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“Would you like collagen with that?”

It’s hard to out-trend the Japanese. Whether it’s electronics, fashion or eco-cars, the Japanese always seem to be one step…

By Karen Moxley , in The Perfect Wrinkle: A commentary on society's fear of aging , on January 19, 2009

It’s hard to out-trend the Japanese. Whether it’s electronics, fashion or eco-cars, the Japanese always seem to be one step ahead.

Most recently, the country has boarded the anti-aging train with a hip new fad-diet that claims to reduce wrinkles! This one’s called the “collagen diet,” and promises to slow the skin’s natural aging through the ingestion of vast quantities of collagen. Collagen is a protein commonly used in cosmetic surgery to restore strength and elasticity to aging skin. It is a protein harvested from bovine (young beef cattle) or porcine tissue (from pigs).

As if the cosmetic procedure of injecting such substances into your wrinkling face isn’t grotesque enough, imagine spearing a cube of the translucent, tasteless gelatin on the end of your fork, and swallowing it down. Or if you prefer, you can melt down the chunks of collagen, and swirl it around with some meat, fish or veggies. The number of disgusted facial expressions induced by even thinking about this scenario will likely wrinkle more faces than this miracle diet will every remedy.

In fact, the collagen diet is quickly joining the ranks of the grapefruit, banana, green tea, and atkins diets. Health professionals are calling the collagen diet bogus.

But still, Japanese “beauty restaurants” are all the rage. Serving up hot-pots with collagen-rich foods (shark fin, chicken skin, pigs feet and noodles), with a side of ‘pure collagen,’ (for dipping perhaps?) is gaining momentum as a ladies-night-out dining specialty. Too bad the spoonfuls of collagen you shovel into your stomach will never make it to your skin. Instead, the collagen will likely be disposed of as excrement, along with the rest of your body’s useless junk. 

So, if eating collagen isn’t the fountain of youth, will any diet keep us young?

Nearly every magazine aimed at middle-aged women seems to publish a bi-monthly update to ‘the ultimate age-defying diet.’ Parent.com’s website lists spinach, curry, tomatoes, almonds and dark chocolate as the top five foods to keep you looking, acting and feeling younger. Spinach might ward off broken and fractured hips in old age thanks to its high dose of bone-densifying vitamin K. Researchers claim curry will keep things spicy in your brain, and tomatoes will supposedly help your skin ward off UV rays. It is believed that the vitamin E found in almonds can keep you agile as you age, and finally, as every choco-holic woman wants to hear, a small daily indulgence in dark-chocolate will decrease your blood pressure. 

Whether or not any of these foods will actually keep you young, I cannot guarantee. But, at least they are real, healthy foods, with colour, texture, and flavour.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for globs of collagen.

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