As you age, the collagen in your skin begins to break down, leading to thinner skin and contributing to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Companies that manufacture foods and drinks that contain collagen claim that by ingesting their products, customers benefit from younger-looking skin and minimize the signs of aging, but the way collagen breaks down in the body does not transfer to your skin.
Collagen is naturally found in many animals and meat products. Some companies add collagen to other foods, as it is tasteless. In Japan, collagen is often added to noodles, fondue pots and even marshmallows. Collagen drinks are also available in the United States.
Since collagen is a protein, it breaks down into amino acids during digestion. This process is what prevents the collagen you eat from natural sources and collagen-enhanced foods from passing along benefits to your skin in the form of less wrinkles or improved elasticity. Eating collagen does not benefit the skin at all.
While eating foods that contain collagen will not prevent or treat wrinkles and other signs of aging, it is not harmful. Companies that manufacture collagen-enhanced foods often add the protein to vegetables and other healthy low-calorie items, making many of the foods a good option to include in a healthy diet. Eating collagen may help the body's formation of collagen as a whole. Other types of collagen fibers in the body include collagen II, the primary substance in cartilage, and collagen IV, which is found in cell membranes.
Collagen-enhanced foods and beverages are often costly, and any benefit to your body may be negligible compared to the price tag. Topical products, such as creams and facial masks, often contain collagen as an anti-aging ingredient, but just as eating collagen will not transfer benefits to your appearance, there is no evidence that topical collagen will do so either.
Collagen comes in many forms, and most foods and drinks marketed as anti-aging products do not specify exactly what type of collagen they contain. Some forms of collagen may stimulate arthritis, which could render collagen-enhanced foods detrimental for older people and those diagnosed with arthritis. Check with your doctor before consuming products with added collagen.