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Genuine vs counterfeit collagen

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With the demand for collagen supplements having drastically increased, so too has the market for counterfeit products.

The growth of the collagen supplements market has been driven largely by the health benefits associated with their consumption.

“With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to differentiate between the real thing and fake products,” says, Toni Carroll, founder of luxury nutricosmetic brand, My Beauty Luv. “Fake collagen can be harmful to consumer health in a number of ways, Firstly, these products could contain harmful additives or fillers, even heavy metals and bacteria. This can cause allergic reactions, digestive problems and other health issues.

“Additives not only pose health risks, but may also reduce the effectiveness of the collagen, negating any potential benefits. Secondly, they might not actually contain collagen at all or may contain very low levels of it, meaning that you won’t experience the benefits associated with collagen supplementation, such as improved skin elasticity and joint health.”

Carroll provides the following 5 tips for spotting fakes.

1. Ingredients

Check the ingredient list on the packaging carefully. Genuine collagen products should only contain collagen, and possibly some additional ingredients such as vitamins and minerals. Avoid products that have long ingredient lists with hard-to-pronounce chemicals.

2. Dosage

This can be a clear indication of whether a brand has bulked up their collagen with fillers or other bulking agents. Various scientific papers indicate a dose from 2 to 5 grams per day as effective. If a product is telling you to take heaps per day, it’s more than likely been beefed up with other cheap ingredients that are not disclosed on the label.

3. Price

Be cautious of collagen products that are priced too low. High-quality collagen is expensive to produce, so if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Similarly, don't assume that expensive collagen products are always genuine.

4. Brand reputation

Unfortunately, many brands – even brands in South Africa – simply do not disclose the full ingredient list. This happens most often when a premium is being charged for something pure, but it has been diluted with filling agents. It is not easy to navigate this as brands will not share their manufacturing methods or IP, however one of the ways an astute consumer can counteract this is by contacting the brand and asking them for certification from their suppliers. Reviews also help.

5. Molecular weight

One of the very best ways to test if a collagen is superior is to check the molecular weight of the product. Almost all collagen producing brands will not have this on their label or in their marketing literature. If you are serious about quality, you can request the molecular weight (measured in Daltons) directly from the brand. The lower the weight the higher the quality. 2000Da is the highest weight to look for so anything under this is excellent quality. Anything higher than 2000Da will mean less absorption and more work for your body to assimilate and produce its own collagen.

“By remaining vigilant, consumers can make educated choices about the collagen they buy and enjoy the multiple health benefits associated with genuine products,” concludes Carroll.

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