Edible Collagen, A Skin Miracle or Just Clever Marketing?
In 2016, edible collagen has been the darling of beauty editors, its benefits touted in publications from Allure to Vogue. But do hydrolyzed collagen drinks and powders really help your skin look younger? And are they a lasting trend or just smart marketing that repackages that old standby, gelatin, into a trendy supplement?
Dictionaries define collagen is an insoluble fibrous protein that is the chief constituent of connective tissue (skin and tendons) in vertebras and the organic substance of bones. To put it another way, collagen, which is naturally produced by our bodies, is the stuff that holds us together and is responsible for the firmness and elasticity in our skin. As we grow older our levels of collagen decrease, which ultimately leads to wrinkles, thinning skin and brittle hair. Whether sold as a powder that can be added to foods or blended into drinks, hydrolyzed collagen is simply a flavorless food derived from a variety of raw animal materials marketed as gelatin and used as a gelling agent in foods like gummy candy, marshmallows and deserts – as well as cosmetics.
While many prefer a more natural way to increase collagen levels, such as eating plenty of dark green vegetables like spinach and kale, beans and red fruits and vegetables, the collagen trend initially centered on artificially enhancing collagen levels with fillers or injectable. There are two basic types of fillers, those made with human collagen (CosmoDerm and Cosmoplast), and those made with bovine collagen (Zyderm and Zyplast), and fat from your own thighs can also be surgically implanted. In 2011 LAVIV™ became the first FDA-approved injectable to use personalized cell therapy, made up of collagen-producing cells called fibroblasts, which are isolated and grown from your skin cells.
Fast forward to 2016: According to Allure magazine, the edible collagen trend launched in Asia where for years brands like Shiseido have sold powders, drinks and supplements with high levels of protein and amino acids glycine and lysine, which form and repair connective tissues, bone matrix and joint surfaces. The supplements are also said to result in healthy skin and hair, and the article postulates, “…sipping collagen, rather than applying it topically or injecting it, provides the entire body with the building blocks it needs to support the creation and repair of the body’s connective tissues.”
Huffington Post takes a more cautious view, noting that, ”We’ve come across a fair share of beauty products that make lofty claims, but nothing has left us baffled quite like chewable collagen candy.” The article quotes Jessica Weiser, a board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group, who says that while collagen that is ingested orally is known to be absorbed by the body, stomach acid breaks down the proteins, and “… the body is absorbing amino acids or smaller protein fragments of collagen and not the intact protein structure.”
Conversely, the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported that two placebo-controlled clinical trials demonstrated that collagen peptide supplementation significantly increased skin hydration after eight weeks and the effects continue after 12 weeks. The authors’ conclusion: “Oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin aging.”
In other words, while the jury is till out on ingestible collagen, one trend is certain: many people love nutrition they can slurp or sip (remember bone broth?) and for the moment the craze du jour is collagen drinks. But we suggest doing your homework before jumping on the collagen powders and drinks bandwagon. If you’d just as soon chew your collagen in a dose of leafy greens, you’ll also benefit from other important vitamins and minerals and save upwards of $50 a month.
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