If you’ve been looking for alternative ways to ease painful joints, you may have come across collagen. It’s an important protein found in cartilage, tendons, and ligaments that provides strength and stability to these tissues. It’s also important for skin, hair, and nails.
As we age and our bodies experience wear and tear, our collagen levels decrease. This can cause a host of problems, including swollen and tender joints, poor hair and nail growth, and dry, wrinkly skin.
Collagen supplements have become increasingly popular as a way to combat these problems and improve joint and skin health. It’s also used to help reduce symptoms of arthritis.
However, with so many different types of collagen, it can often get confusing as to which one you should be using. For example, should you be using undenatured collagen or collagen hydrolysate? And how much should you be taking in order to see any benefits?
If you’re unsure which type of collagen you should take and how much you should be taking, we’re going to clear up any confusion and make sure you’re well informed when it comes to buying the right collagen supplement!
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the main structural protein found in connective tissue, including ligaments, tendons, and skin. It’s also found in bones, hair, blood vessels, and the lungs. Derived from the Greek word for “glue,” collagen helps connective tissues maintain their structural integrity in response to the everyday forces the body experiences. It’s found in the extracellular matrix (the protein-rich network that supports cells), where it acts as a scaffolding.
Collagen is also the most abundant protein in the body. Like all proteins, it’s made out of amino acids. There are at least 28 different types of collagen, but 80-90% of the collagen in the body is either type I, II, or III (each type is classified using Roman numerals).
Your body makes collagen using amino acids from your diet; however, some foods contain readily absorbable collagen. The main sources of collagen in the diet include beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. Sausages, hot dogs, and lunch meats are exceptionally high in collagen. Other sources include jello, pig skins, and bone broth.
Supplementing with collagen can help increase collagen levels in the body and help prevent the decline in collagen due to aging.
Collagen Supplement Benefits
Because collagen is found in many different tissues, it has many diverse benefits.
Here are some of the major benefits you may experience from taking collagen:
- Reduction in joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness
- Improved skin elasticity and better skin hydration, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Increased hair growth
- Increased nail growth and stronger nails
- Reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Prevention of bone loss due to aging
Some people may experience a greater benefit from collagen supplements depending on their underlying health conditions.
Collagen Supplement Types And Forms
Collagen supplements commonly contain types I, II, III, IV, V, and X, or some combination of these. Each type is beneficial, but type II is the most common and has the most research behind it.
Collagen supplements are usually made from the skin, bones, or cartilage of cows, pigs, chicken, and fish.
The collagen protein itself comes in one of two forms: undenatured and hydrolyzed.
Undenatured means the collagen proteins are still intact and have not been broken down into individual amino acids. This allows the body to absorb the proteins in their active forms without needing to process them.
Hydrolyzing collagen means the proteins have been broken down into smaller pieces called peptides, which are simply groups of amino acids. Hydrolyzed collagen is also known as gelatin (the same stuff used to make jello), collagen hydrolysate, or collagen peptides.
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?
Collagen is well-researched for its ability to reduce joint pain, swelling, and tenderness in both athletes and people with arthritis.
Limited research supports its ability to improve skin, hair, and nail health and reduce bad cholesterol and blood sugar.
Are Collagen Supplements Right For Me?
Undenatured type II collagen (also known as UC-II) is the only type that has been shown to be beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis patients, so you’ll want to supplement with this type if you have either condition. This is because UC-II is especially helpful in replacing damaged cartilage in joints.
For people that are just looking to improve joint, skin, and nail health, both undenatured collagen and collagen hydrolysate will help. Hydrolyzed collagen peptides still become active in the body, but they are not as effective for joint health as undenatured collagen.
Marine collagen appears to be the most beneficial for reducing cholesterol and blood sugar.
Because the body doesn’t need to process undenatured collagen, much lower doses are required in comparison to collagen hydrolysate. For example, undenatured collagen type II is effective in doses ranging between 40 – 2,000 mg, whereas hydrolyzed collagen is effective in doses of 10,000 mg or greater.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t rely on collagen as your main protein source because it’s not considered a complete protein. This means it’s missing key amino acids that the body can’t make.
Best Collagen Supplements
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
If you’re looking for the cleanest, highest quality collagen hydrolysate, look no further than Vital Proteins. Vital Proteins tests every lot of its collagen powders for contaminants such as heavy metals using an independent, third-party lab.
The collagen is made from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle so you can be sure the product is free from growth hormones and antibiotics. They also offer a marine collagen that is sourced from wild-caught fish.
A 20 oz, 28-serving tub will cost $43 and provides 20 g per serving. They also offer a smaller 5 oz for $15.
Ancient Nutrition Multi-Collagen Protein Powder
If you’re looking to get the benefits of multiple types of collagen, then Ancient Nutrition’s Multi-Collagen Protein Powder is the best option for you. It contains collagen types I, II, III, V, and X from non-GMO, pasture-raised, cage-free, and cruelty-free sources (beef, chicken, fish, and eggshell membrane).
A 16 oz container costs $38 and provides 48 servings, with 10 g per serving.
Now Supplements Undenatured Type II Collagen
This option is best suited for those suffering from arthritis. Now Foods provide affordable, yet effective supplements. Their UC-II contains the right dosage that has been demonstrated to provide benefits to arthritis patients in clinical trials.
One bottle containing 120 capsules (10 mg collagen per capsule) costs $27. It also contains seaweed-derived minerals.
Can I Stack Collagen With Anything?
Collagen is often paired with other supplements depending on the health goal you want to achieve.
Collagen supplements may have vitamin C added to them to help with skin health. If not, you can take a vitamin c supplement. Vitamin C helps your skin make more collagen.
Collagen may be paired with biotin (vitamin B7) to help increase hair and nail growth. However, there isn’t any research to back up biotin’s effect on hair and nails.
For joint health, collagen is often combined with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), glucosamine, and chondroitin. These supplements have also been shown to benefit joint health.