A new restaurant has started serving collagen on its menu. Would you eat it?
Would you eat your face cream?
Personally, I wouldn’t. But it seems in rejecting collagen produce, I may be bucking the latest trend.
Gilgamesh, one of Britain’s top pan-Asian restaurants, is encouraging diners to get their chops around a new ‘beauty’ delicacy.
OK, so it’s not actually a tub of expensive face cream, but dishes packed with the ingredient collagen, prized for its youth-giving properties.
Ian Pengelley, the head chef at Gilgamesh, is convinced that eating collagen helps the skin, and he has designed a special collagen tasting menu, “Eat Yourself Beautiful” so that his guests can work on their beauty sleep during a night out.
He got the idea from Japan, where the craze for collagen has sparked “beauty restaurants” peddling noodles, soups and hot pots with added collagen.
Given that collagen is already the most abundant protein in the human body, why would we want more of it?
Although it accounts for 30% of all the proteins in our bodies, and supports the structure of our skin, bones, cartilage and internal organs, as we age, the level and efficiency of our natural collagen drops off.
This results in ageing – when our skin isn’t pumped up and plump with collagen, wrinkles and sagging appear. Hence the popularity for collagen fillers if you’re after a trout pout or want to fill in the lines around your eyes.
Those of us who balk at the needle can buy face creams packed with the stuff.
If the thought of eating your face cream makes you gag, the collagen added to food is not much more appealing. Gilgamesh orders tins of collagen jelly from Japan, which come in the form of a clear, flavourless jelly.
Collagen can taste good
The food on the collagen menu though, well that is something to write home about. Our waitress tries to point out the tiny glassy slivers of collagen in our Collagen & Seaweed Salad with Crispy Vegetables and Goma Dressing (£12), but they’re indiscernible amongst the slivers of seaweed.
Seaweed itself is one of those ingredients thought to be good for the skin, and the menu points out that it contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids to maintain “healthy and youthful skin and body”. I’m not that bothered by this point, because the mix of different seaweeds is so delicious I’d eat it if I was told it would make me come out in a rash.
We also tried the Wheatgress & Avocado Shot, Collagen Inside Out Dumpling, Chargrilled Salmon and Black Sushi Rice and the Beauty Bucket of Poached Chicken, Black Rice & Sesame Seeds, Micro Sprouts & Ginger.
It’s all incredibly tasty food – what you’d expect from Pengelley – and I gobble up a few extra slabs of collagen brought over on a plate. We have been warned that Pengelley recommends no more than two dishes with collagen per day, but I escape without a cushion face.
Anti-ageing marshmallows and sweets
A company called Eat Yourself Beautiful began selling collagen marshmallows, a hit in Japan, in the UK in 2009.
A Brazilian company is selling “Beauty Candy”, low-sugar sweets packed with vitamins and collagen.
The top Japanese skincare brand Shiseido even sells a collagen drink, The Collagen, though it is not available in the UK. Japanese women drink it before a party to plump out their skin.
Does it work?
While it is clear we can replace some of the lost collagen in our skin and encourage it to produce more, the jury is out on whether eating it will have this effect.
Dietician Anna Raymond says that eating collagen may have a beneficial placebo effect, and recommends a diet of lean meats and eggs which stimulate collagen production.
Nutrition scientist Kuniko Takahashi says that collagen is no better than any other good protein, which should contain healthy amounts of essential amino acids.
This doesn’t, however, mean you’re better off sticking with smearing the face cream on your skin, as usually only a few percent of whatever we put on our skin is absorbed. The skin has evolved into a very efficient barrier against chemicals and other nasties we don’t want in our systems, but it works to reject the good stuff too.
If you could afford to eat the sort of nutrient-rich food on Pengelley’s menu every day, you would probably have glowing, young-looking skin. Otherwise you could add pigs trotters and lots of chicken skin into your diet, which are naturally rich in collagen.
Eating collagen is more than a vanity project, as maintaining good levels of collagen (it begins to drop off after the age of 25) has been shown to reduce joint inflammation in arthritics.
The truth of the matter, however, is that creams and foods can stimulate the amount of collagen in your body, but remember: the quickest way to kill off collagen in the first place is by smoking or exposing your skin to the sun without protection.
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