Jelly belly: the role of collagen, elastin and fat

Why is the lower abdomen saggier than the upper? Elementary, Dear Watson, there is less collagen and elastin there.

In this recently published study, which examined the elastin, collagen and hydroxyproline content of superficial abdominal fascia, it was found that those three proteins were abundant in the upper abdominal region and found in much lower levels on the lower abdomen.

The superficial abdominal fascia is a tissue found below the skin and above deep fat stores and muscles, and it is rich in collagen and elastin fibres in slim/fit people; and rich in fat and poor in elastin and collagen fibres in the overweight/unfit people.

Collagen provides firmness to the surface of the body and elastin provides elasticity. Hydroxyproline is the most important aminoacid in collagen and it is used as a collagen marker.

Low levels of elastin and collagen and high levels of fat are responsible for the loose, saggy look found in, usually overweight, people. In this study it was found that the lower part of the abdomen has much less collagen, elastin and hydroxyproline than the upper part, hence the propensity of the lower "stomach" to be more loose and "flabby" than the upper stomach.

Radiofrequency (RF) treatments represent the best non-surgical skin tightening technology known today, but only if high intensity, monopolar RF is used. Hydroxyproline contained in the radiofrequency treatment cream/gel offers enhanced results.



  • Paper: Histological and biochemical study of the superficial abdominal fascia and its implication in obesity.
  • Abstract: The advancement of liposculpturing and fascial flaps in reconstructive surgery has renewed interest in the superficial fascia of abdomen. Its histological and biochemical composition may play a vital role in maintaining strength and elasticity of the fascia. Hence, study of abdominal fascia for the elastic, collagen, and hydroxyproline contents is desirable to understand asymmetrical bulges and skin folds and in improving surgical treatment of obesity. Samples of superficial fascia were collected from of upper and lower abdomen from 21 fresh cadavers (15 males and 6 females). Samples were stained using Verhoeff-Van Gieson stain. Digital images of superficial fascia were analyzed using TissueQuant software. The samples were also subjected to hydroxyproline estimation. The superficial fascia was formed by loosely packed collagen fibers mixed with abundant elastic fibers and adipose tissue. Elastic contents and collagen contents of superficial fascia were significantly more in the upper abdomen than that in the lower abdomen in males. Hydroxyproline content of superficial fascia of upper abdomen was significantly more than that of lower abdomen in both males and females. The elastic, collagen and hydroxyproline contents of superficial fascia of upper abdomen were higher compared to the lower abdomen. This may be a reason for asymmetric bulging over abdomen and more sagging fold of skin in the lower abdomen than in the upper abdomen. This study may therefore be helpful in finding new ways to manage obesity and other body contour deformities.

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