Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s the primary component of your connective tissue and supports the health of skin, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments.
This crucial protein is made up of amino acids and provides both structure and function in your body.
Thinking about trying collagen powder? This guide will walk you through what collagen is, how it works, and the best way to choose the right supplement for you.
There are a variety of collagen supplements out there that you can take to support your body’s collagen production. Different supplements will provide different types of collagen, with some tailored specifically to skin health, joint health, and so on.
While there are at least 16 types of collagen, 80-90% of the collagen in your body comes from type I, II, or III[*].
- Type I: Type I collagen is the predominant form of collagen in your skin, tendons, bones, and pretty much anywhere in your body where there is an extracellular matrix (ECM). Its primary function is to bring strength to your tissues.
- Type II: Type II collagen is the main component of cartilage, allowing for flexibility and structure in your joints.
- Type III: Type III collagen is an important component of blood vessels, hollow organs, and skin, and brings flexibility to your tissues.
Different Types Of Collagen Supplements
Collagen supplements can come in a few different formats. By far, the most popular kind of collagen is in powder form. However, you can also find collagen in capsule form, gummies, drinks, and topical creams and lotions.
Many collagen supplements will add ingredients like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, or herbs to provide extra support for specific purposes.
For instance, a collagen supplement aimed at supporting skin health may come with hyaluronic acid as well. On the other hand, a supplement that’s meant to support joint health may combine collagen with chondroitin sulfate.
Choosing the right collagen supplement comes down to understanding your goals, and then choosing a high-quality brand that can support you.
How Well Is Collagen Absorbed?
Collagen, on its own, is not well absorbed by your body. For this reason, most collagen supplements are hydrolyzed. The process of hydrolyzation breaks the collagen down into more easily digestible components or amino acids.
This allows your digestive tract to absorb the collagen, as it recognizes amino acids and can readily take them up and distribute them throughout your body for use.
Taking collagen as a supplement can provide a myriad of health benefits. Some of the most well-research collagen benefits include:
Due to its role in supporting the extracellular matrix in your body, collagen may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by enhancing the elasticity of your skin[*].
Collagen is the primary protein that makes up your connective tissue, including the cartilage that supports the junction of where your joints meet your bones. Many athletes and older people develop joint pain due to exercise, overuse, or aging. Research shows that taking collagen supplements can reduce joint pain and may even reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis[*][*].
Due to its role in supporting the health of your skin, collagen supplementation has been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite. This effect seems to be more substantial in overweight women than in women of average weight[*].
Low bone density can be a serious issue in postmenopausal women. Research shows that taking collagen supplementation may not only result in increased bone formation but also reduced degradation[*].
Collagen plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of your gut lining, with changes in the extracellular matrix of your gut leading to inflammation and potentially leaky gut syndrome.
Although more research needs to be done, correlation studies have shown that people with inflammatory bowel disease tend to have lower markers of collagen in their blood. Therefore, the assumption can be made that adding in a collagen supplement may, in fact, support the health of your gut[*].
Due to the role that it plays in the structure of your arteries, supplementing with collagen may support heart health and prevent atherosclerosis. In one study, researchers gave subjects collagen supplements for six months, then measured several markers for heart disease.
They found that the collagen supplementation group not only had reduced arterial stiffness, but they also experienced a positive shift in blood lipid markers[*].
Muscle mass naturally decreases with age. However, the rate at which your muscles decrease can somewhat be within your control. Sarcopenia is a condition marked by the loss of skeletal muscle mass that many elderly people experience.
Research shows that in addition to resistance training, supplementing with collagen can improve the body composition and muscle mass in elderly people with sarcopenia[*].
Research around brain health, and specifically neurological disease, has increased significantly over the past decade as more and more people are experiencing neurodegenerative disorders.
In one study, researchers at Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND), UCSF, and Stanford found that a certain type of collagen was able to protect against amyloid proteins, which are a well-known marker for Alzheimer’s disease.
This specific type of collagen (collagen VI) is made by neurons in your brain and fulfills important neuroprotective functions[*]. More research needs to be done on the subject, however, before we can determine how to best supplement with collagen to support brain health.
Research suggests that 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen per day can provide significant contributions to your collagen synthesis. However, the most commonly agreed upon dose is 10 grams per day.
With that being said, increasing the amount of collagen you take depending on how much protein you’re getting from other sources likely won’t do any harm and may prove beneficial if your collagen intake is general low from food sources[*].
How And When To Take Collagen
You may have heard that taking collagen on an empty stomach will provide the most efficient means for absorption. While it’s true that you need stomach acid to break down protein, whether you take collagen with or without food, your stomach acid will still be able to do its job.
With that being said, many people enjoy adding collagen to their morning coffee or tea, as this is typically a daily ritual that will ensure they don’t miss their dose of collagen.
You can also incorporate it into a smoothie, add it to baked goods, and even stir it into soups. One of the benefits of choosing flavorless collagen is that it can go in virtually everything.
At present, there are no known side effects of taking collagen supplements. However, it is crucial that you be aware of any potential contaminants from the manufacturing facility or other added ingredients. If you have any food allergies like gluten, dairy, soy, etc. be sure to check the allergen statement.
To support your body’s natural collagen synthesis, supplementation is not the only way to go. In addition to getting a daily dose of collagen from a powder, capsule, or gummy, you can include more collagen-rich foods into your diet.
In addition, adding specific cofactors (vitamins and minerals) can support your collagen production.
Below is a list of foods to incorporate into your diet that will help support the production of collagen:
- Bone broth
- Fish and shellfish
- Egg whites
Your body requires specific vitamins and minerals to synthesize collagen. Some crucial collagen cofactors you should focus on include:
When choosing a collagen supplement, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dose: Ideally, your collagen supplement will contain at least 10 grams of collagen per serving.
- Quality: You’ll want to make sure your collagen supplement comes from grass-fed cows.
- Cofactors: To ensure proper collagen production, there are specific nutrients that you want your collagen supplement to contain. Look for additions like iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Added ingredients: Check the quality of any additional ingredients; for instance, be sure that there are no artificial flavors or sugars added.
- Allergens: Your collagen supplement should be free of allergens like dairy and gluten.
- Lab-tested for purity: There are a lot of different sources of collagen out there. Make sure your collagen is lab-tested to ensure purity.
|Brand||Grass-fed||10 grams per serving||Collagen cofactors||No artificial flavors||Sugar |
|Dairy and gluten-free||Lab-tested for purity|
There are many potential benefits of adding collagen protein to your supplement regimen. From skin health to joint support, this nutrient provides the building blocks that your body needs for structure and function.
However, there are specific things you need to keep in mind when it comes to supplementation. Quality is of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to choosing animal-derived products.
What’s more, many collagen supplements have added ingredients that you should be aware of. Watch out for artificial flavors, sweeteners, and potential allergens.
Finally, high-quality collagen should be lab-tested for purity.