This Latest Health Fad Just Sounds Revolting

There’s a trendy new health and beauty fad for you to try once you’ve spent all your money on goji berries and “penis facials”.

As per a report in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), more and more health-conscious consumers are looking to chow down on collagen smoothies – as in, that stuff you always see on face cream bottles. Recent years have seen a meteoric rise in popularity of pricey health foods laced with collagen powders, from collagen-infused smoothies to pills, “beauty milk”, vanilla-flavored protein bars, and matcha tea lattes.

Granted, it is not quite as mad (or dangerous) as other recent alternative health fads, but scientists have raised concern there’s a real lack of hard evidence to prop up its all-natural, anti-aging skin-tightening benefits. In short, the jury is still out. 

Collagen is one of the main structural proteins that help to connect your body’s tissues together. You can find it in skin, tendon, organs, bone, and hair. As we age, collagen production declines, which leads to a drop in skin elasticity and the dreaded wrinkles. So, if you eat collagen, you’ll have higher levels of the protein and therefore healthier skin, hair, and nails, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

The main problem with this theory is that the digestive system will simply break down the protein into amino acids, just like it would with any proteins. The body will then use these amino-acid building blocks for whatever they’re needed for, not necessarily to maintain your skin’s youthful smoothness.

Speaking with WSJ, Mary Sheu, a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University, put it best: “Dermal collagen is like a complex woven sweater. You can’t just throw a ball of yarn at it and expect it to get incorporated.”

In the interest of balance, there have been a small handful of studies that have suggested ingesting collagen can be beneficial. A double-blind placebo study of just 50 people found ingesting the peptide form of collagen regularly for eight weeks result in a 20 percent reduction in wrinkles. It didn’t find any underlying mechanism behind this. Most other studies have only been carried out on animals or, according to Ars Technica, backed by the product manufacturers themselves.

“There’s a lot of conflict of interest, and not enough quality control,” Mark Moyad, MD, University of Michigan Medical Center, told WebMD.

It’s very easy to cherry-pick studies that reaffirm your beliefs, but for the meanwhile, there’s simply not much in the way of large-scale clinical trials or hard scientific evidence that backs up edible collagen products. Until the evidence is there, it’s probably not worth forking out your cash for some product splattered with scientific-sound names.

Besides anything, you’ve also got to consider where the collagen is coming from. This supplement is essentially ground-up animal parts, yet not as tightly regulated as food or drugs. There isn’t any information to say that collagen supplements do contain contaminants, nevertheless, doctors have shown concern about the quality of the goods.

“The jury is still out as to whether these supplements actually have any meaningful benefit on the skin in women who are already eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of protein sources, such as chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, and yogurt,” Whitney Bowe, MD and certified dermatologist, told Readers Digest.

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