If you got up this morning from your cave or hut, grabbed a club, ax, or spear and proceeded to hunt, you’d kill something to eat. Perhaps you gut the creature to consume some of the stomach and intestines on the spot. You’d then drag the carcass back to camp and roast it over a fire and share the brain, tongue, heart, lungs, thyroid, pancreas, liver, limbs and skin with your fellow clan members. You would then boil the remnants—inedible tendons, ligaments, tough organ and muscle casings, head, trachea, rib cage, pelvis, etc.—to make soup or stew. In short, by consuming the entire animal from snout to tail, you obtained healthy quantities of collagen, hyaluronic acid, phosphatidylserine, taurine, omega-3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA), iodine, as well as fats and proteins.

When is the last time you engaged in such eating behavior? “Never” is the most likely response for most of us.

Let’s focus on the collagen and hyaluronic acid. Not ingesting these components of animals (they cannot be sourced from plants, though they can be sourced from microbes) means that you can experience accelerated aging or diseases of:

  • Skin—Collagen and hyaluronic acid are, of course, most popular among females hoping to thicken the dermal layer of skin rich in both collagen and hyaluronic acid, smoothing wrinkles and increasing skin moisture. Without them, you experience accelerated skin thinning, dryness, and wrinkle development.
  • Joints—Joint cartilage contains chondrocytes (cartilage cells), collagen, proteoglycans and hyaluronic acid. Synovial fluid, the lubricating fluid within joints, is rich in hyaluronic acid.
  • Thoracic aorta—This is the main artery of the body, the first artery to emerge from the heart that receives the high-volume, high-velocity flow that puts considerable tension on the wall of this vessel. It is therefore prone to enlargement. Having interpreted tens of thousands of echocardiograms and CT heart scans over my career, I can tell you that enlarged and diseased thoracic aortas are extremely common. (If you have had either, get the narrative report and see what the thoracic aortic diameter was; it should be no more than 3.2 cm. Any larger and you are on your way to health problems from this vessel, problems that can range from “mini-strokes” to catastrophic rupture.) The aorta does not become deficient in collagen, but it accumulates collagen that becomes disorganized and weakens, largely due to glycation.

Not only do modern people fail to take in collagen and hyaluronic acid from diet, they also glycate their collagen, i.e., glucose-modify collagen that occurs every time blood sugar rises above 100 mg/dl. This is an irreversible process that further causes skin to become thinned and dry, joint cartilage to deteriorate, and the aortic wall to weaken, since glycated collagen is less able to perform its functions.

One of the advantages of ingesting collagen and hyaluronic acid, however, is that you can add new collagen and new hyaluronic acid on top of the old—one of the few areas in health in which you are allowed a “do-over.”

Unless you are an enthusiastic consumer of brain and other organs, the skin on poultry and fish, and frequently boil the carcass of animals for soups or stews, you have the convenient option of supplementing collagen and hyaluronic acid for skin, joint, and aortic health. My preferred form of collagen is marine-sourced that is proving to be effective at much lower intakes than bovine, porcine, or chicken sources, due to enrichment with the Guy-Pro-Hyp tripeptide and dipeptides that derive from it, typically around 1.0-2.5 grams per day. Hyaluronic acid effects plateau at around 120 mg per day.