthetic procedures now available in my clinics which I take advantage of. But I also get this a lot.. “Of course you look young, you are Asian!”