118 Shares

Did you know there’s a glue that holds your body together?

No, it’s not almond butter. It’s collagen.

Without collagen, your skin would be dry and thin, your nails would be brittle, your muscles couldn’t grow, and your bones would be extremely fragile.

You may have heard that collagen can be good for your skin, but there’s a secret the beauty industry doesn’t want you to know: collagen does nothing for your skin, hair, or nails when it’s applied topically.

In fact, the molecule is too big to be absorbed by the skin. Collagen has to be consumed to reap all of its (many) benefits.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and it helps give shape, strength, and integrity to many tissues, including your skin, muscles, bones, tendons, brain, and heart.

So how do you in this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know about collagen. You’ll learn:

What is Collagen?
11 Science-Based Benefits of Collagen
How Collagen Is Made In The Body
Types of Collagen
Causes of Collagen Loss
Top Food Sources of Collagen-Forming Nutrients
What Are Collagen Supplements?
Collagen vs Gelatin
Benefits of Collagen Peptides
Types of Collagen Peptides
How Collagen Peptides Are Made
How To Take Collagen Peptides
Dosage, Safety, and Side Effects of Collagen Peptides

What is Collagen?

Collagen comes from the Greek word “kólla“, meaning “glue” and the French -gène, meaning “something that produces”. In other words, collagen is a “glue-producing” protein.

It’s necessary to form and heal virtually every tissue in your body. That’s why it’s the most abundant protein you have — 30% of the total protein in your body is collagen.

Collagen is concentrated in one important structure: the extracellular matrix or ECM. The ECM is the layer that supports the cells in every single tissue of your body.

You can think of the ECM like a net that holds all your cells together and supports their function.

By dry weight, collagen makes up:

  • 90% of the sclera (white part of your eye)[*]
  • 80% of tendons[*]
  • 70-80% of the skin[*]
  • 60% of cartilage[*]
  • 30% of bones[*]
  • 1–10% of muscle mass[*]

You can’t get collagen directly from foods (only from supplements), so your body has to make it.

11 Science-Based Benefits of Collagen

Research shows adequate collagen levels are necessary for the proper function of your…

Here’s how:

1. Supports Skin Health

When most people hear the word collagen, they think of skin health. Ads for anti-aging creams talk about its power to reverse wrinkles and aging signs, although there isn’t enough research to fully back these claims.

The real and lasting benefits of collagen in your skin come from the inside out. Research shows that taking collagen supplements (like a collagen protein or bone broth):

  • Improves skin elasticity
  • Boosts skin hydration
  • Reduces wrinkles
  • Prevents UV damage
  • Prevents early signs of aging
  • Diminishes roughness of facial skin
  • Increases the amount of collagen present in the skin[*]
  • Prevents the breakdown of collagen[*]
  • Increases the amount of procollagen produced[*]

In one double-blind trial, 69 women received either 2.5g or 5.0g of a collagen supplement or placebo once daily for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, skin elasticity in both collagen groups was significantly higher in comparison to placebo. After 4 weeks of follow-up treatment, elderly women had a significantly higher skin elasticity level[*].

Another double-blind trial comparing two types of collagen compounds found that a high collagen content significantly improved facial skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles and roughness in comparison to the low collagen compound and the placebo[*].

In summary, collagen supplementation can prevent early signs of aging by keeping your skin firm and moisturized.

2. Keeps Your Nails Strong

Collagen supplementation can prevent brittle and broken nails, and support nail growth. One study[*] found that oral collagen intake…

  • Increased nail growth rate by 12%.
  • Decreased the frequency of broken nails by 42%.
  • 64% of participants had a significant improvement in brittle nails.
  • 88% of participants experienced an improvement after 4 weeks.

Gelatin — a cooked form of collagen — can also improve nail quality[*].

3. May Prevent Premature Hair Loss

The exact function of collagen in your hair’s stem cells and its role in the hair cycle isn’t completely clear yet[*], but new groundbreaking research from 2016 and 2017 has found that type XVII collagen could prevent…

  • Early hair loss
  • Hair thinning
  • Hair graying

Type XVII collagen is part of your hair follicle stem cells (HFSC), which helps create new hair. A deficiency can trigger early aging in hair stem cells, causing premature hair loss[*].

In other words, collagen is necessary for abundant and luscious locks.

4. Allows Muscles Growth And Regeneration

As a protein, collagen is vital for the growth and healing of muscles. Collagen supplementation has been shown to:

  • Increase muscle strength
  • Make resistance training more effective
  • Aid muscle regeneration
  • Prevent muscle disorders

One study found that collagen supplementation in combination with resistance training increased fat-free mass and muscle strength while lowering fat mass[*].

A study published in Nature discovered that a lack of collagen VI can impair muscle regeneration and reduce the self-renewal capability of your cells after injury[*]. Mutations that prevent the formation of collagen VI can also lead to muscle atrophy disorders[*].

5. Makes Up Joints, Tendons, and Ligaments

Collagen makes up a vast majority of the tissue in joints, tendons, and ligaments. In fact, tendons are 80% collagen, and collagen types I, II, III, V, and XI form the basic framework of tendons and ligaments[*].

Therefore, any deficiencies can affect flexibility, range of motion and cause joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Supplementing with collagen peptides can:

  • Maintain the integrity of tendons and ligaments
  • Prevent and treat rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Lower joint pain and swelling
  • Support tendon repair

In a randomized, double-blind trial involving 60 patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis, consuming chicken type II collagen for 3 months decreased the number of swollen and tender joints, and 4 patients had a complete remission[*].

Another trial found that supplementing with collagen on a dose of 1200 mg/day significantly decreased joint pain in patients[*].

Collagen supplementation is especially helpful for osteoarthritis. One double-blind study concluded that “collagen peptides are potential therapeutic agents as nutritional supplements for the management of osteoarthritis and maintenance of joint health”[*].

Early studies in animals show that type I collagen and vitamin C supplements can strengthen and accelerate the healing of the Achilles tendon (the largest tendon in the body)[*][*][*].

6. Strengthens Bones

Calcium isn’t the only nutrient you should worry about when it comes to bone health.

The strength of your bones depends on two things:

  1. The quantity of bone tissue.
  2. The organization of the collagen framework in your bones.

As you age, this collagen network debilitates, making your bones less resistant. Luckily, your body is able to quickly absorb and use oral collagen to make up for the natural collagen loss. Taking collagen supplements may:

  • Stimulate bone-forming cells.
  • Improve calcium absorption.
  • Provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
  • Prevent osteoporosis.
  • Increase the capacity to resist fractures.

Studies have found that supplementing with a blend of calcitonin (a calcium derivate) and pharmaceutical-grade collagen had better results in preventing bone collagen breakdown than calcitonin alone[*].

In children, daily collagen intake at key stages of growth has positive effects on bone remodeling and formation[*].

To sum up, collagen works hand-in-hand with calcium to improve bone metabolism, so make sure you’re getting enough calcium along with your collagen intake.

7. Promotes Tissue Repair

Did you know your scars are made mostly of collagen?

In most wounds, complete replacement of harmed tissue to its unharmed state is impossible. The wound has to be healed using extra material to reconnect the tissue.

This extra material — or glue — is collagen.

Here’s how collagen helps your skin heal:

  1. Within seconds of the injury, collagen activates coagulation in the wound to stop the bleeding.
  2. As the blood vessels grow stronger, cells called fibroblasts — collagen factories — lay down more collagen (aka the “glue”) until the scar looks firmer.
  3. During the second week following the wound, leukocytes gradually abandon the wound area and your cells start cranking out type I collagen– the type that makes up your normal skin.

As you can see, collagen is present in every step of wound healing. According to one journal article[*], a scar is basically “a strong collagen filler that bridges the gap left by tissue destruction, restoring strength and integrity”.

If your body isn’t able to produce enough collagen, or you have a deficiency in vitamin C (crucial for collagen synthesis), your ability to heal can be affected.

8. Keeps Your Eyes Healthy

The eye is formed by many types of collagen, but collagen XVIII is particularly important because it makes up your cornea, retina, and sclera (the white part of your eye)[*]. It’s indispensable for good vision.

Collagen helps maintain the pigmented layer of your retina and the clear gel that fills your eyeball (vitreous body)[*].

Research shows that collagen XVIII deficiency may lead to eye defects and malformations[*].

9. Promotes Gut Health

Collagen is necessary for a healthy gut.

A recent study found that collagen peptides could improve a dysfunctional intestinal barrier[*].

Why is this important?

The intestinal barrier is your intestines’ gatekeeper. It covers a surface of about 400 m2 and consumes around 40% of your body’s energy[*]. It helps to absorb nutrients, water, and electrolytes and prevents the entry of harmful microorganisms to your body.

When this barrier malfunctions, intestinal disorders can occur, including inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, leaky gut, and diarrhea.

Collagen seals this barrier tighter — that’s why it may help prevent leaky gut.

A lack of collagen in your intestinal tissue has been linked to chronic inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease[*][*] .

10. Ensures Heart Health

Collagen keeps your heart beating, literally.

Collagen I — the most abundant protein in the heart — is concentrated in one of the three walls of your heart: the myocardium, which is in charge of making the contractions to pump blood. Here, collagen does two things:

  • Provides a structural framework to the cardiac muscle cells.
  • Provides stiffness to the walls of your heart and aids force transmission so it can pump blood[*].

Without enough collagen, your heart couldn’t beat.

Unfortunately, as we age the collagen network in the heart naturally changes. This shift in collagen levels weakens and thins your heart’s wall, alters heart function, and changes the pressure in your arteries when the heart pumps blood[*].

Heart attacks and heart conditions can also affect the collagen network. That’s why collagen supplementation can help to keep your ticker healthy.

11. Supports Brain Health

Collagen is also present in neurons, where it helps to fight oxidation and neurodegeneration.

Research finds that collagen VI deficiency in the brain can cause:

  • Spontaneous cell death (apoptosis)[*].
  • Higher vulnerability to oxidative stress[*].
  • Impaired autophagy (destruction of cells in the body)[*].
  • Impairment of motor and memory task performance[*].
  • Increased neurotoxicity[*].

In other words, collagen VI helps the brain function properly and prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Type VIII collagen is also important during the repair of brain injuries[*].

What is collagen

As you can tell by now, collagen deficiency is linked to many degenerative diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis, poor vision, impaired wound healing,  leaky gut, and Alzheimer’s disease.  

How Collagen Is Made In The Body

Amino acids are the building blocks of collagen.

Your body can produce collagen after it breaks down dietary amino acids from protein-rich foods like chicken, dairy, and meat.

Vitamin C is also necessary for collagen synthesis. It helps to connect collagen-forming amino acids together. The process is divided into three phases:

#1. Procollagen

Procollagen is the precursor of collagen. It’s shaped like a triple helix and it’s formed by three different chains of amino acids:

  • Glycine (makes up 30% of the total amino acids in collagen)
  • Proline
  • Hydroxyproline

A regular procollagen helix sequence looks like this: Gly-X-Y, (X and Y being commonly proline and hydroxyproline).

Other less common amino acids that can be part of procollagen chains include:

The three individual amino-acids are processed in the endoplasmic reticulum of the cell, where they go through three changes[*]:

  • Hydroxylation (adding enzymes called hydroxylases)
  • Glycosylation (adding glucose or galactose to the enzymes)
  • Disulfide-bond formation (the triple helix begins to form)

After these three processes, the procollagen chain forms, but it’s left with loose ends (called terminals), just like a frayed rope.

Then, it’s sent to the Golgi apparatus, were oligosaccharides (complex carbs) are added. After that, it’s packed and sent out of the cell.

#2. Tropocollagen, aka Collagen chains

Once procollagen is out of the cell — in a place called extracellular space — the loose ends of the procollagen chain are cut off. This forms the final collagen strand, also known as tropocollagen.

#3. Collagen fibrils

Individual collagen chains form groups of fibrils, which make up the collagen protein.

To sum up, you can think of collagen formation like assembling a rope made of 3 strands: each individual strand is from a different material, they’re treated with chemicals to make them easier to bind together, they’re twisted together in a helix pattern and are left with frayed ends, which are quickly cut and sealed.

Let’s take a look at the different types of collagen your body needs:

Types of Collagen

There are 28 known types of collagen. However, around 90% of your body’s collagen is type I. These are the 5 most common types:

  • Collagen I: Because it’s the most abundant, type I is in almost every tissue of your body: tendons, skin, bones, cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.Type I collagen fibrils are incredibly strong. They can resist a lot of pressure without breaking, and gram for gram, collagen I is stronger than steel[*].
  • Collagen II: Found mostly in cartilage.
  • Collagen III: Type III can be found alongside type I and in muscles, organs, arteries, and a type of special connective tissue called reticular fiber, which forms the liver, adipose tissue, bone marrow, spleen, and more.
  • Collagen IV: Forms the basal lamina, a layer of the extracellular matrix — the net that supports cells — that sits underneath the epithelium. Basically, the basal lamina gives external support to your skin cells.
  • Collagen V: Collagen V can be found in the bone matrix, cornea, and in the connective tissue that exists between the cells of the muscles, liver, lungs, and placenta (also known as the interstitial matrix).

What is collagen

As you can see, collagen is involved in almost every tissue. That’s why producing enough of it is crucial for good health, either through collagen-forming foods or supplements.  

Let’s take a closer look at what collagen can do for your body:

Let’s take a closer look at why collagen deficiency may occur:

The 7 Main Causes of Collagen Loss

Collagen loss can happen thanks to a combination of internal and external circumstances:

Internal Causes of Collagen Loss

#1. Aging

Your body loses collagen gradually as you age, from the moment you’re born. The collagen network in your tissues slowly changes and ends up looking irregular and disorganized when you’re older.

The overall collagen content per unit area of the skin declines 1% per year[*].

When type I collagen — the main collagen in your skin — declines, skin becomes saggy, wrinkly and you develop cellulite.

Aging also weakens bone structure, reduces muscle volume, and redistributes fat, which causes significant changes in face shape.

#2. A High-Sugar Diet

Sugars are known for rendering collagen unusable in your body.

Research reveals that glucose and fructose “trap” the amino acids in collagen and elastin, making both of them incapable of repairing the skin.

This also produces advanced glycation end products or “AGEs”[*].

AGEs are toxic compounds that form when lipids or proteins are exposed to sugars, and they can trigger chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

#3. Smoking

Smoking causes early facial wrinkling and decreased wound healing because it slows down the synthesis of collagen type I and III.

One study[*] found that in people who smoke…

  • The synthesis of type I and III collagen was lower by 18% and 22%.
  • The levels of MMP-8  — a molecule that breaks down collagen — were higher by 100%.
  • The levels of TIMP-1 — and inhibitor of MMP-8 — were 14% lower.

#4. Nutrient Deficiency

A low intake of collagen-forming nutrients can lead to collagen deficiency.

The amino acids glycine, proline, lysine, arginine and more that come from meats and cartilages of animals are needed to form procollagen that later turns into collagen. Low amino acids in your diet mean lower collagen levels.

A deficiency in vitamin C can stop collagen formation altogether.

A copper deficiency is associated with a weaker union of collagen and elastin, which results in hair loss and nail damage[*].

Antioxidants are needed to protect collagen from free radical damage and prevent early signs of aging, so a deficiency in antioxidant-rich foods can leave your collagen vulnerable.  

#5. Genetic Predispositions

Abnormalities in the genes encoding collagen can lead to an increased risk of joint diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome[*],  ruptures in the Achilles heel, knee ligament, and rotator cuffs[*] and osteoarthritis[*].

External Causes of Collagen Loss

#6. Excess Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is the main environmental factor that causes premature skin aging.

When you expose your skin for long periods to UV radiation, your cells go through molecular changes to try to respond to the damage. These changes cause a breakdown of collagen and shut down new collagen synthesis, making your skin vulnerable[*].

Photoaged skin usually looks thickened, discolored, wrinkled, dull, and rough — in contrast with normally aged skin, which tends to look thin, withered, finely wrinkled and dry.

#7. Air Pollution

Air pollution can affect collagen levels and exacerbate skin diseases.

Polluted air contains something called particulate matters (PMs), which are extremely small particles and droplets in the air that can be absorbed by your lungs and skin.

Long and increased exposure to PMs (which are high in cities) can induce three things on your skin:

  • MMPs — molecules that break down collagen
  • Oxidative stress
  • Inflammatory molecules

Special types of PMs called ultrafine particles — including black carbon and polycyclic hydrocarbons — increase the risk of skin cancer[*].

One of the ways particulate matters enter your skin is through your hair follicles. PMs are significantly smaller than your pores, so they can go through them easily.

Because the follicles on your scalp and face constitute around 10% of your total skin surface, absorption of PMs can be high.

The good news is, national average particulate matter concentrations in the US has been steadily decreasing in the last few decades. There was a 42% decrease in PMs in the 2000-2016 period[*].

To fight the collagen loss that happens from natural and external circumstances, nutrition is key. It’s important that your intake of collagen-forming nutrients is abundant.

The Top 25 Food Sources of Collagen-Forming Nutrients

You need a healthy diet based on whole foods to get all the necessary building blocks for collagen. Here are the best sources of every nutrient your body needs to produce and maintain healthy collagen levels.

Amino acids

Around 21 amino acids are needed to form collagen, and they can be found in protein-rich foods. Here are the top 25 keto foods highest in protein:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

These foods contain combos of several amino acids, but here’s a closer look at the specific sources per amino acid[*]:

  • Glycine: Gelatin, pork, turkey, chicken, cod, mollusks, beef, veal, bison[*].
  • Proline: Gelatin, parmesan cheese, gruyere cheese, romano cheese, goat cheese, swiss cheese, gouda cheese, mustard seed, provolone cheese[*].
  • Hydroxyproline: Turkey, chicken wings, bacon, chicken thighs, deer, sausage[*].
  • Lysine: Cod, parmesan cheese, beef, bacon, gelatin, bison[*].
  • Arginine: Gelatin, pumpkin and squash seeds, mollusks, nut butter, hemp seeds[*].
  • Alanine: Gelatin, cod, mollusks, bacon[*].
  • Valine: Cod, parmesan cheese, gruyere cheese[*].
  • Leucine: Cod, parmesan cheese, mollusks[*].
  • Isoleucine: Cod, chorizo, parmesan cheese, bacon, veal[*].
  • Phenylalanine: Cod, parmesan cheese, gruyere cheese, gelatin, pumpkin seeds[*].
  • Tyrosine: Parmesan cheese, cod, gruyere cheese, romano cheese[*].  
  • Serine: Gelatin, cod[*].  
  • Threonine: Cod, mollusks, beef, bacon[*].  
  • Cystine: Beef, mustard seeds, cod, hemp seeds[*].
  • Methionine: cod, mollusks, brazil nuts, parmesan cheese, beef, lamb, pork[*].
  • Histidine: Cod, parmesan cheese, bacon, beef, game meat (deer, boar, antelope)[*].
  • Aspartic acid: cod, gelatin, mollusks[*].
  • Glutamic acid: parmesan cheese, cod, gelatin[*].

 

Vitamins, Micronutrients and Fatty Acids

Others nutrients are essential for collagen production as well:

  1. Vitamins and minerals are key in procollagen formation, the precursor of collagen. They help bind amino-acids together.
  2. The antioxidant abilities of vitamins and fatty acids help prevent collagen breakdown and fight damage.

The top 7 nutrients that aid collagen synthesis are:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids: Beta Carotene, Lycopene and Lutein & Zeaxanthin
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Omega 3s

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps collagen in 3 ways:

  • Increases the production of collagen type I and III in the skin.
  • Activates two key enzymes needed for collagen synthesis[*].
  • Releases enzymes that inhibit MMPs (collagen destructors).

A vitamin C deficiency can stop collagen production. These are the top 5 keto-friendly sources where you can find it:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects collagen against free radicals and helps regulate its growth.

Excess collagen can actually be harmful to certain organs. For example, after a heart attack, the heart may create too much collagen in the process of healing. This excess scar tissue is called fibrosis and it can worsen heart function.

Vitamin E helps to prevent this excess collagen[*].

Vitamin E works best when it teams up with vitamin C. Clinical studies show the antioxidative protection is higher with the combination of vitamins C and E than with the vitamin C or E alone[*].

Here are the top 5 keto-friendly vitamin E foods:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

You may have heard that nuts aren’t good on the ketogenic diet, because they have a high count of net carbs. But they’re also a source of fats, proteins and many healthy micronutrients. You can absolutely eat nuts on keto as long as your daily intake for carbs and protein doesn’t exceed your macros.  

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are important for collagen preservation, especially in aging skin.

In one recent study, healthy women were given carotenoid-rich kale extract on a daily basis to measure the effect on collagen levels. The results showed a significant increase in collagen I in the dermis, and researchers concluded that carotenoids can prevent collagen I degradation and improve the extracellular matrix (ECM)[*].

Below are the 3 most common types of carotenoids:

#1. Beta Carotene (precursor of vitamin A)

One study found that 30 mg/day of beta-carotene can increase procollagen levels and repair photoaging[*]. Get it from these sources:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

#2. Lycopene

Lycopene may support the collagen in your bones. One study found that lycopene supplementation decreased oxidative stress and prevented bone degradation[*].

These are the best sources of lycopene:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

#3. Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Lutein and Zeaxanthin may protect your eyes by:

  • Preventing free radicals from mixing with retinol collagen.
  • Strengthening the structure of retinal collagen[*].

Here’s where you can find these two carotenoids:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Calcium

Collagen requires calcium to form and preserve bone structure. Calcium allows the mineral crystallization (hardening) of collagen in the bones[*].

One study found that a calcium-collagen supplement prevented bone loss in postmenopausal women with low bone density[*].

Find calcium in these keto-friendly foods:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Copper

Copper is needed for linking collagen to elastin, which is necessary for skin integrity.

It’s also required for:

  • Producing cells that release collagen (called fibroblasts).
  • Upregulating collagen types I, II and V.
  • Supporting collagen fibril formation.
  • Stabilizing the skin ECM once formed[*].

Here’s where you can get it:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Selenium

Selenium helps to prevent fibrosis (excess scar tissue) by regulating collagen just like vitamin E does.

Research found that selenium intake prevented hepatic fibrosis by decreasing type I collagen accumulation in cells[*][*].

Get it from these foods:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids help to produce optimal collagen levels.

One study found that omega 3s promoted ligament healing by increasing ligament collagen[*].

They also help to decrease collagen when it’s convenient. Collagen is the most clot-forming component in the heart[*]. After vascular damage, collagen begins to adhere to platelets in your arteries and form clots, putting you at risk of heart disease.

Omega 3s can reduce this risk by preventing collagen from sticking to platelets. One study found that collagen interactions with platelets were reduced by 50% after omega-3 supplementation[*].

The richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids are:

what is collagen

Source: USDA Food Composition Databases

Keeping up with a keto diet that contains all the amino-acids and micronutrients necessary for proper collagen formation can be tough for some people. That’s why collagen supplements can be a great ally.

What Are Collagen Supplements?

Collagen supplements provide readily-available collagen chains that can be used by your body in all the tissues it’s needed. It’s more efficient for your body than having to form collagen fibrils from scratch using dietary amino acids.

While nutrition gives your body the raw materials to make glue (collagen), a supplement gives your body the glue directly.

It’s thanks to this readiness that supplements can support healthy skin, organs, and tissues in a short amount of time.

Collagen supplements can have many names, including the terms “collagen hydrolysate”, “hydrolyzed collagen” and  “collagen peptides”, but they all mean the same thing: small collagen chains extracted from animal tissues.

Hydrolyzed collagen, as the name suggests, is formed by a process called enzymatic hydrolysis, and it works likes this:

Collagen-rich tissues from animals, like skin, bones, and cartilage, are treated with different enzymes called proteases, which essentially break down the collagen by splitting the chemical bonds. This creates small collagen chains your body can use to build its own connective tissue.

Gelatin goes through a similar process, but it’s not the same as hydrolyzed collagen, as some people might think.

Collagen vs Gelatin

Collagen peptides and gelatin are not the same supplement. Gelatin is a form of cooked collagen.

To create gelatin, the collagen-rich tissues are boiled at a high pressure to partially break down the collagen molecules. The gelatin is then extracted, purified and dried. This is called a partial hydrolysis.

Unlike collagen supplements, no enzymes are used to create gelatin. The collagen is not entirely broken down.

This leaves gelatin with long chains of amino acids, in contrast with the short chains of collagen peptides.

That’s why gelatin is less absorbable and efficient than collagen peptides.

Which Should You Take?

Gelatin is ideal if you want to increase your intake of amino acids in your daily life — as you saw above, it’s an excellent source of collagen building blocks — but hydrolyzed collagen is a far better choice if your goal is to boost your collagen levels faster and more easily.

Benefits of Collagen Peptides

Here are 5 reasons why collagen supplements are a good addition to your diet:

  1. Fast Metabolism

Oral collagen is highly bioavailable[*]. It can be digested in the gut, cross the intestinal barrier, enter the circulation, and become available for your tissues.

Hydrolyzed collagen is the most efficient source because:

  • It accelerates the digestion and absorption from the gut.
  • Increases amino acid bioavailability.
  • Speeds up the incorporation rate of dietary amino acids into tissues.

In other words, it works faster than gelatin and collagen made from scratch by your body.

  1. Proven Benefits for Skin, Joints, and Bone Health

Collagen peptides strengthen all the tissues in your body, but research finds they particularly shine on skin, joints, and bones.

Research[*][*][*] supports that taking hydrolyzed collagen:

  • Stimulates collagen regeneration.
  • Reduces and prevents joint pain.
  • Prevents bone density loss.
  • Stimulates bone forming cells.
  • Improves calcium absorption.
  • Fights skin aging.
  • Improves skin elasticity.
  1. Tasteless and Odorless

Collagen peptides come in a tasteless powdered form, which makes it ideal for incorporating into hot beverages, baked goods, smoothies, and other foods without any unpleasant flavors.

This also means that you can buy flavored collagen peptides, like the Perfect Keto Grass-Fed Keto Collagen in Chocolate.

  1. Doesn’t Gel

Collagen peptides don’t make your hot beverages gelatinous. It dissolves quickly and won’t change the texture of your food.

However, small clumps might form at the bottom of cold drinks (like cold brews), so take it in hot drinks like hot cocoa, coffee, and tea whenever possible.

Many people use their Chocolate Grass-Fed Keto Collagen in their morning coffee or make a mocha out of it.

  1. Provides a Boost of Essential Amino Acids

Each serving size of hydrolyzed collagen can give you up to 10g of protein (20% of your daily needs) and contains 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids — histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Tryptophan is the only one not included, but you can easily get it from yogurt, cheese, eggs, or meat.

Collagen supplements can come from many sources and contain different collagen types.

5 Types of Collagen Peptides

There are five main types of collagen peptides:

#1: Bovine Collagen

Parts used:  hide, bones, tendons, cartilage, and placenta of cows.

Types of collagen: type I, III and IV.

Bovine collagen is the most popular form of collagen in the food industry. Because of the types of collagen it contains, it’s a well-rounded protein that supports every tissue in your body.

It’s especially helpful for improving skin and bone health.

One study found that bovine peptides increased osteoblasts — cells that make up bones — and helped mineralize bones[*].

Another study found bovine collagen may improve chronologically aged skin by improving the quantity and quality of skin collagen[*].

The health of the cows can make a significant difference in the quality of the collagen, which is why you should always seek grass-fed collagen supplements.

#2: Porcine Collagen

Parts used: Skin and bones of pigs.

Types of collagen: type I and III.

Porcine collagen is similar to beef collagen, except it lacks type IV. Because it’s the closest to human collagen, it’s often used in the biomedical industry.

#3: Chicken Collagen

Parts used: chicken feet, cartilage, skin, tarsus, and neck.

Types of collagen: I, II, III, IV, V, and IX.

Hydrolysed chicken collagen is less popular than bovine, although chicken feet are widely used to make gelatin and stock, and they’re commonly eaten as snacks in countries like China, Indonesia, Romania, Moldova, and Jamaica.

The types of collagen in chicken peptides vary depending on the brand and parts used, but chicken feet (the most common part) are extremely rich in type I collagen[*].

Chicken collagen has a lower demand because of the risks of contamination from aviary diseases.

#4: Marine Collagen

Parts used: tissues, skin, cranial cartilage, cornea, and embryonic organs from different marine creatures.

Types of collagen: Type I.

Marine collagen may include tissues from different marine animals including fishes, starfish, jellyfish, sponges, sea urchin, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, sea anemone, and prawn.

Only the products specifically marketed as fish collagen are made exclusively with fish.

Marine collagen has many advantages, including a higher collagen yield during extraction, environmentally friendly processing, and easier absorption (because it has lighter molecules).

However, it’s limited to providing mainly type I collagen.

#5: Fish Collagen

Parts used: bones, skin, fins, and scales of fresh or salt water fishes.  

Types of collagen: Type I.

Unlike marine collagen, fish collagen is made solely from fish tissues. The most common species used are Atlantic cod, silver carp, Japanese sea-bass, chub mackerel,  bullhead shark, bigeye tuna, skipjack tuna, yellow sea bream, horse mackerel, Nile tilapia and others[*].

Since fish collagen uses discarded materials from the fish, it helps to reduce environmental pollution.

Like marine collagen, it provides mainly type I.

Both marine and fish collagens are newer supplements that are just beginning to be researched

How Collagen Supplements Are Made: 5 Steps

As mentioned, collagen is extracted through a process called enzymatic hydrolysis. Here’s a detailed look at how this process happens in bovine, porcine, chicken, marine, and fish tissues[*]:

Step #1: Maintenance of raw material at -25°C or -4°C. It’s necessary to keep the tissues preserved.

Step #2: Pretreatment: Removing non-collagenous pigments and proteins to increase the yield of collagen. This happens through an acid or alkaline process, depending on the tissue.

  • Acidic process: Suitable for fragile raw materials with less intertwined collagen fibers, such as porcine and fish skins.
  • Alkaline process:  Used for thicker materials, such as bovine bones or shavings.  

Step #3: Demineralization: Removing minerals like calcium to facilitate collagen extraction.

Step #4: Enzymatic hydrolysis: Digestion with enzymes to break down the collagen bonds. The mixture is continuously stirred for about 48 hours at 4°C.

Step #5: Extraction: The collagen goes through filtering, precipitation (solidification), and dialysis.

  • Filtering: Separating the residue from the collagen, which is in liquid form.
  • Precipitation: To obtain collagen powder, the liquid collagen is precipitated (turned into a solid).
  • Dialysis: Separating larger molecules of collagen from smaller ones.

Yield: To make just 12g of bovine, porcine, or chicken collagen, 1 kg of raw material is needed[*]. This means that a single container of collagen peptides may come from 25-40 kg of tissues. This seemingly low yield happens because a bulk of fats, minerals, and non-collagenous proteins need to be removed from the tissues first.

The quality of the collagen processed will depend on the quality of the tissues used.

Ideally, you’d want tissues sourced from healthy (grass-fed or cage-free) animals that weren’t pumped with excess antibiotics, but it can be tricky to know the origin since collagen supplements use a variety of tissues and their sourcing depends on the manufacturer (who may or may not disclose their sources).

Here’s what you can do to spot high-quality collagen:

What To Look For In A Collagen Supplement

what is collagen

Before you choose a collagen supplement, look for these 5 traits:

#1: Consider the Source

The best hydrolyzed collagen in the market is bovine collagen. It’s the most researched and has proven health benefits for your skin, bones, joints, eyes, brain, muscles, tendons, and more.

Here’s why it’s superior to other sources:

  • Porcine collagen is less researched as a supplement and it’s mainly used for industrial applications.
  • Chicken collagen is best avoided for its vulnerability to aviary disease contamination.
  • Marine and fish collagen show promising benefits, but they’re relatively new and there’s not enough research to ensure their effectiveness or safety.
  • Bovine collagen materials can be sourced from grass-fed cows, while it’s harder to source high-quality raw materials for the rest of collagens.

Bovine collagen contains type I, III and even IV, so it can cover virtually all your collagen needs.  That’s why we use bovine collagen with Perfect Keto Collagen products.

#2: Go for Grass-Fed

Collagen from grass-fed cows has a superior quality.

Research finds that grass-fed cows have higher beta-carotene (precursor of Vitamin A) levels than grain-fed cows[*].

This matters because vitamin A is critical for the overall integrity of skin and mucous membranes. In the case of cows, it helps collagen maintain the integrity of the hide, which is the main tissue used to create collagen peptides.

This means grass-fed cows may have healthier skins (hides) than grain-fed cows, making grass-fed collagen more effective.

Perfect Keto Collagen comes from grass-fed cows in the USA.

#3: Make Sure it Provides at Least 10 grams of Collagen Per Serving

According to research[*], a dose of 10g of hydrolyzed collagen a day is ideal for skin, joint and bone health. Make sure the serving size of your supplement provides at least 10g (10,000mg) of pure grass-fed collagen peptides.

#4: No Unnecessary Filler Ingredients

Collagen peptides don’t need any other ingredients to be processed, so your supplement should have just one ingredient on the label — collagen. The label should say something like this:

  • Grass-fed hydrolyzed collagen powder
  • Grass-fed bovine collagen peptides
  • Hydrolyzed bovine collagen

Stay clear of any supplements that include gelatin (that’s not the same as peptides), vegetable magnesium stearate, or sweeteners besides stevia. To make sure there are no hidden ingredients, check the nutrients profile, and make sure the carbs are at 1% or less:

what is collagen

#5: Keto-Friendly

Some collagen peptides might contain other beneficial supplements in the mix, and you have to make sure they don’t spike your blood sugar.

For example, Perfect Keto Collagen includes high-quality MCT oil powder in the blend. The fat provides ketones for energy and slows the absorption of protein so your body can use the collagen for recovery instead of converting it to glucose.

This stacking up of collagen + MCT oil actually makes the collagen more effective and doesn’t increase your carb intake.

#6: Look for Real Ingredients

Flavored collagen is a great way to spice up your recipes, as long as the flavoring doesn’t spike your blood sugar.

The easiest way for manufacturers to add flavors to collagen is through cheap artificial flavors, natural flavorings, and sweeteners. This doesn’t give your body any benefits.

High-quality collagen is flavored with real foods like spices, powdered roots, and organic extracts. For example, cinnamon, cacao powder, sea salt, matcha, coconut milk powder, and vanilla bean powder.

Perfect Keto Collagen also comes in chocolate flavor — made with real cacao.

How To Take Collagen Supplements

Once you have a high-quality collagen supplement, you can use it in many recipes to boost your collagen levels in delicious ways:

Drinks

Snacks and desserts

Meals

Collagen can be added to almost any liquid and semi-solid meal. It blends in perfectly and you won’t taste it.

Dosage, Safety and Side Effects Of Collagen Peptides

How Much Should You Take?

Collagen is effective and safe at a minimum dose of 10g/per day, but higher amounts are also safe. Collagen supplements normally provide this dose in each serving, so simply follow the instructions in the package.

There is currently no lethal dose known for hydrolyzed collagen. Of course, always see your doctor if you plan on taking more than the recommended daily serving.

When Should You Take It?

There’s no “best” time to take collagen. Your body will absorb and use it any time of the day, so take it whenever you prefer.

It can be in a morning smoothie to boost your body with amino acids, or at the end of the day in a relaxing tea.

Because Perfect Keto Collagen contains MCT oil (for the energy benefits), it can be beneficial to take it in the morning to boost your brain and body with energy from ketones. Just sprinkle it over your scrambled eggs or add it to your hot coffee.

Is Collagen Vegetarian or Vegan Friendly?

Bovine collagen is definitely not compatible with a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Is Collagen Safe During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?

There is no definite research on the safety of taking collagen supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Some studies done on the benefits of collagen have purposefully excluded pregnant or breastfeeding women for this reason.

The best thing you can do to be sure is to ask your doctor.

Boost Your Collagen Intake Today

There’s no doubt collagen is crucial for the proper function of your skin, bones, joints, nails, hair, tendons, heart, brain, and eyes, and a deficiency can lead to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and early skin aging

Collagen peptides are short collagen chains your body can use to keep collagen levels up and fight collagen degeneration. They act faster than collagen made from scratch in your body and have some serious protective benefits for your skin and bones.

Remember, the best collagen peptides you can take come from grass-fed cows. They provide massive amounts of collagen type I and III and have been widely researched for their benefits.

Because they’re tasteless and odorless, you can add the peptides to all sorts of drinks, snacks and semi-solid meals to amp up your collagen levels effortlessly.

Taking collagen will help strengthen all the tissues in your body, and it will show in the form of glowing skin, strong nails, healthy teeth, and abundant hair.

Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS.

Written by Brenda Godinez

Brenda Godinez is Head of Content at Perfect Keto.

118 Shares

Ketosis is now easy

Lose weight and obtain optimal overall health — in an easy and natural way.

Shop Ketones

What to read next:

keto Thanksgiving

Responses (12)

  1. I have diabetes type 2 – going Keto has dropped A1C from 7.2 down to 5.8. My question -Is collagen okay for diabetics to take?

  2. Hi Vicki! We highly recommend you to check with your physician first before taking our products.

  3. Hi Anna, none of the supplements we made are full-fledged meal replacements. A meal replacement typically has all of the macros and a good bit of micros in it. We don’t believe everything is one size fits all but the collagen is a great snack.

  4. I have been experiencing bad stomach pains, some gastric distress as well as acid reflux after having a scoop of collagen with my morning coffee. Could it be the collagen? Am I supposed to work my way up to a scoop? I had already acclimated myself to MCT oil before I started the collagen. Thanks
    Elyn

  5. Hi Elyn, it could be a sensitivity to a certain type of food you are eating. You may track your food intake and see if you can find a pattern. You can also try to ramp up your intake. Try 1/2 scoop first and slowly move up from there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.