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Magic ingredient for eternal youth

By Yin Lu (Global Times)

08:55, October 18, 2012

Do collagen drinks contain the magic ingredient for eternal youth? Evidence is mixed. (File Photo)

Han Pei, a white-collar worker from Beijing, just celebrated her 26th birthday on Monday (October 15). Growing up in an era in which cosmetic brands dominate the high street, Han has been hardwired to believe that age 25 marks the end of her youthful skin. As a result, she has been guzzling down collagen drinks every day for a year now, hoping to resist the aging process.

"I think my skin has become smoother," said Han of the collagen products she drinks.

Han is not alone, with the sales of collagen products booming right now in China. According to a research report by the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology in 2011, hundreds of factories in the country produce more than 600 tons of collagen products each year, making the industry's annual worth around 100 billion yuan.

Younger skin with every sip

On the shelves of a Watsons store in Beijing, assorted collagen products are on sale. There are edible products, such as collagen beverages, collagen powder and collagen cookies; and there are skincare products with collagen added as an effective ingredient.

Among these, the most popular ones are collagen drinks and pure collagen powder. And they are expensive. The price of a 50 milliliter bottle can range from 10 yuan ($1.6) to 30 yuan, or even more, depending on the brand, quality and flavor.

The owner of an online collagen store based in Beijing called No Additives, surnamed Huang, told Metro Beijing that he sells 20,000 to 25,000 bottles every month from leading collagen brands imported from Japan, such as Fancl. Most of Huang's customers are women between the ages of 25 to 35, but there are "a few male customers too," he noted.

Collagen products have long been popular in Asia. According to a market research report published on Global Food Industry, nutrition supplements that include collagen are widely available in Japan, and it is predicted about 30 percent of the Japanese population will use collagen products in the future.

They are also on the rise in Europe and America, where leading food companies like Nestlé have started to promote collagen products.

Why are the Chinese so eager to try them out as well?

It might have something to do with the notion that "you are what you eat", which is supported by traditional Chinese medical theory. The Chinese eat chicken legs for stronger limbs, pig lungs if one coughs a lot, and in this case, collagen for those hoping to add elasticity back into their skin. Pig hooves and chicken feet are also known as good food for women in China, since they are rich in collagen.

With so many testing out collagen, do these products really work and how do they work? Are they better than pig hooves or is it merely an advertisement trap? The world of science is still debating this, but consumers have their own opinions.

Han believes that collagen powder can keep her skin young. Many of her peers don't though, and some of them have tried only to find nothing has changed.

Yet Bing Han, an expert in cosmetic biology with 18 years of experience in the skin care industry, told Metro Beijing that oral collagen supplements can provide amino acids and peptides, which are necessary components for keeping skin elastic.

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