For decades, consumers have queued for injections and creams that promise to plump, freshen and smooth aging skin. But now that same anti-aging crowd is ditching the shots and ointments and going for snacks and smoothies instead.
A staple of skin care products – collagen – has moved into the new trendy ‘functional foods’ such as: The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out. Instead of the standard anti-wrinkle creams and injectable fillers, people can try everything from collagen-packed powders to ready-to-drink energy bars, chocolates, teas, shakes and coffee creamers. The edibles offer the same benefits as old standby cosmetics that contain collagen – an abundant structural protein in the body, found in connective tissue. As we age, our bodies naturally produce less of the elastic, thread-like molecule that keeps our skin from sagging. Boosting and restoring your collagen levels with supplements “improves” or “promotes” supple, youthful-looking skin, according to product labels and makers.
So far, the cosmetic-inspired consumables have been a hit. Nearly 300 collagen-containing snacks are now available, and sales reached more than $60 million last year. But scientists have been less enthusiastic about spooning up the food craze.
There is little evidence that eating collagen directly helps renew aging skin or nails, hair, joints or other aging particles. The few studies that have been done have often been supported by product manufacturers and/or have been done with animals or only a small number of people for a short period of time. And there is reason to be skeptical of the idea in general. Collagen is digested just like any other protein we eat. The collagen found in food products comes from livestock skin, bones and cartilage, which is digested and processed into smaller fragments. (According to one user, it has a “musty” taste.)
“It’s not like there’s collagen that can magically be transported to the skin in its entire form,” Mary Sheu, a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the WSJ. “Dermal collagen is like an intricately woven sweater. You can’t just throw a ball of yarn at it and expect it to settle in.”
And like all supplements, the Food and Drug Administration does not approve or review products or their labels before they go on the market.