When it comes to aging, there’s one thing we know for sure—it happens. As for the exact mechanisms behind it, there are many theories. One theory is that our genes determine our longevity and how the aging process plays out in our lives. Other aging experts believe aging is the result of accumulated DNA and cellular damage over time—all those UV rays, free radicals, and destructive oxygen compounds taking their toll on skin, heart, brain, and overall health. Chances are, there are myriad contributors to aging. And there are also many preventative measures we can take to protect against accelerated aging and improve quality of life into our golden years. Nutritive support with anti-aging amino acids is one of the top ways to keep aging at arm’s length.
Amino Acids for Skin Rejuvenation
Aging doesn’t stay silent. It shows up on the skin first as fine lines, then as wrinkles. As we approach our 30s, skin becomes drier. In our 40s, skin can become markedly thinner and lose firmness and elasticity, hair loss can kick in, and nails can become weak and brittle. Anti-aging amino acids can help strengthen connective tissue, maintain smoothness and elasticity of the skin, and keep nails strong and hair lush.
Creatine for Skin Health
Creatine is made from three amino acids: arginine, methionine, and glycine. It is an important energy source for cells and can help stimulate the repair of cells and connective tissue. Creatine also plays a key role in skin metabolism.
As we age, skin cell division and collagen production decline at a steady rate. Whereas skin cells used to renew every 28 days, by the time we’re in our 40s, skin cell turnover happens every 30 to 40 days. After age 20, collagen production decreases by 1.5% every year, and from 30 onwards our bodies’ ability to produce collagen and elastin, the proteins that give structure, strength, and elasticity to skin, is greatly limited.
Creatine helps skin cells repair damaged DNA and stimulates cells to produce more collagen and elastin. It also wraps cells in a film of water, thereby helping to shield cells from harmful substances as well as supplying much-needed moisture.
Arginine and Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (hGH) is best known for helping the body build lean muscle mass and burn fat. Studies show it can also help elevate bone mineral density, improve cardiovascular health, and boost collagen production in patients with already deficient levels. Human growth hormone injections are a mainstream medicine approach to increasing hGH levels, but they are expensive, inconvenient, and many experts recommend against the use of this synthetic approach as an anti-aging treatment.
In addition to improving collagen production by helping to form creatine, the anti-aging amino acid arginine is a natural way to help revitalize human growth hormone. Arginine acts as an hGH secretagogue, which is a substance that triggers the pituitary gland to release more human growth hormone. According to a 2010 scientific review published in the Journal of Advanced Research: “The demonstrated anti-aging benefits of L-Arginine show greater potential than any pharmaceutical or nutraceutical agent ever previously discovered.”
When it comes to raising hGH levels, studies show that arginine works in concert with the essential amino acid lysine. Along with methionine, lysine produces carnitine, a nutrient that transforms fatty acids into usable energy and, in doing so, helps lower cholesterol and activate collagen production.
Lysine is an essential amino acid that we must get from our diet. By ensuring adequate lysine intake, we increase the body’s production of carnitine and support both heart and skin health. High levels of arginine, however, may lower lysine levels in the body because the two aminos share common pathways, which is why taking arginine supplements can lead to unwanted side effects. When taking anti-aging amino acid supplements, it’s crucial to supplement with a complete essential amino acid formula that maintains the balance of amino acids in the blood. Working together in an appropriate balance, arginine and lysine have been shown to boost human growth hormone levels.
Glutamine for Wrinkle Prevention
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, but its production naturally declines with age. Glutamine gives skin its strength, elasticity, and firmness, and when levels start to diminish, skin starts to sag and wrinkle. By eating a glutamine-rich diet—plenty of kale, plain yogurt, walnuts, fish, turkey, spinach, lima beans, and whey protein—you can promote flexible, strong muscle tissue and skin. If you’re not getting enough glutamine, your body will take it from muscle and skin tissues.
If the load of your diet is meat or you drink a lot of coffee or smoke, you may be suffering from an acid imbalance, which can harm cells and tissues. Glutamine can help regulate the acid-base balance of your body by helping to flush out poisonous ammonia that is a byproduct of the kidneys’ filtering process. Glutamine lends a proton to an ammonia molecule. An acid is neutralized and an alkalizing bicarbonate is preserved.
Collagen and Amino Acids
Let’s explore collagen and amino acids a bit more in depth, as the relationship between the two is central to anti-aging. Amino acids form the protein collagen. Collagen makes up our bones, tendons, cartilage, connective tissues, and skin. It’s what keeps wrinkles away and, alongside elastin, supports skin elasticity. When collagen production tapers off, as it does with age, our skin sags and succumbs to wrinkles, our joints and ligaments become less pliable and more stiff and sore, and our hair starts to thin. Collagen amino acids can help increase collagen production, so that these symptoms of aging are suppressed.
While several amino acids are involved in boosting collagen production, glycine and proline are the two amino acids that make up collagen (along with the amino acid derivative hydroxyproline made from proline and lysine). Together, glycine and proline account for two-thirds of collagen protein. However, proline and glycine are nonessential amino acids that are rarely limiting for collagen synthesis. (A limiting amino acid is the amino acid that is in shortest supply in relation to need. The rate of protein synthesis—how much collagen can be produced—is limited to the availability of the least abundant amino acid.) Rather, the essential amino acids are rate limiting, even though they comprise a relatively small amount of the total amino acids in the protein.
Our Paleothic ancestors got plenty of glycine and proline because they ate pretty much all the components of meat, but these days, we tend to leave out the bones and tendons. Bone broth is a great way to increase your intake of these two amino acids. Bone broth is also a great source of arginine. While it is a good idea to ensure that your diet includes proline and glycine, keep in mind that healthy skin requires an abundance of the essential amino acids to trigger the synthetic response in skin collagen.
Sulfur for Anti-Aging
Beta-keratin is a major protein in hair, skin, and nails. It’s also high in sulfur. Connective tissue and cartilage depend on sulfur bonds for structure and stability. We’ve already explained how age decreases flexibility and firmness in skin and joints, and a lack of sulfur is a common culprit in these age-related symptoms.
Cysteine is a sulfur-containing nonessential amino abundant in beta-keratin that helps stimulate collagen production. Cysteine is also required in the production of taurine, a sulfurous antioxidant that influences cardiovascular and skeletal muscle function.
One of the most important roles of cysteine is as a component of the antioxidant glutathione, which is used throughout the body to neutralize free radicals, diminish oxidative stress, and protect the immune system. Cysteine and glutathione help to defend against age-related health conditions that have been linked to an accumulation of toxins, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis.