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The ingredient of the moment

Booming collagen market brings beauty from within, and more

Many people look forward to living a long life, but it’s hard to find someone who isn’t concerned with the physical symptoms that come with aging, from wrinkles to joint pain. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some uber ingredient that touched on many of these symptoms of aging.

Turns out there is: collagen.

The most abundant protein found in the body, collagen accounts for 30 percent of our total supply, and most of it resides in connective tissues in the skin and joints such as cartilage, skin dermis, bones, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. When we’re young, collagen is abundant and allows us to move with ease, plus enables our skin to stretch and move without sagging or developing wrinkles. As we age, collagen production naturally slows and the overall amount depletes, which can result in undesirable wrinkles in the skin and painful stiffness in the joints.

Internationally, collagen and the beauty-from-the-inside-out concept is widely accepted.

Now it’s finally catching on in the U.S. market.

“Consumers in the U.S. are finally waking up to the realization that a healthy and strong skin matrix on the inside results in that firm and youthful skin we are all after,” says Jessica Mulligan, vice president of sales and marketing at NeoCell, the market leader in CPG collagen products. “The markets for collagen and other beauty ingestibles are the most highly developed in Japan, Europe and South America. In Japan, where the belief in ‘beauty from within’ goes back centuries, consumers are collagen-crazy – Japan actually just came out with a collagen beer!”

Big business

NeoCell, the collagen supplement brand leader, has been growing by double-digits every quarter since 2008, and in the first quarter of 2015 sales were up by 34 percent, according to Mulligan. Part of the reason for that success has been a relentless commitment to introducing new product formats – powders and soft-chews complement their supplement lines.

“Continuing to invest in new and innovative delivery systems is a big focus of ours,” Mulligan says. “It is also becoming increasingly important to companies to invest in the science behind their products. Consumers want to know and trust that the claims on a label have been clinically shown to do what they are purporting to do.”

Even with the unrivaled success, one of the drawbacks of collagen remains persnickety consumer impatience – they want instant results for skin health or joint pain! Mulligan says their consumer reports say nail strength is improved within two weeks, joint pain subsides in three weeks, more lustrous skin in three to four.

“The biggest strength of the collagen market is that once consumers try the ingredient, they don’t want to get off.”

Show me the science

Collagen research is strongest in areas of joint health, skin and nails. Collagen types 1 & 3 are used for beauty benefits. Type II is used for joints. Collagen supplier WoInerHealth Nutraceuticals has a patented, undenatured, type II collagen they call UC-II with four research studies supporting joint comfort, mobility and flexibility.

In one study, 55 healthy men and women had their joints stressed via a standardized stepmill protocol. Those who took 40 mg UC-II for 120 days had significantly greater knee extension compared to placebo and exercised longer before experiencing joint discomfort and recovered faster from joint discomfort after exercising compared to baseline.

In another, among 52 subjects with osteoarthritis, 40 mg/day UC-II increased joint comfort, mobility and flexibility.

What’s interesting about the osteoarthritis group is the usual supplement standard of care is glucosamine and chondroitin. So a research study looked at both protocols head to head: among 186 subjects, one-third took 1,500 mg glucosamine + 1,200 mg chondroitin, one-third took 40 mg UC-II, and one-third took placebo. Only the collagen group experienced statistically significant improvements.

“Manufacturers want new ingredients that are clinically proven to work and that are safe,” says Paul Dijkstra, CEO of InterHealth Nutraceuticals. “Innovation allows them to differentiate their products in the marketplace and re-invigorate the entire category. The collagen market is growing at a healthy rate, and our UC-II customers are sharing in that success.”

New players, new ideas

Another collagen supplier, BioCell Collagen, has a different type of collagen than InterHealth—a hydrolyzed form that breaks down the collagen into small molecular-weight fragments to maximize absorption. Its patented combination also delivers chondroitin as well as hyaluronic acid. Studies show BioCell’s collagen can reduce skin dryness and wrinkles. In a study, after 12 weeks, 76 percent of study participants taking 1 gram/day experienced a reduction in skin dryness, while 13 percent experienced a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. A double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial found 1 gram/day led to a significant reduction in pain and stiffness in those with a history of chronic history of joint pain.

Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate has approved BioCell Collagen to help relieve joint pain associated with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee and to help maintain healthy skin.  A study published in February 2015 found benefits in those engaged in intense weight-training exercise. “This opens up a new category in sports nutrition regarding connective tissue protection and recovery from post-workout soreness and limiting repetitive, overuse-related injuries,” says Suhail Ishaq, president of BioCell Technology.

Other innovations in the collagen supply space include a proprietary blend of collaIgen with calcium. Offered by supplier AIDP, the branded ingredient, KoACT, was found in studies on postmenopausal women to be superior to calcium and vitamin D in slowing down the leaching of calcium from bones and rebuilding new bone strength.

“As a segment, our collagen products are growing,” says Kathy Lund, vice president of business development and marketing at AIDP. “The awareness and trend on collagen may now be moving to the U.S. Now Consumers may be focused on addressing the root cause of aging issues that collagen addresses.”

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