Text and Images by Joanna Yeo @ Makansutra
You would most probably have heard people saying this over a Chinese dinner: “Eat more ‘ter ka’ (pigs’ trotters) and chicken feet. These are rich in collagen and will make your skin look ‘better and younger’.”
If the above ‘beauty foods’ are not to your liking, then you may like to know that a wide selection of collagen-enriched foods and drinks (e.g. candies and probiotic drinks) and collagen supplement pills are easily available in supermarkets or pharmacies too.
But before you start splurging on expensive collagen supplements or worse, put your health at risk with an increased cholesterol intake, read on as we debunk some myths about the wonders of collagen.
“Eating Collagen gives you luminous skin”
Associate Professor Lee (not his real name as he request to keep a low profile) from a local university’s medicine faculty, says that eating collagen in the form of pills, collagen-enriched food products or directly from animal sources will not make you look younger.
Collagen is the main structural protein found in the connective tissues of animals and is present in places such as the skin, tendon and bones. The skin in particular, is believed to have qualities of elasticity and strength, he adds.
Collagen, like any other types of proteins will be digested and eventually broken down into amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein (including collagen).
He cites an example: Comparing by weight, the amount of protein (and hence amino acids) that can be obtained from eating 100g of meat is more than what you can get from popping in 1g of collagen pill. He adds that in our current affluent modern lifestyles, the amount of protein that we are obtaining through our diet is more than what our body needs. In the human body, the turnover rate for collagen is fairly consistent. Thus, no matter how much one increases the intake of protein or collagen, the production rate of collagen will still be the same.
Celebrity aesthetic surgeon Dr. Woffles Wu of Woffles Wu Aesthetic Surgery & Laser Centre says that he is not the reference expert on this topic as it’s not his area of expertise. However, he thinks the idea sounds a little far-fetched. However, he adds that there are substances that are supposed to improve collagen production, and “testosterones, for instance, increases skin thickness.”
Is it a gimmick?
Truth be told, food and beauty companies are commercialising the use of collagen. Prof Lee comments that these companies are ‘selling a sense of hope’ to those that yearn to turn back the ravages of time on their youthfulness.
Food manufacturers and skin care companies are charging high prices on collagen-laden products with claims of anti-ageing properties, and branding it well too. So, as it stands and based on these expert opinions, you might as well stick to ter ka or kong bak pao to achieve that perceived beauty.