Do collagen-infused drinks have health benefits or are they just more from the 'opaque' advertising world?

Collagen supplements first had their moment in the form of powders, which can be added to your drink of choice. Now brands are allowing the consumer to skip that step altogether, with the emergence of collagen-infused drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. But do they have any health benefits? 

Collagen is the glue that holds our skin, bones, cartilage, and blood vessels together, however our natural production of it decreases with age. If you regularly consume animal sources, you’re getting enough collagen already, but a supplement may support bone, skin, joint, and hair health. 

Adding collagen into an already wellness-focused beverage, such as the Kiwi-owned brand No Ugly, seems to make sense. 

The brand's "Skin" water deems itself "skincare on superdrive". 

"10,000mg of gorgeous, ethically sourced French marine fish collagen protein, 50mg of flavonoids from Enzogenol & 40mg of Vitamin C per 250ml serve. A little bottle that packs a big glowy punch," the blurb on the website reads. 

No Ugly is transparent with how you should use their water, in that they expect you to be drinking it daily - a key part of a collagen supplement's effectiveness. 

"To get the most out of No Ugly Skin, it’s best to treat it like part of your daily skincare routine. Taking one per day will have you radiating natural, million-bucks gorgeousness," the website description says. 

No Ugly's 'Skin' water deems itself "skincare on superdrive".
No Ugly's 'Skin' water deems itself "skincare on superdrive". Photo credit: No Ugly

Marketing research expert Bodo Lang says it's not often supplement brands are so up front with how to actually see results. 

"A big thing with collagen and with a lot of supplements is that they are never specific. They are always inferring something which is not quite expressed," he tells Newshub.

Lang uses the example of Adashiko Collagen Refresh water, saying "just reading it" makes him feel healthy. 

"Replenishes, provides, supports.. there's like ten bullet points that make me feel good, but there's nothing specific."

One of these claims include that the collagen-infused beverage "encourages recovery after sport, exercise, injury and surgery", which as Lang points out, is water's job on it's own, give or take the collagen. 

"Welcome to the opaque world of advertising - when sometimes saying something means more in the consumer's mind than it actually says."

Alcohol + collagen

Whereas collagen-infused waters, which already have their benefits built in, may get away with healthy-sounding claims, collagen-infused alcoholic beverages are a whole different story. 

"My first thought was - why on earth would you have an alcoholic drink that has all kinds of negative consequences for your body and for your mind and then infuse it with something that may have a positive benefit?" Langs asks. 

"Is this a sensible thing to put in an alcoholic drink?"

According to the International Council on Active Aging, alcohol accelerates skin aging. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, including your skin. 

This can lead to wrinkles, puffiness, dryness, red cheeks and purple capillaries. 

New Zealand-based alcohol brand Glacial recently produced a line of ready-to-drink (RTDs) vodka seltzers, with added collagen. 

Glacial only exists on social media, and have only referenced the added collagen as a "little something extra" in their drinks. 

"You may have seen on the cans that we have added a little something extra into the Glacial Drinks, collagen is well known for supporting good hair, skin and nails," the brand writes on an Instagram post. 

"So you can quench your thirst and look after your hair, skin and nails at the same time."

However, throughout numerous social media posts, despite questions from potential consumers of the products, the brand does not acknowledge how much collagen is in each serving of Glacial. 

Glacial did not reply to Newshub's multiple attempts to contact them. 

"Although there may be mention of collagen, there is absolutely no information about the quantity," says Dr Louise Reiche, president of the NZ Dermatological Society.

"One could therefore make no health claims whatsoever from this and nor could anyone make any scientific comparisons with other competing products."

Another collagen-infused beverage that sold out across the United Kingdom is 'Collagin', whose co-founder, Camilla Brown, told Newshub she saw a "gap in the market". 

"I saw a gap in the saturated market that was gin, and decided to mix the world of beauty into it by creating the world's first gin with collagen."

Brown says Collagin contains 100mg of "pure collagen" in each bottle, and even though 'Young in Spirit' is included in their company name, they do not claim to be anti-aging. 

"We make no health claims as it is alcohol, but you're still getting a hit of collagen and a truly delicious gin," Brown says. 

"The consumers are smart and they get the tongue-in-cheek nature of the brand. They just love really good gin."

Lang says Collagin's consumers may be more interested in the novelty of the product, rather than the benefits. 

"People don't buy products for what they do but for what they mean. If you really ask people about it they may understand it's not such a clever thing… But consumers are inherently motivated by convenience and novelty," Lang says.  

"We seek variety in everything we do. The alcohol and water category hasn't had much going on, so if there is something new, people will flock towards it - alcoholic or non-alcoholic." 

Reiche says there are no "good quality, independent studies" on collagen supplements to prove if there would be a true benefit to the consumer.

"Studies quoted by various companies have been undertaken by the same company producing the product," Reiche points out, which can be seen on No Ugly's website. 

The brand links to a study in their 'Skin' water's blurb, which concludes the following: 

"This present study which consisted in a once daily treatment for three consecutive months indicated that oral supplements containing low dose specific collagen peptides combined or not with silicon appear to have some interesting effects on skin qualities."

However, following the study's conclusion, it acknowledges that it was funded by "Weishardt International Group (France), which provided the fish collagen peptides Naticol® assessed in this study." 

Newshub asked No Ugly if this was the same "ethically-sourced French marine fish collagen protein" included in their collagen-infused drink, which they confirmed. 

Reiche says that due to the lack of independent studies, or any scientific evidence at all when it comes to brands such as Collagin and Glacial, consumers must not rely on these drinks. Instead, they should undertake a variety of lifestyle practices to maintain healthy, youthful skin.

"For best health outcomes, numerous independent research reveals we need good regular sleep - eight hours for most adults -  regular exercise, good quality nutrition, avoid smoking and minimise alcohol consumption to keep the skin looking youthful," Reiche says.