What is Collagen?
Chinese women have been using collagen for centuries. Americans are expected to spend nearly $300 million on collagen products this year alone. So what is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body. This fibrous, structural protein is a major building block of connective tissues. Think of it like the body’s scaffolding. The glue that holds our tissues together.
Tissues such as skin, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, hair, and nails are particularly rich in collagen. It is what keeps skin supple, hair glowing, nails and bones strong, and allows you to hit that yoga pose.
Our bodies produce collagen from amino acids building blocks using vitamin C. Due to aging, chronic health issues, exposure to environmental toxins, lifestyle choices, or genetic disorders, collagen production in the body may decline and be less than optimal. This can lead to a host of health issues, including joint pain, reduced bone and muscle mass, poor gut health, and weak nails.
Thankfully, this can be slowed or even reversed with collagen supplementation. It’s little wonder collagen is catching the health world by storm.
What are the Benefits of Collagen Supplementation?
Collagen is a safe and effective way to reap some impressive health benefits. Just a few of the proven benefits of collagen include:
- Improving skin health and appearance – Consuming collagen stimulates the body’s production of collagen in skin tissues. This leaves you looking younger and healthier. Several studies have found collagen supplementation to markedly slow the effects of aging and improve skin health. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Relieving joint pain – Collagen consumption protects and maintains the health of joint cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. The collagen you consume accumulates in joint cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. In response, the body boosts its production of collagen in these tissues. This increase in collagen improves joint health and effectively relieves joint pain. (6, 7, 8, 9)
- Preventing bone loss – While we don’t often think of our bones as being rich in connective tissue, they are made up mostly of collagen. Collagen gives bones their structure and strength. A lack of collagen can lead to loss of bone mass. Increasing your collagen intake can help you maintain healthy bones and even increase bone mineral density. (10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
- Improving gut health – This is a key benefit for those of us struggling with leaky gut. Collagen is a superfood when it comes to helping heal leaky gut. It helps restore proper function to the gut wall and those all-important tight junctions. The anti-inflammatory effects of collagen really boost its gut-healing abilities. Inflammation goes hand-in-hand with leaky gut. Reduce inflammation, heal the gut. (15, 16)
- Enhancing muscle mass – Collagen makes up to 10% of our muscle tissue. This makes it important for maintaining both your muscle strength and function. Consuming collagen, along with exercise, stimulates the growth of new muscle tissue. No wonder it’s popular with fitness enthusiasts. (17, 18)
- Supporting cardiovascular health – Without enough collagen, cardiovascular tissues can become weak and stiff. This can lead to life-threatening complications, such as heart attack and stroke. Collagen is necessary to support the strength and flexibility of blood vessels. This improves markers of cardiovascular health. (19, 20)
- Increasing hair and nail growth – Increasing collagen consumption can leave you with stronger nails and faster hair growth. Beauty starts on the inside with the right nutrition. (21)
Is All Collagen the Same?
There are at least 16 different types of collagen in the human body. The most prolific are Types 1, 2, and 3, comprising 80-90% of the collagen in the body. These types are also most commonly found in collagen supplements. Each type plays a specific role in the body.
What are the Different Types of Collagen?
This is the most abundant type of collagen found in the human body. It is also the strongest form of collagen, which makes it a major component in the structure of bone, skin, tendons, ligaments, eyes, and even teeth. It is an excellent choice for those looking to maintain or enhance muscle mass, strengthen eyes, and promote bone health and density. (22)
Type I collagen is most famous for its ability to improve the health and appearance of skin by reducing signs of aging and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. Skin elasticity, moisture, and smoothness are also greatly improved with this type of collagen supplementation. (23)
This is also the type of collagen for hair growth to give you stronger, thicker locks and nails. If this is what you’re after, collagen can be stacked with biotin, a B vitamin known for its positive effects on hair and nails, to maximize their beauty boosting power together.
There is a great deal of overlap between Type I and Type III collagen, and many collagen supplements will contain both in some ratio, especially if it comes from beef collagen. Marine collagen contains high concentrations of Type I collagen with minimal amounts of Type III.
Type I collagen from marine sources is especially beneficial for healing the lining of the gut. It does this by protecting against dysfunction of the tight junctions of the epithelial lining of the intestines. (24)
Because Type I collagen is so important for skin structure and elasticity, it is the most important type of collagen for wound healing. It helps to improve the quality of the healing tissues and reduce the effects of scar tissue.
Type II collagen is the type of collagen in cartilage tissue, making it the most important type of collagen for joints, ligaments, and tendons. Cartilage is the firm connective tissue that forms the smooth, gliding joint surfaces and protects the bones in these high-friction areas. (25)
It is also a central feature of many structural features like the nose, ears, eyes, spinal disks, and ribcage.
Cartilage deterioration and injury is the source of much joint pain. Collagen has been proven to relieve joint pain. As mentioned above, when you supplement with collagen, it accumulates in the joint cartilage stimulating tissue regeneration. The increased presence of collagen stimulates the body to produce more of its own collagen. As a result, the cartilage quality and health in the joint is improved, improving function and reducing pain. Supplementing with Type II collagen may even help prevent pain and inflammation from starting in the first place.
Type III collagen is the second most abundant form of collagen in the body. This collagen type is usually found alongside Type I collagen in tissues. Type III collagen is important for organ function, such as in the intestines, lungs, liver, kidneys, blood vessels, and heart. (26)
Alongside Type I, Type III collagen is a very beneficial type of collagen for gut health and skin elasticity. It is also crucial in the health and function of blood vessels and heart tissues. Deficiency of Type III collagen is associated with increased risk of ruptured blood vessels and reduced lifespan as a result. (27)
Types of Collagen and Their Sources
Different types of collagen will be found in different sources. Beef (bovine) and fish (marine) are two of the most popular and common.
Bovine collagen comes from the skin, bones, and other tissues of cows. It is a rich source of both Type I and Type III collagen. If you deal with sensitivities to fish, bovine collagen is a clear choice.
Marine collagen comes from the scales and bones of fish and has a high concentration of Type I collagen. Marine collagen is smaller in size, making it easier to digest when consumed. If sensitivity to beef is a concern, then marine collage is certainly the better choice.
While bone broth sourced collagen contains all three types of collagen, it is a good source of Type II collagen since it concentrates on the inclusion of cartilage tissue where this type of collagen is found.
Increasing your collagen levels should always come through diet first. Look to your diet to add delicious collagen-rich sources to your meal plan.
Bone broth makes a delicious base for all kinds of soups and stews, and making your own is easy and cost-effective. Include lots of skin-on fish and poultry in your diet as fish scales and poultry skin are rich in collagen.
Eating a good variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day will help ensure the body has a good supply of micronutrients. Micronutrient cofactors like vitamins C, E, and A and minerals like iron, copper, and zinc help your body build healthy collagen.
A clean, nutrient-dense diet provides the ideal base onto which you can add a quality collagen supplement to enjoy collagen’s many benefits.
What Type of Collagen Do I Need?
What type of collagen you should take will depend on what your goals are for collagen supplementation.
If you are looking to improve skin health and appearance or keep your bones strong, Type I or a combination of Types I and III will be what you want to look at.
If you are looking to address or prevent joint pain and inflammation, then you will want to be sure your collagen supplement includes Type II collagen.
If you are wanting to improve your gut health, you will want to be sure to include Types I and III in your collagen supplementation to help keep those tight junctions functioning well. Including Type II could also be a good idea for its inflammation-fighting benefits.
Which Collagen Supplement is Best?
No matter which collagen supplement you take, it is important to ensure your collagen is free from unnecessary additives. These can be detrimental to your health. You also want collagen sourced from animals who lived healthy, natural lives. Bovine collagen should be from pastured animals and marine collagen should be sourced from wild-caught fish.
Cattle raised conventionally eat a diet high in feeds treated with glyphosate. Due to the molecular similarities between glyphosate and glycine (an amino acid found in collagen), glyphosate can be incorporated into collagen in the body. This can contribute to significant health issues. Avoid collagen sourced from farmed fish if you take marine collagen. (28)
Do your own research. Support companies that have high standards for their collagen as well as for the animals from which they source it. Our Collagen Plus Topical Patch is absorbed topically through the skin and is latex, gluten and sugar free. Since it is a topical patch, no need to worry about off-putting flavors or texture here!