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Collagen drinks, shots and snacks are everywhere. Let's find out if they're actually legit.

Stroll down the aisles of your local supermarket or servo and you’ll find a collagen product promising to make your skin glow and your gut as clean as the day you were born.

No, we’re not talking about the collagen powders you might’ve seen people drinking on Instagram. Today, we’re talking about ready-made collagen waters, drinks, protein bars, balls, and even shots.

These products come in bright packaging and with a list of benefits ranging from brighter, younger-looking skin and cleansed insides, to stronger hair and nails – all in a convenient, yummy, on-the-go treat. But are they legit, or a load of crap?

We asked the experts to find out everything you need to know about collagen drinks and snacks, from what collagen actually does (yes, it does do something), to whether these hyped products meet their claims.

Before we get into it, here’s some helpful tips to improve your skin while you snooze. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

What is collagen?

Before we get into collagen drinks, snacks and supplements, what the heck is collagen and why would you want to get it into you?

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein we all have in our bodies. From a skincare perspective, if you think of your facial structure as the wooden beams in a house reno, collagen is the cushiony insulation and the screws holding everything together. It’s a building block for our hair and nails, too.

Dr Adrian Lim, a Sydney-based dermatologist and the Dean of the College of the Australasian College of Dermatology, told Mamamia:

“Collagen is the padding of the skin and it gives the skin integrity. It also reflects light in a certain way, so it contributes to tautness, radiance and glow.”

He also explained collagen diminishes with age (this starts around 25, fun), as well as with sun damage and disease. The result is skin that shows some or all the common signs of ageing like wrinkles, and loss of tone and volume.

The other important thing to know about collagen is it’s a large molecule. Dietitian Rachel Scoular broke down the science for us, telling Mamamia, “Once we ingest collagen, it is digested and broken down into amino acid strands that are absorbed by our bodies as they are.”

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This means the collagen we eat in a traditional diet can’t be broken down and re-packaged as collagen for our face.

skin
Collagen products promise youthful, bouncy, plump skin. But do they deliver? Image: Getty.

Collagen for skin - can eating or drinking collagen give you better skin?

Now onto the part where people are paying good money to eat, drink or shot a collagen product for better skin. But if collagen is too big for the body to absorb and use, how can collagen products claim to replenish our existing collagen stores for glowy, more youthful skin?

The answer: collagen peptides.

"Traditionally, collagen has limited absorption capabilities. What's different these days is we have these 'peptide' versions [of collagen]. Many collagen supplements claim to contain small collagen peptides that, once ingested, can get into the blood stream and improve collagen synthesis, particularly in the skin to see an improvement in appearance," Dr Lim said.

In other words, peptides can effectively boss your cells around and make them produce more collagen.

Sounds ideal, but is there science to back these claims up? Both Dr Lim and Scoular noted that yes, literature shows small studies have identified a signal telling us there could be something in the ingestion of collagen peptide products and improved skin elasticity and decreased wrinkle appearance.

The key word here is could.

"More studies are required to draw a conclusive link between collagen consumption and possible benefits for premature ageing or improved skin appearance. There is limited evidence that has found a small link, however, these results are minimal and also disputed by other studies," Scoular said.

Dr Lim added, "The caution is, of course, that these studies will amount to nothing. [The current research] is a far stretch from all the products coming onto the market claiming benefits."

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Why are collagen drinks, snacks and supplements everywhere right now?

 

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So, if it's not yet 100 per cent proven that drinking or eating products with collagen peptides in them can improve our skin, hair and nails, why are there so many brands and products sold not just online and on Instagram, but in supermarkets and servos?

Dr Lim used the example of fish oil to give context to why collagen peptides are popular all of a sudden. Like with fish oil around 10 years ago, when preliminary studies came out with exciting results, the marketing machine goes into overdrive, creating products based on claims that haven't been thoroughly investigated.

"Ten years ago, there was a fish oil boom. In preliminary studies, there was a signal with fish oil and cardiovascular health, that it could lower risks of heart attacks. Early studies showed a trend, but when they did larger scale studies, they found there was no benefit," he explained.

"So I think right now, there's a lot of excitement around collagen drinks but the data is just not quite there."

How much collagen do you need to consume to see results?

Keeping in mind we can't say for sure that consuming collagen peptides can have an impact on our skin health, there's a rough amount you'd actually need to consume per day to see these alleged results.

One 2014 study of 69 women between 35 and 55 found those who took 2.5g-5g of collagen daily for eight weeks showed a lot of improvement in skin elasticity compared to those who didn't. Scoular said there's also a building body of evidence supporting a link between roughly 10g-14g of collagen daily and reduced joint pain/osteoarthritis.

To see skin benefits, Dr Lim said you'd need anywhere from 2.5g-10g per day.

Are pre-made collagen drinks and collagen protein snacks 'healthy'?

To differentiate between the many collagen shots, waters, protein bars, bliss balls and other ready-to-consume products on the shelves, look at the ingredients list on the back of the packaging.

While many are what Dr Lim describes as "lolly drinks", some products may contain between 2.5g-10g of collagen per serving. From a nutritional perspective, Scoular also pointed out it's important to be mindful of the other ingredients in pre-packaged collagen snacks or drinks that aren't recommended for daily consumption, mostly the sugar content. In that respect, there are healthier snacks you could reach for.

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Oh, then there's the price, which can range anywhere from $25 for eight shots containing 2.5g of collagen peptides each, to $54 for 12 shots containing 7g per serve.

Side note - we talked about collagen supplements on the You Beauty podcast below, post continues after audio.

Collagen drinks and collagen snacks verses collagen powder.

What about collagen supplement powders?

Again, it comes back to reading the ingredients lists thoroughly and doing your research to choose a reputable brand. That said, there are collagen powders on the market that are made purely from collagen, so you can tailor the dosage.

For example, a standard serving of powders on the market could contain anywhere from 3g-15g of collagen.

How to get collagen benefits.

Ultimately, although both Dr Lim and Scoular said further and larger testing may support the initial claims made by collagen peptide drinks or snacks, neither would recommend consuming them if you're wanting to see a noticeable improvement in your skin.

Scouler's advice? "Eat a diet rich in antioxidants; choose dark leafy vegetables, coloured fruits, quality protein sources and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish, extra-virgin olive oil and avocado). This will provide you with a series of nutrients that have been linked to neutralising free radicals and preventing oxidative stress, shown to have a positive effect on skin, gut health and general wellbeing."

Dr Lim also said there are a number of things we already know work when it comes to looking after or building up collagen.

"To keep your collagen in good shape and prevent it from breaking down, sunscreen is a clear winner, as well as quitting smoking. To stimulate collagen production, you can use an established topical agent like a retinoid, Vitamin A or C serum, or a treatment like skin needling."

A final word on collagen drinks and snacks.

According to Dr Lim, "There is some science on collagen peptide products, but it's in its infancy. The commercial side has jumped way ahead."

In other words, consuming collagen snacks could make you look better, but also might not. If you’re looking to try a collagen supplement, go for a reputable brand spend your money on delicious collagen snacks cautiously.

And like everything in the wellness world, take the claims with a grain of pink Himalayan rock salt.

Feature image: Instagram/@vitalproteins.

Have you tried any collagen supplements? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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