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Updated September 13, 2021
7 Important Things To Look For In a Collagen Supplement
Mention collagen 10 years ago and very few people would know what you’re talking about.
Now, collagen is a household name.
Its popularity has increased exponentially in the last decade, with people—specifically women—flocking to it in hopes of reversing signs of aging (think: crepe-like skin, skin rips, thinning hair, achy joints).
They’re not stopping, either. By 2027, the collagen market is expected to be a 76.08 billion dollar industry (1).
I won’t get into all of collagen’s juicy benefits here (you can check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about collagen).
To give you a bit of context, collagen is a crucial component of your skin, bones, connective tissue, and more.
It repairs and rejuvenates several tissues and systems in your body, with research confirming its supportive role in skin anti-aging, bone mineral density, joint health, gut health, and more (2, 3, 4, 5).
With the collagen craze in full swing, it can be hard to decipher a good collagen supplement from a bad collagen supplement.
7 Things to Look for in Your Collagen Supplements
A word from the wise: Not all collagen is created equal.
Before you toss that container of collagen into your shopping cart, there are 7 things to consider...
1. Look for Type 1 and Type 3 Collagen
Did you know that there are 28 different types of collagen (6)?
Although there are 28 types, 90% of the collagen in your body is made up of either Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3 (7).
Type 1 collagen is primarily found in your skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular system, and organs while Type 3 is found in your skin, muscles, and blood vessels. Type 2, although abundant, is found only in your cartilage (6).
While it may seem like supplementing with all three types (1, 2, and 3) would be optimal, research shows that when you add Type 2 to the mix, it can inhibit the absorption of Type 1 and Type 3 (8).
Therefore, the ideal formula would contain only Types 1 and 3 collagen.
What’s more, Type 1 and Type 3 collagen are the main constituents of the interstitial matrix (i.e. the material that fills the space between your cells).
So when you add these two types of collagen to your diet, they will positively impact multiple systems...
- Skin health (anti-aging)
- Bone mineral density
- Bone strength
- Skin Health (anti-aging)
- The health of blood vessels
- Organ health (liver, kidney, lungs, heart)
Beware that many companies market their collagen as “multi-collagen”, explaining that it contains several collagen types in one.
This may seem like you’re getting the most bang for your buck, but many of the collagen fibers included are filler fibers that may actually be taking away from the effectiveness of the more potent fibers like Type 1 and 3.
2. Make Sure It's Certified Grass-Fed and Non-GMO
Do you know where your collagen is sourced from?
Collagen supplements can be sourced from porcine (pigs), bovine (beef), chicken, fish (marine), or as a vegan option—genetically modified yeast and bacteria (14).
When it comes to bovine collagen, it’s essential that it’s grass-fed bovine.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is conventional beef…
Conventional beef is pumped with all kinds of chemicals that you definitely don’t want to be ingesting every day.
Hormones like rBGH and rBST (also known as growth hormones) and antibiotics are regularly used in conventional agriculture.
Whatsmore, most cows in the U.S. that are not 100% grass-fed are fed GMO corn (16). To avoid these potential contaminants in your collagen supplement, always look for “grass-fed” along with “non-GMO” on the label.
3. Serving Size of 10 Grams or More
While there’s no set dosage for collagen, many clinical studies recommend 10 grams or more.
When browsing different collagen brands, take note of the serving size. Many brands will offer a “30 serving container”, with a serving size of only 2.5 grams or 5 grams.
In short, purchasing a collagen supplement that considers a serving size to be 5 grams will net you half the amount of collagen as a supplement that offers a 10-gram serving size.
Scientific studies have analyzed collagen doses between 2.5 grams to 15 grams, confirming that a 10-gram serving is the sweet spot for your daily dose (17).
To be fair, some research suggests that 2.5 to 5 grams is enough to notice changes in cellulite and skin elasticity, but not for issues like sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging), osteoporosis, or activity-related joint pain (18, 19, 20, 2).
4. Look for “Hydrolysate”, “Hydrolyzed”, or “Peptides” on the Label
“Hydrolyzed” collagen and “peptide” collagen both mean that the collagen has gone through a manufacturing process that breaks it down into smaller, ready-to-absorb amino acids that can easily be soaked up by your body.
Non-hydrolyzed collagen requires your digestive enzymes to go to work whereas hydrolyzed collagen requires much less effort from your digestion and guarantees a more potent dose of collagen (6).
Another perk of hydrolyzed collagen: Its high antioxidant capacities due to its lower molecular weight (21, 22, 23). With oxidation being one of the primary factors in aging, this further confirms the link between collagen and its anti-aging benefits (24).
From a practical perspective, hydrolyzed collagen is also more dissolvable in liquids, meaning it doesn’t clump up like non-hydrolyzed collagen.
NativeTip: The easiest way to tell if a collagen powder is truly hydrolyzed is if it doesn’t clump when you add it to your water, tea, coffee, or smoothies.
5. No Artificial or Chemical Ingredients
The first thing you should do with any food, beverage, or supplement product is look at the ingredient label.
Many companies will throw in filler ingredients that either add (artificial) flavor, color, or assist in the product's solubility.
When you plan on taking a supplement daily, it’s crucial to be confident and well-informed about every ingredient on the label.
One type of chemical additive to keep an eye out for is artificial sweeteners. Many companies want to offer a sugar-free product that still has a nice flavor, so they go for cheap artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose.
6. No Added Sugar
Added sugars are everywhere. You don’t need them in your health supplements, too.
Watch out for sneaky added sugar in collagen supplements. As previously mentioned, stevia and monk fruit act as terrific stand-ins for sugar, and they come with their own health benefits.
Another reason to take a look at the ingredient label on your collagen is to ensure that it's free of potential allergens. There’s no reason to add in ingredients like dairy, gluten, and soy unless they’re coming from cheap fillers.
Again, the purity of your collagen supplement depends on the quality of the collagen itself AND the other ingredients added.
The Bottom Line
If you’re considering adding collagen to your dietary regimen, there are plenty of reasons to go for it. From skin to bone to gut health and more—this crucial nutrient can support your body in a myriad of ways.
But before you run out and buy the first collagen supplement you see, it’s vital to understand what to look for.
When searching for a collagen supplement, ask the questions:
- What type of collagen does it include? Type 1 and Type 3 are optimal.
- What is the source of collagen? Grass-fed bovine is the way to go.
- What is the serving size? Most research supports 10 grams of collagen per day.
- How is it processed? Hydrolyzed collagen is by far the most bioavailable.
- What other ingredients does it include? Artificial sweeteners, allergens, added sugar, fillers, and other chemical compounds all take away from the value of your collagen supplement.
Choose wisely so that you can see (and feel) the extraordinary benefits that high-quality collagen has to offer.
Dr. Chad Walding
As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped millions of people improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #OnThePath.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.