31 Jul Collagen Peptides: The Definitive Guide & Why YOU Need Them (2018)
You may have heard of collagen. It’s known popularly for its ability to improve your skin and diminish the visual signs of ageing. However, you may not be aware of what collagen actually is, how important it is for you, and the many potential incredible health benefits that come with supplementing with collagen peptides. In this mega guide, we will go through every aspect of collagen + and how supplementing with collagen peptides can greatly improve your health and wellbeing.
What is Collagen
How is Collagen Formed in the Body
Why is Collagen So Important
What Types of Collagen Are There
Causes of Collagen Loss
Natural Collagen Food Sources
Supplementing With Collagen
What are Collagen Peptides?
What are the Main Sources of Collagen Peptides?
How Are Collagen Peptides Made?
Science Backed Collagen Peptides Benefits
Are Collagen Peptides the Same as Gelatin?
Are Collagen Peptides A Better Source of Protein Than Whey/Hemp/Plant?
Do I Need Collagen Peptides If I Use Bone Broth
Best Collagen Peptides: What To Look For in a Premium Supplement
How To Take Collagen Peptides
Dosage, Safety, and Collagen Peptides Side Effects
What Is Collagen?
Put simply, collagen is the ‘glue’ that binds us together.
More accurately, collagen is a protein found predominantly within the connective tissues of animal bodies. It’s the most common protein component of our bodies, accounting for up to 35% of the entire protein content within mammals. In fact, collagen is the most common protein of any in the animal kingdom. Collagen itself is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of protein that are responsible for nourishing and constructing your very bodily cells and tissues. Three chains of proteins interweave to form a tight triple helix structure, somewhat like DNA, a strong yet flexible ‘rope’ that binds to give form to the ‘scaffolding’ effect that collagen provides.
Collagen is part of what is termed the ‘extracellular matrix’ (ECM). This is the reservoir of molecules and substances that live outside of the general cells themselves and provide structure and biochemical support to those surrounding cells. The ECM is like a warehouse of supplies that are used to rebuild, feed, and renovate the cells whenever they need it. The equivalent ECM in plants, for example, is cellulose, which you may recognise as the basic building block of plant cells.
The ECM in the animal kingdom is found in two locations:
- Interstitial Matrix – Literally ‘in between’, the space between the cells that mostly includes polysaccharide gels (sugars) and fibrous proteins such as collagen that helps buffer the ECM against stresses and strains. Collagen effectively gives structure to the space in between.
- Basement Membrane – These are sheets of ECM material that work like connective tissues, separating the layer of epithelial cells (outer layers such as the skin) from the underlying cell layers of organs, skin, and so on.
So, collagen performs a critical role in strengthening, repairing, and building your body from these locations. The ECM of connective tissues is a complex mix of all kinds of proteins that help to define the different functions of the body as well as its very shape, or structural integrity. The different ways these proteins behave in each different location leads to a variety of services performed that are unique to each of these locations. Proteins are the ‘all-round’ materials that form the basis of whatever a body needs to construct in order to be healthy, and since collagen is all around our bodies, it acts like the widespread delivery system for such proteins.
How is Collagen Formed in the Body?
The human body can produce its own collagen, although this process is dependent upon the balanced, consistent nutrient input that comes from a solid, varied diet. For instance, around 21 amino acids are required to form collagen. However, once these conditions are met, this is where things get a little more complex. Some cellular wizardry happens that goes a little something like this:
- Collagen is synthesised (produced) within the cell through a series of steps starting with two types of peptide chains called the alpha-1 and alpha-2 chains.
- These are formed on ribosomes, the ‘molecular machines’ that lie within all living cells. The ribosome is the site of biological protein synthesis and is studded, with many other ribosomes, on the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), an organelle (basically a laboratory) that hosts the protein synthesis party (how funky).
- The two peptide chains are formed with registration and signal peptides on each end. These formed chains are called preprocollagen.
- The preprocollagen is now released into the RER, where the signal peptides are modified to become pro-alpha chains.
- Inside the RER, lysine and proline amino acids are hydroxylated, meaning hydroxyl compounds are added. These are simple compounds based on oxygen and hydrogen that, rather critically, form bases to all sorts of more complex compounds that in turn form all sorts of substances our bodies use. Notably, this process requires ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) as a necessary catalyst, and this is also the reason why smokers experience degraded collagen formation due to lower Vitamin C levels.
- After further processes and chemical magic, a triple helical structure is formed inside the RER comprised each of two alpha-1 chains and one alpha-2 chain. This substance is now officially procollagen.
- Finally, the procollagen is passed through a structure called the Golgi apparatus, in which it is packaged up with some carbs and shot out of the cell wall via exocytosis. That literally means ‘out of the cell’. Simple.
- Outside of the cell, the procollagen registration peptides team up with signal peptides on other procollagen packages, forming long chains of collagen fibrils. These then form into collagen fibres and attach to specific cell membranes via protein links to begin performing all the many varied functions that the body needs.
Why is Collagen Important?
So why is it so important? From a structural, biomechanics standpoint, without collagen, we would lack internal connectivity. It’s literally found everywhere. As we can see with these stats, collagen is:
- 70% of cartilage tissue.
- Up to 90% of our ligaments and tendons.
- The sclera (white of the eye) is up to 95% collagen, from two different types.
- Around 80% of our skin.
- An interesting 30% of our bones.
- And a surprising 1-10% of your muscle mass, depending on how ‘elastic’ you are.
So, collagen is clearly ‘kind of a big deal’.
It holds together our very musculoskeletal structure and gives it its flexibility. Every time we walk, bend, stretch, run…collagen helps. Of course, our movement is also powered by muscles. However, your muscles are connected to your skeleton by tendons and ligaments that are largely collagen. So collagen, in effect, is what helps you to move biomechanically. Also, as you age and wake with joints that start to audibly creak, that’s a reduction in your flexibility that can mean lowered collagen levels.
Additionally, this flexible property is what makes up 75-80% of the part of your body you are most intimately familiar with…your skin. In the middle layer of the skin, the dermis, collagen develops a fibrous network on which new cell growth can happen. When your skin feels elastic, when it revives and rebounds from injury, that’s the very nature of collagen providing that youthful resilience. As we age, our collagen levels deplete and break down, resulting in less skin elasticity, higher susceptibility to injury, and of course wrinkles. This is lost dermis collagen, and this is why replacement therapy in the form of collagen peptides can have visible, viable, and safe results.
Perhaps when thinking of your body’s ‘flexibility’, you wouldn’t consider your skeletal structure. Yet, bones also contain around 30% collagen and this endows pliability. That’s correct, your bones are not completely inflexible. Your skeleton actually needs a certain degree of movement to deal with all the rigours you put it through, and it’s the collagen present within your bones that serves as the location for binding calcium and developing bone strength that is critical in healthy bone formation. Strength requires flexibility, or your bones would simply be too solid and prone to snapping when direct pressure or force is applied.
On top of collagen being so important to our bodily structure, collagen also plays an important role in gut health. You see, collagen partakes in a number of important gut functions. It assists in the regulation of stomach acid, aids in digestion, helps repair and heal a damaged gut lining and ultimately assists in recovering from digestive orders such as IBD, Crohns disease, IBS and leaky gut syndrome. How does it do this? When the gut lining is inflamed or injured, the body produces smooth muscles cells to assist in regeneration. During this time, scientisits have found collagen product in the gut to be the create highlighting a big connection between gut lining repair and collagen.
This is why it’s so important to ensure you include amino acid rich foods and collagen supplements as a part of a healthy skin, gut and joint maintenance. As your collagen levels naturally deteriorate and certain peptides are produced, your body is ‘advised’ by these peptides that depletion is in progress and your collagen stores need replenishing. Indeed, without saying collagen is ‘anti-ageing’, it’s perhaps more truthful to say that physical ageing is partially a general decline in the rate of collagen production, amongst other factors of course.
What types of collagen are there?
Well, to begin with, we have endogenous collagen, meaning that which is produced naturally within your body for the aforementioned uses. This collagen breaks down over time and needs to be regularly replaced. As it develops in vitro, in the womb, endogenous collagen plays a vital role in early tissue growth and organisation, and it shepherds the production of brand new cells, in particular, the stem cells (mesenchymal stromal cells) that are multipotent, meaning they can be developed into almost any other kind of cell for any use. Emerging research also indicates that it helps activate the immune system so the body can fight disease.
Exogenous collagen, on the other hand, is derived from outside sources and is therefore synthesised or procured directly from the foods we eat. It is taken either topically, for example as an injection, or ideally as an ingested collagen peptides supplement so that collagen levels can be topped up and the benefits absorbed. Exogenous collagen works to repair bodily tissue damage, shores up cartilage and is the first line of defence for example when you burn your skin – endogenous collagen speeds up metabolism and regeneration of your outer protective layer.
More specifically, collagen is divided into many distinct genetic types, each possessing different attributes that function in certain beneficial ways for the body. While there are at least 16 types of collagen or more that are used by the body, the vast majority (up to 90%) of these are types I, II, and III. Together with types IV and V, these are the collagen types we will focus on.
Collagen Type I
This is the most predominant form of collagen, and constitutes over 90% of the organic mass of bone and is the major collagen present in your skin, ligaments, tendons, corneas, and the many different interstitial connective tissues. Type I gives tensile strength and stiffness and is therefore critical as a foundation for the body’s biomechanics. This is your skeletal system’s ability to move via muscle and connective tissue intervention, and type I collagen permits the flexibility that lets us bear weight, endure pressure, and resist.
Type I collagen forms extremely resilient fibrils, microfibre structures that are the major biomechanics scaffolding element for the body. These strands allow for the attachment of cells, thus enabling the shape and form of various tissues and structures. Type I fibrils have significant tensile strength, so much so that gram for gram they are stronger than steel. This is because the fibrils pack as a densely intertwined bundle, reinforcing each other and multiplying the overall strength (pretty cool).
Collagen Type II
This collagen is the predominant ingredient in hyaline cartilage, the cartilage tissue located at all your joints and particularly within the vertebral column. Type II, as a fibrillar collagen, is the body’s most common type of cartilage and is the substance that initially forms the skeletal structure of a growing embryo.
Bones actually first form as hyaline cartilage, then calcify later into the solid structures we know in mature adult life. Type II collagen in the hyaline cartilage is responsible for lengthening and shaping growing ‘bone’ during childhood, and the reason why young children can sustain falls with a certain ‘elastic’ rebound, absorb damage and easily ‘bend’ back into shape.
Within the spinal column, type II collagen forms much of the ‘shock absorption’ capacity as the key formative component of the nucleus pulpous of the intervertebral discs. Additionally, type II collagen forms 50% of the sclera or whites of the eye. The collagen functions as a resilient, responsive, and opaque tissue that protects the intraocular tissues while providing stable support during the many variations experienced through constant eye movement and internal pressure. If not for the supportive role type II collagen plays, the lack of flexible structure within the eye would lead to deterioration and distortion, ultimately causing blurred vision and imparting the ability of the eyes to function.
This scleral collagen has wide, well-interwoven fibrils similar to those in the skin, allowing the mechanical strength required to maintain eye shape during ocular movement while incorporating outflow channels to drain fluids and reduce pressure. In this way, type II collagen is essential for the eye function. In fact, the gradual breakdown in intraocular collagen and the corresponding lowered functionality are leading causes of myopia, or shortsightedness.
Collagen Type III
This collagen is found widely within the same tissues as type I with the exception of bone. Type III is the critical ingredient of reticular fibres, a type of fibre found in connective tissue where we can see the ‘ropes’ of collagen crosslinking to form a fine mesh. This mesh plays a major supportive role, literally surrounding some of our most vulnerable areas such as the liver, lungs, adipose tissue, bone marrow, and spleen.
Type III collagen originally forms as a procollagen, a protein consisting of three pro-alpha (III) chains that bind together to form the ‘rope’. Once this procollagen is synthesised by the body’s cells, its amino acids, lysine and proline, are changed by enzymes so that various chemicals can be added to it. This then creates a single stable molecule that can link to other molecules outside of that cell. This is how type III collagen is able to be both the protective mesh fibre ‘sacks’ around certain areas of our bodies, and how it can bind closely to and support those areas.
Collagen Type IV
This collagen is the major ingredient of basal membranes, the thin, fibrous extracellular tissue that separates the internal or exterior surface body lining from the underlying connective tissues. A simple example is the layers of the skin, and collagen type IV forms the basal lamina that gives external support to your skin cells.
However, it also does some other cool stuff.
For example, a well functioning membrane layer with undisturbed type IV collagen architecture has been shown to act as a specialised filter with selective permeability under specific conditions. It can let substances through or keep them out, depending on what you need. The basal membrane and type IV collagen play an important role in cell formation and genetics.
Equally, when your body is stressed by an internal illness or an external pressure, the structural makeup of the basal membrane can be altered, halting its ability to regulate what passes through and what is prevented. An example of this is when cancer cells prey on basal membrane weakness and disrupt cells.
This is why type IV collagen levels are incredibly important to maintain within the body. Ageing and cellular breakdown provide the weaknesses in the basal membranes that are open to exploitation from disease, so keeping type IV collagen levels primed can shore up your body’s defences.
Collagen Type V
This collagen helps build cell surfaces and is perhaps most often understood as the core ingredient of your hair. Type V also forms fibrils and occurs in similar instances as types I and II, but in lower amounts. As such, type V is the most ‘minor’ collagen player within our ECM team. It is, however, found in the same locations as types I and II, so this tells us that type V has a role as a manager of collagen fibre assembly. Type V has been shown to play a part in collagen fibril nucleation, the first step in cell organisation. Because of this, we can see it as a ‘fixer’ collagen, the one that enables other collagens around it to develop how they need to.
However, Type V does interact with other collagens and proteins, adding structural to different sorts of ‘scaffolding’ that collagen forms when it supports tissues. It also binds certain macromolecules, larger complex molecular substances such as proteins, and makes them available for use.
Additionally, because type V is less visible than other collagens, when we do see it, it can mean that illness is present. For example, liver problems such as hepatic fibrosis, when scarring occurs in the liver, are associated with seeing more type V collagen. So, if we look in the right places and keep tabs on the amount of type V there, it can help us in ‘biomarking’ or monitoring the progress of a disease.
Causes of Collagen Loss
Skin Ageing & UV
Around the age of 35-40, general bodily collagen production begins to naturally decline, and the inherent quality of your body’s remaining and produced collagen deteriorates. This is an unavoidable trajectory of the ageing process. However, there are certain factors that can directly cause collagen loss, or simply usher in more faster rates of overall loss.
UV radiation exposure in the form of excessive sunbathing, unprotected outdoor lifestyles, or exposure in areas of low ozone protection can all lead to collagen degradation. Collagen, together with elastin, is responsible for smooth, responsive, naturally rebounding skin. UV radiation via natural sunlight directly interfaces with the dermis, which in turn is comprised of 70% collagen. Skin ageing is a result of cumulative UV exposure, wherein the dermal matrix is altered via the impairment of fibroblast functionality. These are the cells in the dermis that synthesise collagen and the ECM and as such ‘manage’ the processes of repair, new growth, and wound healing.
According to research, UV radiation visibly compromises the dermis by physically elongating the shape of fibroblasts. They also lose their dynamic interaction with the surrounding collagen fibrils, resulting in a general degradation of the dermis structure. We see this manifesting as the signs of sun exposure, i.e. wrinkles and toughened skin that is less capable of reverting to its original elastic form.
This underlines the critical importance of adequate collagen levels in the skin, for it supplies a structural regulation of activity in the skin’s cell layer. Collagen ‘scaffolding’ is needed to reinforce fibroblasts, which can then function more effectively within a tightly regulated structure. Once the structure ‘loosens’, fibroblasts are less able to synthesise the collagen and the collagen levels diminish.
When you ingest pure sugars or foods that quickly convert to sugar within the digestive process, these carbohydrates are broken down into the glucose your body needs as an energy source. However, any kind of sugar ingestion will raise your insulin levels, and those levels will peak quickly in the case of refined sugar ingestion as found with soft drinks, white bread, and refined sugar in cakes and treats.
Insulin promotes the absorption of glucose into the blood via the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. It also regulates that carbohydrate metabolism to promote a measured release of glucose into the system. Processed, non-naturally occurring sugars spike insulin production instead of slow releasing, and that rapid sugar high expresses itself in an inflammatory system overload. This literal inflammation generates enzymes that degrade both collagen and elastin in the skin, leading to dermal structural decline and wrinkles or sagging.
Simple carbohydrates are the main culprits, as they are high-glycemic and induce spike-related degradation of collagen. Therefore, a diet that favours complex carbohydrates, such as those found in naturally occurring grains, vegetables, fruits, and quality meat or fish sources is preferable as it supplies slower release sugars and less insulin reactivity.
On top of this, if you are not consuming enough collagen forming foods which include amino acids such as proline and glycine your body will struggle with its collagen production. Poor diet can also lead to deficiencies in vitamin C and copper with low levels of both being linked to poor collagen production.
Leading a hectic, overstressed lifestyle is also a key contributor to collagen loss. Several studies have correlated the release of glucocorticoids (GC), a stress hormone, with visible degradation in skin collagen levels.
Additionally, a critical indicator of the effects of stress on collagen levels is the state of regulation of the circadian cortisol/corticosterone rhythm. This is basically which hormones your body releases each day and night to naturally pep you up for action or calm you down for rest. As stress starts to prevent you from sleeping and messes with your routine, this tinkering is registered by a corticotropin-releasing factor, activated to the point where GC is released. Because GC affects skin quality via immune system control, a little short-term protective GC activity may only have moderate effects. However, if you are severely stressed for longer periods of time then this GC release will start to negatively affect all tissues, and will at the same time start to accelerate the breakdown of collagen.
Chronic, unrelieved stress can also lead you to mismanage the quality of what you eat, how you eat it, and when. This, in turn, can take you down the path of reduced nutrition. Stress causes lapses in habits and reaching for that bag of chips or other highly processed convenience food means you’re not opting for the high-quality, slow-release complex foods that are more reliable sources of collagen.
Collagen provides a physical barrier within the skin that prevents water loss, and as evaporation from the epidermis is reduced the skin will remain in tone and brightness longer, looking younger. Equally, that very water retention, or hydration, is critical in stabilising the collagen within the dermal layer.
Collagen and all connective tissues are approximately 60-70% water by weight. This means that the proteins and water form a continuous matrix in which performance is enabled.
Reduction of water levels can happen through insufficient hydration, excessively hot water immersion in baths or showers, or simply via ambient exposure to heat. The results on the skin and collagen levels are similar to those experienced with UV overexposure. Short-term dehydration can be effectively treated, but longer-term patterns of dehydration will result in skin damage through insufficiently hydrated collagen/fibroblast interaction and a reduction of your overall system efficiency.
Cracked skin, loss of visible skin gloss, and dry or itchy patches all indicate dehydration and the breakdown of collagen.
Premature ageing is firmly linked to habitual smoking, and it also exerts a negative impact on wound, skin, and tissue healing factors. This means a direct effect on the ability of collagen to be synthesised correctly within the fibroblasts and a reduction in the quality of collagen output.
Research has been conducted that illustrates how smokers face greater difficulties when recuperating from wounds and postoperative complications. In summary, persistent smoking reduces the body’s ability to effectively oxygenate tissues and also generates a heightened inflammatory response to injury. Both of these factors are naturally critical to the healing process, so smoking contributes to the body’s inability to function at the speed and effectiveness that it should.
The inflammatory response increases the release of collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down peptide bonds in collagen. Smokers also possess a smaller systemic vitamin C pool, so the body’s natural healing factor is reduced.
In short, habitual smoking holds back the body’s ability to function at optimal speed and functionality. By directly reducing oxygenation, it prevents oxygen from reaching the cells, so it prevents robust cellular activity and therefore limits effective tissue repair through new collagen generation. Remember back when we were inside the cells producing collagen? Well, cells need Vitamin C to use in the process, and since we now know that smokers tend to have less Vitamin C, it makes sense that smokers heal slower than non-smokers. Whether wound-related or general skin maintenance, smoking is bad news for optimal collagen activity.
For all the factors that lead to collagen loss, one common strategy is apparent that will fight them all. This is simply to ensure you regulate your intake of collagen-forming nutritional components to optimise your body’s ability to synthesise collagen. Whether this is a via a natural spectrum of appropriate foods, or combined with a targeted supplement programme, both approaches will fight the effects of collagen loss.
Natural Collagen Food Sources (Bio-hack Your Collagen Production)
As mentioned, a healthy, diverse diet means your body will have everything it needs to build collagen. And that means the right spectrum of amino acids. Here are the top food sources for getting more amino acids which form collagen in your daily diet:
Okay. Lemons or any other citrus fruit don’t contain collagen. But remember, your body needs Vitamin C to kick-start the collagen production process within your cells. A lemon water first thing, grapefruit for breakfast, or a citrus dressing on your lunch salad. Keep that Vitamin C coming!
Boil bones, ligaments, and tendons down for a while and collagen is directly released. Bone broth is rich in type I collagen and can come from whichever meat source you choose. Beef is best for skin and overall health, while chicken and fowl have more type II for joints.
Similarly, if you keep boiling down those connective tissues you’ll find gelatin. And gelatin is collagen in its long chain fibrous form. You can use dried, powdered gelatin as an additive, though ensure you look for quality animal sources.
Boiled, fried, scrambled, or however you take ‘em, eggs are great for your joints as they contain collagen within the yolk. Additionally, eggs provide sulphur, and this aids liver detoxification, which in turn helps your liver not interfere by breaking down existing collagen in your body.
White fish (such as cod) is loaded with glycine and proline, both key building blocks of collagen. While collagen is present in the fish, it’s better to boil down the bones, skin, and scales, the whole fish, to derive optimal collagen benefits from it. Wild salmon is also an excellent zinc source, something that helps activate the proteins required for collagen synthesis in your cells.
A wide variety of meats including beef, beef liver, chicken, turkey and other meats contain a wide variety of amino acids such as proline, glycine, hydroxyproline, alanine, isoleucine and methionine (+ Many more)
Here is a list of some of the amino acids and cofactors you need to naturally make more collagen in your body (this method proves effective up until 35)
Supplementing with Collagen
So, what are the best ways to incorporate the benefits of collagen in your diet? Well, you could go ahead and consume large quantities of the above-mentioned natural source products to procure your collagen. And sure, chicken soup really does hit the mark when it comes to a simple, bioavailable form of collagen uptake.
However, to really make the best use of the natural sources as described, collagen supplements are the optimal choice. This is because they are the by-product of several well-structured industries, and collagen supplements are formulated to provide the readily available shorter collagen peptide chains that your body can most effectively uptake to benefit all relevant tissues where collagen is required.
If we opt for dietary amino acids, then we have the very basic building blocks of what we eventually need to produce; namely collagen. Ingesting amino supplements means starting at square one by insisting your body go through the complete cellular protein synthesis process to eventually produce collagen fibrils. Given the relative simplicity and similarity of animal-derived collagen products, it makes sense to take full advantage of such materials that are exactly what the human body also requires.
In short, nutrition will, of course, give you the raw materials to manufacture the glue, but a supplement gives your body the glue directly.
And of course, readily available collagen supplements mean you can access an immediate solution to real-time health concerns, whether they be organs, bodily tissues, or in supporting healthy skin to quickly elevate your body’s collagen levels and performance.
On the one hand, we have amino acid supplements which provide the very basics and require time and energy to build up to useable collagen. On the other hand, we have fully developed long chain collagen sources, such as eating animal products, which then require us to strip down the collagens for bodily use. In between, we have ‘bio-available collagen’, ‘hydrolysed collagen’, ‘collagen hydrolysate’, and ‘collagen peptides’. So, perhaps the only problem with this ‘middle ground’ solution of fully available collagen products is one of potential confusion.
But the truth is that all these terms mean the same thing. They all offer small collagen chains extracted from animal tissues, and collagen peptides are provided to you in a form that is the most readily usable method to let your body optimise the many benefits of healthy collagen levels.
What are Collagen Peptides?
Well, we’ve been through the various animal sources to derive the collagen types, but what exactly are we talking about?
A ‘peptide’ is simply a single, short, linear chain of at least two or more amino acids linked by peptide (amide) bonds. A protein, on the other hand, consists of one or more polypeptides, or peptide chains with around 50 amino acids in them. Therefore, we distinguish peptides from proteins based on size. And, at their core, both peptides and proteins are units of the same thing; amino acids.
So amino acids are the super basic building blocks. Peptides are bundles of amino acids. Lots of peptides bunch together to make macromolecular substances, more complex things like proteins.
Peptides are the ‘in-between’ quotient, the ‘missing link’ that can take an inventory of chemicals and organise it into useful things the body needs. In fact, peptides may be the critical step between basic chemistry and the structures that made life when everything formed out of the ooze way back at the beginning.
Collagen peptides, therefore, are the most comprehensively bio-available form of collagen you can find. The break down to the basics, or build up to the complex. This means all the collagen benefits, packaged at just the right stage, to deliver maximum impact.
What are the Main Sources of Collagen Peptides?
Collagen comes from several sources, but according to the somewhat eloquent summary by one research team:
‘Collagen is a fibrous structural protein present in the extracellular matrix and connective tissue of animals’.
So, collagen is to be found within the animal kingdom. This means within humans, animals, fish, and birds. Unlike other dietary supplements such as protein, collagen is not found in plants. Depending on the components of the animals we choose, the collagen types will also differ. For example, skin contains predominantly types I and II, whereas connective tendons are only type I. Cartilage, on the other hand, provides type II collagen.
As far as commercial sources are concerned, collagen is commonly procured from the following:
Bovine Collagen Peptides
Types of Collagen Found: I, II, III, IV
Ability of Body to Use: 10/10
Research Level: Heavily Research
Main Limitation: Market Saturated in Grain-fed bovine peptides (cut costs) – Make sure its grass-fed.
Rating of Collagen Source: 5 Stars
Generally, the skin, bone and hyde of the cow is used and is rich in collagen types I and III. Since these are both the most predominant collagen types in humans, bovine hide collagen peptide sources possess a similar distribution and are seen as a close match for human-centric consumption. Cowhides are treated with a hydrolysation process, breaking down the resident collagen protein content into smaller peptide chains of readily digestible amino acids.
Bovine sources actually provide a diverse range of collagens. Achilles tendon provides type I, whereas type II comes from articular and nasal cartilage. Type IV is derived from the placental villi and various collagen matrices are obtained to develop important wound healing solutions, provide reinforcement materials, and for major use in reconstructive or plastic surgery techniques.
Bovine collagen is also extremely rich in glycine and proline, making it an attractive option due to the multiple health benefits of these amino acids. Glycine minimises fatigue and can contribute to better sleep, while proline is an essential component of skin collagen protein synthesis when healing skin damaged by UV radiation exposure.
A significant benefit of bovine sources is the traceability factor. Cowhides can be accurately sourced from differing circumstances, so are available as the by-product of the grass-fed beef industry versus the conventional beef sector, for example. This means full transparency in sourcing collagen from the humane beef sector if so required.
Additionally, bovine collagen has wide availability due to the breadth of the beef industry.
Marine Collagen Peptides
Types of collagen Found: I
Ability of Body to Use: 5/10
Research Level: Growing Research
Main Limitation: Only Contains Type 1 Collagen
Rating of Collagen Source: 3 Stars
Discarded fish bones and scales provided a collagen source that, like bovine collagen, is also rich in type I, glycine, and proline. Generally, marine collagen is almost exclusively type I, so the spectrum of collagen availability is slightly more limited than bovine sources.
Marine collagen is derived in the same manner as with bovine, so the fish skin, scales, and bones are all hydrolysed to extract shorter peptide chains of amino acids to be used in supplement products.
Certain marine sourcing options offer solid benefits in terms of environmental sustainability. For example, the fish parts used are all ‘waste’ products, and if sourced from sustainable fisheries or the wild, there can be a minimal environmental impact from sources such as salmon. However, care should be taken to source credibly. The marine products sourcing chain is still more susceptible to unknown factors due to the nature of farming, whereas land-based sources such as bovine offer fully visible environmental inputs and feedstocks that determine a specific quality outcome in the end collagen product.
Put simply, marine collagen sources are beneficial, yet not completely manageable from a traceability at the present time.
Chicken Collagen Peptides
Types of collagen Found: I, II, III, IV, V, and IX.
Ability of Body to Use: 9/10
Research Level: Growing Research
Main Limitation: Risk of Contamination
Rating of Collagen Source: 4 Stars
The widespread availability of chicken products makes it a logical source of collagen. Specifically, chicken sternum and chicken feet provide excellent opportunities to derive quality type II collagen that have a healthy history of food use around the world.
The culturally diverse application of the chicken soup solution to the medical problem of ‘whatever ails you’ has a medical basis. The collagen present in chicken helps to invigorate the immune system and reducing inflammatory response, and boiling the chicken carcass breaks down as much of the soft (soluble) cartilage as possible to deliver benefits.
Chicken collagen also contains arginine, glutamine, glycine, and proline. However, since the primarily available collagen is only type II, it does offer a narrower spectrum of choice when compared to bovine collagen.
Chicken is a logical and extremely available collagen source, though its benefits are probably best received via real homemade chicken broth as opposed to supplements.
Porcine Collagen Peptides
Types of Collagen Found: I and III
Ability of Body to Use: 8/10
Research Level: Growing Research
Main Limitation: Heavy Metal Toxcicity Concerns
Rating of Collagen Source: 4 Stars
Pork is also widely used as a collagen source, mainly as hydrolysed pork collagen found in cosmetic products for topical skin application. You may know this also in its digestible food form as Gelatine Royal, and it has been a prescriptive component of many foods for growing children due to its potential role in enhancing bone remodelling at critical early stages of developmental growth.
Porcine collagen is generally type I and III and derived from skin, connective tissue, and hoofs. As with bovine collagen, the porcine market offers high accessibility of well-traced materials and relies on the same processes to procure specific collagen products.
Similarly, there is the argument that, since we humans share so many biological similarities with such fellow mammals, they are the aptest sources for collagen supplements. Bovine still offers the widest spectrum of collagen types, and as such is highly recommended for a comprehensive solution.
How are Collagen Peptides made?
The keyword here is ‘hydrolysed’. This is the process by which animal-derived natural collagen is broken down from insoluble collagen fibrils into the best soluble collagen peptides, thus conferring all the collagen peptide benefits without the need to either build up from the basics or deconstruct from the complex.
Collagen hydrolysate is a safe and convenient supplement that employs its specific mix of amino acids present within the collagen peptides to stimulate collagen synthesis in the ECM of your bodily tissues. Hydrolysed collagen consists of small peptides that exhibit a low molecular weight, rendering it easily digestible, while critically being even more effectively distributed within your body where it is most needed.
Collagen molecules are partly hydrolysed, or broken down via chemical reaction, to form gelatin. This is then reduced into smaller peptide chains via the use of enzymes such as proteinase that specifically cleave to produce the desired collagen peptide results. When ingested, hydrolysed collagen then has the dual effect of providing free amino acids that form the basis of new collagen and elastin fibres, while collagen peptides bind to fibroblast receptors and stimulate the production of brand new collagen.
The 7 Science-Backed Benefits of Collagen Peptides
So, what are the main collagen peptides benefits, and how can you ensure to take advantage?
1 Brain & Alzheimer’s Protection
In the last ten years, researchers have discovered that certain collagens protect brain cells against the accumulation of amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins. These are believed to be the primary causative factor leading to Alzheimer’s disease and are a variant of amino acid that clumps together to form the toxic plaque that is commonly located within the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
As collagen expression was measured in higher volumes within Alzheimer’s cases, further investigation revealed that the brain’s neurons are the cellular source of the collagen. This infers a bodily defence mechanism whereby the very cells (neurons) that Alzheimer’s targets are developing the countermeasures that may slow down the rate of disease growth.
For this reason, ample provision should be made for preparing the body to synthesise the collagens required to fight against the disease. Collagen peptides provide an ideal source.
2 Prevention and Treatment of Heart Disease
Collagen may help in lowering your cholesterol levels and preventing against heart disease. The process of atherosclerosis, in which cholesterol accumulates on the arterial walls to narrow blood flow and block heart functioning, has been problematic for researchers in that the mechanisms of how to offset arterial hardening are not well understood.
In one study, the apolipoprotein E (apoE), found in collagen, has been shown to play a key role in making arteries softer by suppressing arterial hardening (atherosclerosis). This is opening the door for new treatments to be developed that don’t need to use the whole of the HDL ‘good cholesterol’ protein, but instead simply use smaller parts of it.
In another study, participants were given collagen supplements twice a day for six months to measure the effects against arterial plaque accumulation.
The results showed a significant decrease of atherosclerotic buildup from baseline at six months, suggesting a measurable recovery of blood vessel elasticity. In effect, a softening of the arteries. Additionally, there was a noticeable reduction in the overall LDL cholesterol ratio, meaning that the ‘bad cholesterol’ had been minimised due to the influence of collagen ingestion.
3 Easing Joint & Knee Pain
Joint problems can affect us all, whether we are experienced athletes, weekend warriors, or simply working hard at jobs that don’t supply much flexibility. Running around all day or being confined to a single place of work can both exert the same effect of painful inflammation and irritation in the joints, and especially in the load bearing knee area.
Simple morning stiffness is a fact of ageing, and in most cases, it’s fine to continue exercising as this doesn’t accelerate the rate of osteoarthritic development. So what is the solution to provide relief while increasing the chances for improved joint condition and performance?
Well, a 24-week research study provides insight into how regular inputs of collagen hydrolysate (peptides) can exert a beneficial effect on cartilage tissue. Working with two athlete groups; the first group receiving daily collagen supplements and the second group placebo-controlled, the study assessed five different parameters relating to doing pain.
The results showed that through assessment of joint pain while walking, standing, running, changing direction, and resting, were skewed towards a decrease in pain for the athletes that had consumed the collagen supplements. This indicates, most promisingly, that collagen may help slow down joint pain and help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
A similarly conducted study targeted the specific incidence of osteoarthritis-related knee pain on a collagen supplemented group versus a placebo control group and discovered that knee function significantly improved by day 180 with the inclusion of type II collagen supplements.
4 Skin Elasticity Improvement
Since the addition of collagen in the form of supplements is, to an extent, simply replacing what has been lost, it may be logical to conclude that collagen does indeed promote ‘anti-ageing’ effects. However, this kind of language often deters people from seeing the real benefits of collagen. Therefore, let’s see the science speak for itself.
A randomised, double-blind placebo trial found that collagen hydrolysate, taken over an 8-week period, significantly improved skin conditions such as moisture, elasticity, wrinkles, and roughness. Two collagen compounds were used, one with a higher and one with a lower content of bioactive collagen peptides. The higher content collagen resulted in the most noticeable improvement in facial skin conditions, and both collagen formulations registered improvements over the placebo group.
This study, performed on 69 women between the ages of 35 and 55, quite remarkably showed the highest statistical skin elasticity level improvement in the most elderly women tested.
5 Improving Brittle or Broken Nails
Nails are formed from keratin, a hardened fibrous protein. Brittle nail syndrome is a common issue, occurring more often with ageing and leading to ragged nails surfaces and peeling. As such, a test was implemented to ascertain western daily collagen peptide supplementation could help to improve the symptoms of brittle nails, fortifying nails so they are no longer prone to breaking.
25 participants were given 2.5g of collagen peptides daily for 24 weeks, and the rather straight-forward results indicated an overall 42% decrease in broken nail frequency coupled with a 12% increase in nail growth. A huge 64% registered an improvement in previously brittle nails, increasing to a full 88% of total participants 4 weeks after the close of the study.
Simple, effective results.
6 Increased Metabolism
Hydrolysed collagen peptide supplements are highly bioavailable. This means you can effectively boost your collagen levels and see a concurrent boost in metabolism. Why? Because glycine is critical in converting glucose into the energy that nourishes your muscles, so ample supply results in improved changes in muscle chemistry in the presence of exercise and of course Vitamin C as a catalyst.
By optimising the way your body uses antioxidants, glycine also helps power your digestive chemistry to promote effective nutrient uptake and robust cellular development. And that helps roll back the ageing process.
7 Muscle Growth and Regeneration
Proteins are instrumental in the repair and growth cycle that follows muscle ‘damage’ during the course of structured training. Just as protein powders can be implemented at the right moment to maximise muscle recovery and regeneration, so can collagen, as a protein, exert marked effects.
A study conducted on elderly sarcopenic men, those with a degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and quality, showed that collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training actually improved body muscle composition and overall strength, while decreasing fat mass. Results were compared with a placebo group to validate outcomes.
Another research study revealed that the lack of collagen VI can, in fact, be deleterious to the potential for muscle regeneration, reducing the capability of your cells to undertake renewal following periods of injury. Equally, the lack of collagen availability due to certain genetic mutations leads directly to muscle atrophy disorders.
Are Collagen Peptides the Same as Gelatin?
The simple answer here is no. Collagen peptides and gelatin are actually not one and the same. Gelatin is simply a form of cooked collagen.
True, they are both proteins, and as such are often closely associated due to their similar benefits. For example, both are beneficial in improving skin texture and digestion while alleviating joint pain. And while both come from our bones, dermis, and connective tissues, they are not the same.
If we revisit our hydrolysation process, we can recall that in order to produce hydrolysed collagen peptides we need to take the collagen-bearing tissues and break them down chemically before introducing proteinase to ‘cleave’ the collagen down to its constituent short chained peptides. Well, gelatin production only requires the first step. Without enzyme cleaving, what’s left is a long chain of amino acids, closer to the original insoluble form of the collage-bearing material.
This is why the collagen peptides are more easily absorbed and effective than gelatin.
Which One Should I Take?
The differing processing methods result in collagen peptides and gelatin possessing uniquely different textures and therapeutic benefits, yet some similarities.
To being with, both were originally the same material from the same source, so they both possess the same amino acid profiles. These acids are all extremely beneficial anti-inflammatories, so both are ideal for reduction of bodily inflammation as part of a regular intake. Similarly, both deliver key benefits in cushioning the joints, growing new cartilage, and in containing significant glycine they strengthen your intestinal lining and help promote more restful sleep patterns.
The difference between gelatin and collagen peptides lies in the further hydrolysation of the collagen, resulting in smaller and lighter molecular short chain peptides that are simpler to digest and absorb. This could result in two benefits over gelatin, namely that the amino acids in the (more) hydrolysed collagen are more bioavailable, cause fewer digestive issues, and will act sooner than those of gelatin due to a more rapid system uptake.
In short, hydrolysed collagen peptides are the better solution for increasing your collagen levels more robustly.
Are Collagen Peptides A Better Source of Protein Than Whey/Hemp/Plant?
Whey, hemp, and pea proteins are all commonly used alternatives to collagen, and all have their own challenges when it comes to absorption and use.
Whey is derived from dairy by-products, and as such may be difficult for users with lactose intolerance. Hemp has a full amino spectrum but can be hard to digest. Pea, on the other hand, does not contain all the essential amino acids, so cannot be relied upon itself. All these options can be sprouted versions to increase the enzyme and protein contents, but they still cannot offer the comprehensive amino acid spectrum of collagen peptides together with the similarity to existing bodily substances that makes it so easily absorbed and utilised.
Additionally, collagen peptides are the result of a process that parses the original substance down to a more easily manageable substance. It is reductive. Many supplemental protein powders on the market are instead additive, relying on processed sugar derivatives, wholly artificial flavourings, and xanthan gum to stabilise the powder matrix.
When it comes to collagen peptides vs. protein powders, collagen peptides are a simpler, more preferable form of bioavailable proteins.
Do I Need Collagen Peptides If I Use Bone Broth
Why not have both is what i will say on this. While Bone Broth does contain collagen and many of the amino acids which make up collagen, it does not contain a concentrated punch like what you would find in a collagen peptides supplement. However, Bone Broth does contain other nutrients which collagen does not which makes it the perfect partner in crime. For example, it contains:
- Glycosaminoglycans Glucosamine(GAG)
- Hyaluronic Acid
If you are curious what the benefits of bone broth are, you can check out this article outlining the 51 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Best Collagen Peptides: What To Look For in a Premium Supplement
A simple direction to take is to look for grass-fed bovine collagen. Studies indicate that these cows have higher beta-carotene levels that grain-fed cows, and as this is a precursor to Vitamin A production you will have greater access to the vitamin that does most to promote healthy skin and mucous membranes, which in turn bolster collagen.
Don’t accept anything that provides less than 10g of pure, grass-fed hydrolysed collagen peptides per serving, as this is the ideal daily dose to ensure great skin, joint and bone health.
A high quality collagen supplement will look something like this:
A high quality collagen supplement will also provide you with the breakdown of the amino acids it contains. An added extra to look for is a a high level of glycine per serve which is a good indication of a high quality peptides mix. It will look something like this:
How to Take Collagen Peptides?
Collagen Peptides can be used in a variety of different and yummy ways. Given its structure, it can blend in all liquids and even meals without you noticing.
- Plain Water (Collagen Peptides dissolve in any type of liquid)
- Healthy Smoothies (make broccoli sprouts a staple in all your smoothies – read about the benefits here)
- Tea (peppermint or liquorice root teat is best for keeping your gut happy)
- Your favourite nut milk (almond milk, macadamia milk)
- Bone Broth (for added collagen powder)
- Detox Drinks (can be mixed with detox powders like diatomaceous earth)
- You can add it to your eggs (scrambled, poached)
Dosage, Safety, and Collagen Peptide Side Effects
How Much Should You Take?
Follow the 10g/per day rule, but don’t worry if you wish to go higher. There are no mandated highest doses, but maybe it’s most pragmatic to simply follow the general directions on the package.
When Should You Take Collagen Peptides?
The beauty of collagen peptides is that they do not need to conform to a schedule in the way that other supplements, such as protein powders, may do. Take your collagen peptides in your tea or in a breakfast smoothie.
Are Collagen Peptides Vegetarian or Vegan-Friendly?
No. Collagen is derived from animal sources, and bovine collagen peptides are of course from cows. As such, collagen is not compatible with either a vegetarian or a vegan diet.
Are Collagen Peptides Safe During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding?
As there has been no definitive research undertaken as yet on the safety of taking collagen supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding, there is no information to provide. If in doubt, consult your doctor.