Collagen shots are becoming popular. Most beauty enthusiasts know all about the role of collagen in the appearance of the skin, and how it is the webbing that holds everything together. It is a protein that has a spring like appearance that fits in with its ability to make your skin springy and resistant to sagging and wrinkling.
How The Body Handles Collagen
What is maybe less well known is that the body continually breaks it down and rebuilds it. Like all proteins, collagen is basically a long chain of amino acids. The body is adept at breaking down any kind of protein in the diet into its component amino acids and then reassembling them to make whatever it needs. So one way to think of it is like having two toddlers – one is continually making up a model from the lego while the other is continually pulling it down. As you get older the toddler building the model slows down so the model steadily gets smaller.
Collagen is a protein that only occurs in animals, but vegetarians have no trouble at all creating collagen from the proteins found in plants. So when someone proposes that a collagen rich drink can enhance collagen production the first reaction scientifically is to be skeptical. That isn’t really how the body works.
Collagen that you ingest is going to be split down into its component individual amino acids long before it gets anywhere near the skin. And going back to those vegetarians – most of us eat plenty of collagen already. But those who don’t have much the same skin as the rest of us. So on the face of it the idea of taking a collagen shot to improve your skin sounds like a non-starter.
But it is always good to keep an open mind. One company that works in this area came up with the idea. Rather than simply using any old collagen, it found a source of collagen that closely matches the specific collagen found in the skin. This might work – presumably if you had a protein source that had just the right amino acids for collagen production maybe that would actually increase collagen production. And in fact they took it a bit further and broke the collagen down into short chains.
What is the evidence for Collagen Shots?
Again this sounds like it might work. A short sequence of amino acids has got a better chance of making it intact through the digestive system than a great big long one. And if you remember that the body is continually rebuilding collagen, then maybe supplying it prebuilt blocks might speed up the reconstruction rate. It would be a bit like providing lego blocks partially assembled rather than individual bricks. And all you need to do to reverse the ageing process is give the the toddler making the model a bit of a hand to keep ahead of the one breaking it down.
So that is the theory.
I found it intriguing and was prepared to believe it. I am the owner operator of some skin that could certainly use a bit of collagen enhancement and I like the idea of a drink that improves it. Easy solutions are good. But science is all about trying to avoid letting your feelings affect your judgement. What is the actual evidence?
Luckily, we are able to get a feel for it because the company behind this special grade of collagen has submitted it to the European Food Standards Agency and they have assessed it and made their conclusions public. This is a relatively new feature of the legislative environment. If you want to make a claim for a nutritional product you have to submit the basis of that claim to EFSA and they will come to a judgement on it. I think it is a good system because it gives you a way of getting away from advertising as the sole source of information about products.
EFSA Says NO to Collagen Shots
The company must have believed in the idea because they have put a lot of work and money into it. They have done studies on mice and two trials in humans. Sadly for those of us who would like to buy a product like this, they couldn’t come up with a
convincing case that it worked. This is a shame. I can’t help thinking that perhaps the basic idea is sound and that one day someone will crack how to achieve it. I hope research continues in this area. But if you are thinking of trying these collagen shots, you need to be of a distinctly optimistic frame of mind.