Beware of Shonky collagen brands, scams, dodgy claims, and lack of evidence
In the world of advertising, many brands appear to be clueless about the difference between exaggeration of the truth and misleading information. Either that, or deliberately cunning.
Recently, it seems every ‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’ have jumped on the collagen band wagon.
Ads for collagen products are everywhere, but don't believe everything you read.
All collagen is not equal.
There is some cheap (and frankly nasty) stuff out there. Unscrupulous businesses going hard to make a quick buck and preying on customers vulnerability and lack of knowledge.
So, we’re calling out the shonks in our industry! These ‘fly by nighter’s’ looking to hitch a ride on the popularity of collagen to make a quick buck. Those collagen brands that make broard, unsubstantiated claims with no evidence to back it up.
There are many examples of collagen brand-names making exaggerated claims and misleading statements to target unsuspecting consumers who are just trying to make good choices for themselves and their families.
Moreover, even when collagen brands make unsubstantiated health claims, a host of concerns are warranted. For example, consumers may not be aware of subtle differences in wording that allow these brands to legally market their product without rigorous evidence supporting its use. This adds to the confusion and makes health-related purchasing decisions burdensome, tiring, and potentially hazardous for consumers.
While consumers in general expect some overhyping of products, some collagen brands stray too far, making specific claims that cannot be supported by facts or that are simply false, which is against the law.
Not all the collagen supplements being marketed do what they claim. Many regulators, such as the TGA in Australia, do not review supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are sold to consumers.
Well knowledge is power, and when it comes to your health, being misled is downright dangerous!
You see, Collagens aint Collagens!
In other words, not all collagens are the same.
Collagen powders, and the effects they have on the body, can vary dramatically depending on many factors. These factors include the source or raw material used (fish, cows, pigs, chickens), the type of fish species used in the production (different fish species have been shown to produce unique peptides which can act differently in the body), the molecular weight of the collagen powder (its bioavailability ie: the smaller the collagen molecules the more the body can absorb), the extraction method (acidic versus enzymatic as the acidic process can leave harsh chemical excipients in the finished product), and the Type of collagen (there are over 20 different Types of collagen in the body with Type I making up around 90% in our body).
Each of these factors will have a bearing on the efficacy of the product.
So, find a collagen brand that explains these differences openly and transparently and in a way that the average consumer can understand. If they can’t explain the differences, then they probably don’t know themselves.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 tips you need to know before choosing your collagen brand.
1. Choose a Brand that has Scientific Proof of the Efficacy of their Product.
The question to ask here is ‘can the brand provide evidence of published clinical trials and studies performed using their brand and that prove their claims’?
If the brand sites studies which are not done with their product, but claim their product delivers the same health outcomes, they are misleading you and should not be trusted.
In most cases, testing is required to be (a) randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled; and (b) conducted by researchers qualified by training and experience to conduct such testing. In the absence of these requirements, the claims are inaccurate, false and misleading. This is patently dangerous for consumers.
Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous brands who site generic studies as evidence of the efficacy of their product. They are trying to fool consumers in to thinking they will get the same result using their product. This practice is common because it works on unsuspecting and trusting consumers who believe their claims. Simply, if the study was not performed using their product, they are deliberately misleading you!
As mentioned above, all collagens are NOT the same and do not deliver the same health benefits. So, If the branded collagen cannot show clinical studies performed with their product then your doubts may be valid.
2. Dosing and Serving Size - How much to Take
Seems every brand has a different recommended serve.
Some brands (mostly those who supply in pill form) have a recommended dose of a measly few hundred milligrams while others recommend a giant scoop of 20 grams or more.
So, how much should a dose be?
Well, Hydrolysed Collagen is not a one size fits all. It’s a very individual thing. There are many factors which influence how much collagen anyone in particular would take and how often. Factors such as your age, disease and health status, the health of your gut, skin, and joints, whether you smoke or take prescription drugs, and even how physically active you are. All these have a bearing on how much and how often you consume your collagen.
Some brands try to pass off to customers that their collagen is more potent because, they proclaim, there is more collagen per dose. What they don’t tell you is that this is simply because their recommended dose size is bigger! “A whopping 15000mg per serve” one brand claims, trying to out-do the competition. They obviously believe collagen consumers are fools. Collagen does not come in different concentrations.
Another Australian Collagen brand spruiks that they have ‘3 times more collagen per dose than any other brand’. Well sure, just make your spoon 3 times bigger than anyone else’s (and, of course, get to the end of your packet 3 times faster!)
So don’t be fooled by some brands who emphasize how many milligrams are in their serve.
The vast majority of published clinical studies on hydrolysed collagen used a dose of 10 grams per day to achieve excellent health results. While some studies have used as little as 2.5 grams and some others have used 50 grams or more to achieve favourable results, these are the exception.
As I said, it’s an individual thing.
3. Environmentally friendly and Sustainable
Choose a brand that is open and transparent in their manufacturing processes and corporate responsibilities. In particular, look for a brand that;
- Is compliant with the strictest food regulations
- Has fully traceable products
- Provides Non-GMO products (produced without genetic engineering)
- Is 100% free of antibiotics, hormones, preservatives
- Is compliant with IFS- and HACCP-certified production
- Promotes Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified products
Always read the ingredients panel on the packet to identify any nasties such as fillers, anticaking agents, preservatives, artificial sweeteners etc.
The addition of erythritol, a sugar alcohol used as a low-calorie sweetener by some collagen brands, can be harmful and may cause digestive issues. According to the Healthline website, erythritol may also be associated with blood clots and heart problems.
Scientific evidence is mounting that synthetic chemicals used as food additives may have harmful impacts on health. Food additives are chemicals that are added to food to keep it from spoiling, as well as to improve its colour and taste. Some are linked to negative health impacts, while others are healthy and can be ingested with little danger. According to several studies, health issues such as asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), heart difficulties, cancer, obesity, and others are caused by harmful additives and preservatives. Some food additives may interfere with hormones and influences growth and development. It is one of the reasons why so many children are overweight. Children are more likely than adults to be exposed to these types of dietary intakes. Several food additives are used by women during pregnancy and breast feeding that are not fully safe.
Always look for a product that is 100% hydrolysed collagen. Nothing added.
The most common triggers of food allergic reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, milk and egg.
If allergens are a problem for you, then you need to be aware that many Hydrolysed Collagen brands cannot guarantee that these types of reactions will not happen when ingesting their product, even if they promote the ingredients as 100% collagen.
This is because many brands use packing facilities and machinery that is also used to pack these allergen-carrying food types. This means they cannot guarantee the safety of their products which could possibly possess trace amounts of these known allergens. Even these minute amounts can trigger a reaction….possibly a life threatening one.
This is why many brands will advise of this in a disclaimer in the fine print on their packaging. If allergens are a danger to you then steer clear of the brands that disclose statements like this one below or similar:
‘Contains ingredients which have been processed on shared machinery and could contain traces of gluten, crustaceans, egg, milk, soy, tree nuts, sesame seeds and sulphites’.
6. Molecular Size
Hydrolysed Collagen consists of small peptides with a molecular weight lower than 5.000 Daltons (Da). (a Dalton is a very small unit of mass, about the mass of a hydrogen atom). The antioxidant properties of Hydrolysed Collagen are conditioned to the size of the molecule: ie - the lower the molecular weight of peptides, the greater the ability to donate an electron or hydrogen to stabilize free radicals.
Low-molecular-weight peptides are preferred over the larger peptides and parent proteins, because of their better bioavailability (Yamamoto, Deguchi, Onuma, Numata, & Sakai, 2016).
Ensure you check the molecular weight of the collagen before purchase. Ideally look for a hydrolysed collagen that is 2000 Da or less.
7. To C or not to C….. That is the Question.
Now the latest fad is to throw Vitamin C into the collagen and tell consumers that without it the collagen won’t work.
So do we need Vitamin C in our collagen?
Although Vitamin C is required in the process of the formation of collagen in our bodies, most of us have enough Vit C in our daily diet to easily fulfill this requirement.
Unless you have a major vitamin C deficiency (consuming less than 7mg per day, or around one segment of orange, for more than 4 weeks (which can lead to scurvy) you don’t really need a hydrolysed collagen that has added Vitamin C.
Adults need around 45mg of vitamin C daily — this equates to around half an orange or a cup of strawberries. Generally, for most of us, our daily Vitamin C intake is more than adequately achieved by maintaining a healthy and varied diet.
However, more Vitamin C in the diet is not a bad thing.
In fact, Vitamin C has many important functions in the body, including keeping your skin, bones and connective tissue healthy as well as help your body absorb iron.
But here’s the bad news.
The truth is, most of the supplements on your health food store shelves (and in collagen) are synthetic. That means they’re chemically derived from natural or unnatural sources and usually sold as “all natural”. And like food, there are supplements that are better for you than others.
You’ll see this on supplement bottles as “ascorbic acid” and it’s everywhere. Sometimes it’s mixed with other nutrients or “buffered” with minerals to decrease its acidity; but, by and large, most vitamin C supplements are lacking a whole spectrum of nutrients.
Here’s why that’s a problem…
Synthetic vitamin C isn’t natural, even when it says so on the label.
Synthetic ascorbic acid is chemically identical to vitamin C found in food, but it’s far from natural. In fact, most manufacturers are extracting ascorbic acid from GMO corn-based products or rice starch using volatile acids. This kind of processing is way cheaper than using whole foods-based nutrients and is usually done in China on the cheap.
Ascorbic acid is only one small component of the vitamin C complex. And no matter how hard scientists try to recreate nature in the lab, they’ve yet to duplicate the intricate array of nutrients and enzymes that work together to create the vitamin C we get from nature.
So, make sure that when purchasing a hydrolysed collagen which contains added Vitamin C, you purchase one with naturally occurring Vitamin C generally extracted from a fruit, and not ascorbic acid. If the label just says ‘ascorbic acid’ then best beware.
8. Vegan Collagen? – It’s an Oxymoron
Collagen comes from animals.
Being a vegan means that you don’t eat anything that came from an animal, include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and even honey.
So how can hydrolysed collagen be vegan?
Well, short answer is it can’t!
Some brands selling plant based vegan collagen products may be misleading their customers.
The collagen triple helix structure does not exist in the plant genome.
These 'vegan collagen' products merely contain a mish-mash of synthetically produced amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other obscure plant extracts and proteins and touted as collagen ‘boosters’. However, there is very little chance that the amino acid ‘blocks’ given in these brands will become a collagen molecule.
So, how many clinical and scientific studies have been published showing the benefit of these vegan ‘collagens’ compared to real collagen you ask? Well…..NONE! They just don’t exist.
9. Global Backing.
Look for a brand that has the backing of a global collagen leader.
Nowadays, there are fly-by-night collagen companies popping up like mushrooms, but most do not have a secure foundation.
Collagen consumers need to rely on best-in-class products, backed by trusted science as well as expert support in knowledge, product development and regulatory adherence. Afterall, you are trusting your health and the health of your loved ones to these collagen companies.
Look for a brand who’s products come with proven health benefits in the four key areas: healthy aging, joint and bone health, beauty from within, and sports nutrition. These benefits should be backed by many years of in-house research as well as collaboration with renowned universities and research institutes around the world.
A reputable collagen company will proactively and transparently communicate on the science behind their products and also help educate consumers about the unique health benefits that hydrolysed collagen has to offer.
10. Real Customer Reviews
Its always good to check the brand’s customer reviews.
If a brand has hundreds of 5-star reviews you can be pretty confident that their product works. Better still, if the brand can provide customer testimonials with ‘before and after’ photos (not pretty 20-something Instagram girls with perfect hair and skin) then that is some hard evidence right in front of your eyes.
Quality brands will back their products. Look for a brand that has a money back guarantee with no catches.
Lastly, if in doubt about any claim the brand makes, contact them and ask questions!
Quality brands love to be contacted directly as this gives them an opportunity to prove their expertise and demonstrate their customer service. If you don’t get the right answers and in a timely fashion, then it may be time to move on.
This article is written with the unsuspecting collagen consumer in mind.
The science of collagen is dynamic and ever changing. At CollagenX, we want to ensure that you get the best advice from experts in the field.
Like CollagenX, there are other reputable collagen companies out there, however there are just as many, if not more, sharks and shonks. Sifting through the hundreds of brands on the market is a difficult process if not impossible, especially for the average Joe.
Hopefully, this article will steer you in the right direction.