Counterfeit Collagen: Five tips for spotting fakes

The collagen market is growing rapidly, with global demand for these supplements set to increase by 6.4% annually, driven largely by the health benefits associated with their consumption. This upward trend is visible in South Africa too, where there has been a noticeable spike in the number of Google searches for these products over the past five years. “Nowadays, though, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit collagen,” says, Toni Carroll, founder of luxury nutricosmetic brand, My Beauty Luv.

She explains that 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.”

“With this in mind, it is crucial that South Africans are able to make informed decisions about the collagen they buy so that they get the full benefits without putting their health in jeopardy,” adds Carroll who shares five ways to spot fake collagen:

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.

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.

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.

Brand Reputation: Unfortunately, many brands – even brands in SA – 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!

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.