Collagen Craze: Health or Hype?

Updated: May. 1, 2019 at 10:52 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Collagen is one of the top selling supplements in the country, with some doctors even recommending it for joint pain and hair loss.

In a sense, collagen is the glue that holds the body together and it’s the most abundant protein in mammals.

“It’s the main ingredient in just about every organ system that we have,” dermatologist Dr. Robert Benson said. “It provides structure in our muscles, bones and joints, our skin, hair and nails and it also is the framework for just about all the other systems in the body.”

But he said as we age, we lose collagen and the ability to make it.

“In the aging process, we can see that in the loss of elasticity. We start to sag and we get frumpy and we get cellulite," Benson said.

Which explains why people are looking for an added boost. The collagen craze has spread from cosmetic injections to food, skin creams, pills and powders

“I have been taking it religiously for joint health but I have had comments about how nice my skin looks,” Darlene Ford said.

She said she has taken collagen pills for the last five years and said when she recently slacked off, it showed.

“My husband even mentioned to me that my skin has changed and is starting to show signs of aging,” Ford said.

She isn’t alone in her quest for vitality. Right now, consumers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on collagen products and experts predict the industry will grow to over $1.3 billion in the next few years.

“If we enhance the collagen production in our bodies, in a sense we fight the aging process and we’re held together longer,” Benson said.

But with so many products on the market, how do you know what works?

Regina Alphonso owns Rouge Hair Salon and was looking for collagen to improve her complexion, hair, skin, nails and weight.

“I was using one scoop a day consistently for a month and a half and it was so hard to mix,” Alphonso said.

She paid almost $80 for a powdered form of collagen she ordered online, but said she didn’t see any results. She said the mixed product was mostly foam and difficult to drink. After that experience, Alphonso said she isn’t sold.

“This is my opinion. It may be different for someone else, but I wouldn’t waste your money,” she said.

Doctors say you may have to try a few different brands before finding what’s right for you. But they also recommend you keep in mind the good, natural ways to get more collagen in your diet, including bone broth, eggs, wild salmon and chicken skin.

“The skin just tastes better,” Benson said. “And it does because our skin and chicken skin have a lot of similarities and they’re mostly collagen.”

Ford said she understands it’s not just about supplements..

“It is all about nutrition and collagen is part of that. It’s a key part of our beauty and health from inside, instead of outside," she said.

Doctors say the research that’s yielded glowing results continues to build a case for this piece of the anti-aging market that just keeps growing.

“There’s increase in skin hydration, elasticity. One study found six months of using a collagen supplement led to a noticeable decrease in cellulite,” Benson said. “I think we’re just scratching the surface of what the potential may be.”

Benson said when you shop around, there are key things to look for:

Good terms to look for are hydrolyzed, double hydrolyzed, tri-peptides, di-peptides, which mean the collagen has been processed enough that it will be readily absorbed and usable right away.

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