The Problem with Collagen Supplements: 7 Important Things to Know Before Buying

Updated on May 21, 2024

Collagen is one of the most popular nutritional supplements—and for good reason.

Studies have found evidence linking collagen supplementation to maintaining the health of your joints, bones, hair, skin, nails, and more. Now, in 2024, the natural supplement market is flooded with every variation of collagen product imaginable—all boasting impressive anti-aging results.

But before you go adding just any collagen powder into your coffee or smoothies, there are several critical factors that impact its effectiveness (and safety). 

In this article, we’ll cover what collagen is, its role in your body (especially as you age), and how to choose the best collagen supplement.

Table Of Contents

What Is Collagen, Anyway?

Collagen is a fibrous protein that makes up one-third of the total protein in your body. It's considered to be the "glue" that holds your body together: serving as the primary building block for bones, joints, muscles, skin, hair, nails, and more. In fact, the word “collagen” comes from the Greek word kólla, meaning glue. 

Unfortunately, the laws of aging eventually begin to take their toll…

Starting in your mid-twenties, your natural collagen production begins to decline by one percent each year. Research indicates that by the age of 40, the body’s ability to produce collagen decreases by 25%. By age 60, it has decreased by over 50% (1). This natural decline can be accelerated by exposure to UV light, smoking, and a diet high in sugar.

Since collagen is what keeps skin supple, bones strong, and joints lubricated, its decline can lead to an array of frustrating symptoms…

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Low Collagen Levels: What Are the Signs?

How can you tell if you have low collagen levels? The most common symptoms of low collagen levels include:

  1. Debilitating Joint Pain
  2. Loss of Mobility
  3. Muscle Aches
  4. Osteopenia or Osteoporosis
  5. Muscle Weakness
  6. Leaky Gut
  7. Hollowing of Eyes and Face
  8. Problems With Blood Flow
  9. Cellulite
  10. Wrinkling

Stopping the Decline of Collagen Production

“The good news is that collagen is restorable. This is perhaps the biggest pain-relief breakthrough I’ve seen in my patients.” explains Dr. Chad Walding, Doctor of Physical Therapy and NativePath Co-Founder.

You can’t halt collagen loss completely, but you can support your body’s production of collagen to help mitigate chronic joint and muscle pain. 

Research shows that collagen is damaged by exposure to ultraviolet light, so wearing sunscreen regularly is important in slowing the breakdown of collagen in the skin (2). 

Though it’s possible to obtain extra collagen through diet (consuming animal products such as gelatinous meats, the cartilage on bones such as chicken drumsticks, and skin from poultry), it's difficult to eat enough to support the body’s requirements. 

Thankfully, there’s a much more appealing way to get your daily dose of collagen without having to eat a bunch of chicken skin. According to doctors and anti-aging experts, supplementing your diet with high-quality collagen peptides can have a dramatic effect on increasing collagen levels.

That said, there are three important things to know when shopping for a collagen supplement…

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Quick Guidelines for Buying a Collagen Supplement

Collagen supplements have saturated the consumer marketplace, but they’re not all created equal. It’s important to understand the different types of collagen, sources, and health benefits associated with the most important types.

1. Type 1 & Type 3 Collagen

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Did you know that there are 28 distinct varieties of collagen (6)?

However, 90% of the collagen in your body is comprised of only Types 1, 2, and 3 (7).

Type 1 collagen is primarily found in your skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular system, and organs. Type 2, although abundant, is found only in your cartilage (6). Type 3 is found in your skin, muscles, and blood vessels. 

Pure Grass-Fed NativePath Collagen Sourced from Happy, Healthy Cows

Supplementing with all three types of collagen seems best, but studies show that Type 2 inhibits the absorption of Type 1 and Type 3 (8). The ideal collagen supplement contains only Types 1 and 3 collagen.

Type 1 collagen positively impacts (9, 10, 5, 3, 11):

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Skin health (anti-aging)
  • Bone mineral density
  • Bone strength

Type 3 collagen positively impacts (5, 12, 13):

  • Skin health (anti-aging)
  • The health of blood vessels
  • Organ health (liver, kidney, lungs, heart)

Many companies market their collagen as “multi-collagen”, boasting that it contains several collagen types in one. Don’t be fooled: these added collagen fibers are filler fibers that take away the effectiveness of the more potent fibers like Type 1 and 3.

2. Certified Grass-Fed & Non-GMO

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Collagen supplements can come from a variety of sources like bovine (cow), marine (fish), and even vegan options (yeast) (14). When it comes to bovine collagen, it’s essential that it’s grass-fed bovine.

Grass-fed cows are cows raised without antibiotics and hormones, and never fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (15).

Conventional beef is pumped with all kinds of chemicals like growth hormones (rBGH and rBST) and antibiotics that you shouldn’t be ingesting every day. 95% cows in the U.S. that are not 100% grass-fed are fed GMO corn (16). 

To avoid these potential contaminants in your bovine collagen supplement, always look for “grass-fed” along with “non-GMO” on the label.

3. Serving Size of 10 Grams or More

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While there’s no set dosage for collagen, studies have confirmed that a 10 gram serving is ideal for your daily dose (17).

That said, there are several collagen supplements out there that offer a measly 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen per serving—barely enough to offer the transformational benefits that so many are after when taking collagen. (This is especially true for liquid collagen supplements.)

We recommend taking at least 10-20 grams of collagen peptides per day—and that’s if you’re just wanting to maintain collagen levels. If you’re 50 years old and just starting collagen, we recommend taking 40 grams of collagen for 8 weeks to replenish the collagen that you’ve lost over the years. And then lowering your daily dose back down to 20 grams.

Some research suggests that 2.5 to 5 grams is enough to notice changes in cellulite and skin elasticity, but not for more serious issues like sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging), osteoporosis, or activity-related joint pain (18, 19, 20, 2).

Symptoms of leaky gut include constipation, diarrhea, brain fog, fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and an impaired immune system.

NativePath Collagen container with a French Press and coffee cup in the background

Look & Feel Younger, Longer.

Restore your body’s natural collagen levels with NativePath Collagen Peptides so you can look and feel younger.

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4. “Hydrolysate”, “Hydrolyzed”, or “Peptides” on the Label

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Hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides both mean the same thing: that the collagen has gone through a process that breaks it down into smaller, ready-to-absorb amino acids that can easily be soaked up by your body. Put simply, collagen peptides require much less effort from your digestion and guarantees a more potent dose of collagen (6).

Non-hydrolyzed collagen, on the other hand, requires your digestive enzymes to work harder. 

The easiest way to tell if a collagen powder is truly hydrolyzed is if it doesn’t clump when you add it to coffee, tea, or water.

5. No Artificial or Chemical Ingredients

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The first thing you should do with any food, beverage, or supplement product is look at the ingredient label.

Many companies will throw in unnecessary filler ingredients like artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and more.

When it comes to artificial sweeteners, many companies will offer a “sugar-free” product, yet add harmful sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose.

When buying a collagen supplement, look for natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. These come from plants and have the added benefit of acting as antioxidants in your body (25, 26).

6. No Added Sugar

Added sugars are everywhere. And the last place you need them are in your health supplements. As previously mentioned, stevia and monk fruit offer the sweetness of sugar—without the calories or blood sugar spike.

7. Allergen-Free

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Another reason to take a look at the ingredient label on your collagen is to ensure that it's free of potential allergens. Ingredients like dairy, gluten, and soy are signs of cheap fillers that should be avoided.

NativePath Collagen container with a French Press and coffee cup in the background

Look & Feel Younger, Longer.

Restore your body’s natural collagen levels with NativePath Collagen Peptides so you can look and feel younger.

Add to Cart

The Bottom Line

Collagen is the glue that holds your body together. The breakdown of collagen happens naturally with age, but is accelerated by exposure to UV light, smoking, and a diet high in sugar. Consuming pure, grass-fed, Type 1 and 3 collagen fibers that are fully hydrolyzed for fast absorption will give your body a huge advantage when it comes to minimizing joint pain and reducing visible signs of aging.

Every scoop of NativePath Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides is consistently formulated with 10 grams of the highest-quality hydrolyzed, grass-fed, Type 1 and Type 3 collagen. Three things that are critical for maintaining the youthful function and appearance of skin, hair, nails, joints, bones, muscles, and more.

Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
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Dr. Chad Walding, DPT

Dr. Chad Walding is the Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer at NativePath. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a passion for helping people eat, move, and live in harmony with their natural state.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    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.

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