Many large pharmaceutical and health companies have been exposed for hiking the price of collagen, which was previously believed to boost skin elasticity among other health benefits. These companies have admitted that it is a well-known “secret” in the industry that orally administered collagen is extremely profitable but in fact has little or no health benefits, 21CBH reported.

On Saturday, a prominent Weibo user @烧伤超人阿宝, who has more than 67,000 followers and is a burn unit physician in a Beijing hospital, wrote on his Weibo account that orally ingested collagen, which is a popular product with Chinese women as it is believed to keep the skin firm, is a scam. According to him, after digestion, collagen disintegrates into amino acids, components of the same proteins found in meat, eggs and soy beans. There is no difference between collagen and regular food, according to 21CBH, a Chinese financial news website.


“Last important warning: the best result you can hope for after eating collagen is no effect,” @烧伤超人阿宝 added. “It would be more dangerous if you found the collagen effective, because estrogen must have been added.”

@烧伤超人阿宝’s opinion was met with approval by other experts, including nutritionists.

“There is no proof that collagen has more health benefits than eggs or soybeans,” said Wang Xingguo, the chief of the Department of Nutrition at Dalian Central Hospital.

Such alarming claims have been widely discussed online, but China’s demand for collagen has continued to grow. In 2011, China consumed 10,000 tons of collagen, and is projected to double that consumption by 2015, according to a report by Dongbao Biotechnology (SHA:300239), one of the main producers of collagen in China. Under media pressure, many major health and pharmaceutical companies, including Dongbao Biotechnology, Guizhou Bailing, Dongfang Haiyang (SHA:002086), and even one of the oldest Chinese pharmaceutical companies, Tongrentang, have admitted to knowing that there are little health benefits to collagen. Many of these companies are publicly traded and have seen their stock prices decrease as a result.

Why then do they continue to produce collagen?

“The health benefits attributed to collagen on the market is all commercial exploitation,” said Shi Lichen, a pharmaceutical expert with Alliance PKU Management Consultants, Ltd.

Orally administered collagen has an extremely high profit margin, an insider told 21CBH. It’s a well-known secret in the health and pharmaceutical industries that there is no health benefit to collagen. Collagen is manufactured from gelatin, which costs 80 yuan per kilogram; the end product, marketed as collagen, can be sold for as much as 1,700 yuan per kilogram. Guizhou Bailing projected its sales of collagen could reach 1.38 billion yuan ($225 million) this year. The company plans to continue producing collagen, despite negative press, 21CBH reported.