The science of nutricosmetics: ‘Not all collagen ingredients are created equal’


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The science of nutricosmetics: ‘Not all collagen ingredients are created equal’

Related tags Nutricosmetics Collagen functional beverage beverage

Collagen ingredients are driving much of the growth in the global nutricosmetics market, which is predicted to reach US$7.4bn by 2020, but how much science is there to substantiate the claims?  

While markets such as Japan and Brazil have well-established and booming beauty from within markets​, nutricosmetics growth in the US is dependent on shifting the mindset of consumers from viewing anti-aging beauty products as topical to coming from within, and key to that will be the messaging around the science to substantiate the products.

“US consumers in particular are highly focused on quick fixes,” ​explained Lara Niemann, marketing director – Americas, Gelita USA. “And, as we know, skin metabolism is not quick. Consumers are required to shift their paradigm to recognize that really impacting skin health from the inside through collagen supplementation will result in long term positive effects after only four to eight weeks!”


Suhail Ishaq, president of BioCell Technology, said that research continues to reveal more insight on how ingestible collagen benefits the skin. “As over 20 different types of collagen have been identified, we know that the type of collagen and the molecular weight play a role in the bioavailability and mechanism of action,”​ he said.

Type l Collagen and Type II Collagen are the most common types of collagen found in supplements, he explained. Type I Collagen is derived from hides, bones, and skin of animals, whereas Type II Collagen is only found in cartilage (typically chicken) where it naturally coexists with hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate in a blood-free environment. 

“Of these types, collagen is either unhydrolyzed (also known as undenatured) or hydrolyzed. In its original, unhydrolyzed state, collagen molecules are very large and therefore not effectively absorbed by the intestines,” ​said Ishaq. “Hydrolyzation breaks down the collagen into small molecular weight fragments to enhance absorption without affecting its beneficial components.”

Lauren Clardy, CEO of the California-based firm Nutrimarketing, who works with Nippi Collagen NA, explained that marine collagen attracts a larger market due to consumer preferences for fish products over beef, pork, and chicken.  

"Marine collagen peptides are also characterized by their specific amino acid composition, with a high concentration of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline," ​she said. "These amino acids have nutri-functional properties regarding health and beauty. Hydroxyproline peptides such as Pro-Hyp or Hyp-Gly stimulates cells in the skin, joints and bones, and leads to collagen synthesis through cell activation, suppression and growth. In particular, the amount of Hyp-containing peptides in TruMarine Collagen is significantly higher than in any other form of collagen and can be detected in the blood after ingestion.

"In the Beauty category-natural pure forms of marine collagen peptides have been shown to possess antioxidant activity and improve water-absorbing and water-holding capacity. They have also been known to effectively repress skin damage caused by UVA rays and help maintain skin smoothness and elasticity.

Mechanism of action


The general mechanism behind collagen’s skin health benefits is “well understood”​, said Caroline Brochard-Garnier, communication manager for Rousselot.

“When a collagen peptide preparation with optimized molecular weight and proven bioavailability is ingested, small collagen peptides are absorbed quickly into the blood stream,”​ she explained.

“The presence of these peptides in skin tissue, stimulate skin cells (fibroblasts) and activate multiple biochemical pathways which in turn leads to a response which is widely accepted:  Small collagen peptides are believed to act as a false signal of the destruction of collagen in the body, triggering the synthesis of new collagen fibers, which in turn increases skin suppleness and reduces the formation of wrinkles.  In addition, the synthesis of hyaluronic acid is stimulated which leads to an increase in skin hydration. 

“These mechanisms have been confirmed for specific collagen peptides formulations,” ​she added.

The effective dose is between 4 and 10 grams per day of collagen peptides to have a positive effect on human tissues containing collagen such as skin, said Brochard-Garnier.

“Not all collagen ingredients are created equal; nor supported by the same level of scientific substantiation,” ​adds Gelita’s Niemann. The company’s Verisol ingredient has been substantiated in gold standard clinical trials, including a study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology​ (2014, Vol. 27, pp. 113-119) which found improvements in skin elasticity of up to 30% at a low dosage (2.5 g/day).

“Verisol affects the collagen metabolism and helps to strengthen the skin’s connective tissue,” ​she said. “This means fewer wrinkles, improved elasticity and a younger and healthy appearance. Not all collagen peptides are optimized specifically for beauty from within applications; nor supported by science.”

Type II

BioCell Collagen – a type II collage – has been was found to be effective at 1 g per day for promoting skin beauty, said Ishaq, which is much lower than type I collagen products. The ingredient contains a patented composition of hydrolyzed collagen type II, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid in a highly absorbable matrix form that has been the subject of numerous human clinical trials including safety, efficacy, and bioavailability, he added.

Erika Tchang, business development manager - Wellnex Collagen Peptides for Nitta Gelatin NA, said hat research performed at the company’s headquarters in Japan have shown a clear correlation between collagen peptides and skin health.

“There are formulation and efficacy benefits for using different collagens. Our research has focused primarily on fish collagen peptides and porcine collagen peptides,” ​added Tchang. “These two sources in our portfolio also seem to provide some sensory advantages as well.”


Brochard-Garnier said it is very easy to formulate with collagen peptides allowing for multiple delivery formats such as tablets, chews, powder drinks, beverages, bars, and so on.


“Formulators should ensure the collagen ingredient chosen is optimized in terms of bioactivity and bioavailability and is of consistent quality,” ​she said. “Delayed or disappointing results can be damaging to the formulator’s brand, therefore it pays off to be relying on a good quality collagen with neutral organoleptic properties. Tasteless and odorless collagen peptides will allow easier formulation for nutricosmetic applications.”

Gelita’s Verisol can be easily incorporated into various types of liquid and solid functional food applications and nutricosmetics, said Liemann. “Since Verisol peptides are hydrolyzed to a specific short peptide length, they are easily digestible as well as highly bioavailable,”​ she added. The ingredient is also suited for use in non-allergenic foods and for the development of clean label products, she added.

Nitta’s Tchang said that taste, color and aroma are key, depending on the application. “Formulators should also consider reactivity to other ingredients, like polyphenols, for beverages,” ​she said. “There are ways to help reduce reactivity through different molecular weight collagens.

“Experienced collagen suppliers should be able to offer support and help navigate any formulation questions or concerns.”

'A beauty and healthy aging secret Asia has known for years'

Clardy told us that collagen holds great promise as a key ingredient applicable to a wide spectrum of consumers, from the young adult to the middle aged and the senior population. "The focus of the older population is on beauty, optimal aging and mitigating degenerative processes, while younger consumers are interested in preventing sport-related injuries to maintain an active lifestyle as well as helping to impede the signs of the aging process,"​ she said. 

"Clearly it is a beauty and healthy aging secret Asia has known for years. Trending now is bone broth and in many traditional modalities bones and bone soup is indicated for skin, joint and bone applications. That’s because inherently that’s where all of the bioctives are: collagen, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, GAGS, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, in forms that your body can easily absorb. It’s also rich in glycine and proline, amino acids not found in significant amounts in muscle meat.

"The take-away here is collagen may not be delivered the best in a solid dose supplement it is much better utilized in delivery technologies that allow for a larger dose load. Asia has already implemented into mainstream functional foods."​  

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