How To Choose a Collagen Supplement

10 Things To Look For In Your Collagen Supplement

By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
November 3rd, 2020

 

The popularity of collagen supplements has been steadily increasing in the last several years due to the troves of research backing its health benefits. 

Collagen, which is a crucial component of your connective tissue, can help repair and rejuvenate several tissues and systems in your body. Research currently backs collagen’s supportive role in skin anti-aging, bone mineral density, joint health, gut health, and more[1][2][3][4].

With all the excitement around collagen, it can be hard to decide which collagen supplement is the right one for you. There is no shortage of companies manufacturing collagen these days, but it’s vital to understand that not all collagen is created equally. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Which types of collagen (ex type I, type II, type, III, etc.) you should look for
  • The quality standards around collagen supplements
  • The ideal serving size for collagen supplements
  • Which ingredients to watch out for
  • Which form of collagen is the most potent and effective

What To Look For In Your Collagen Supplements

Before you toss that container of collagen into your shopping cart, there are a few factors that you should consider.


#1 Look For Type I and Type III Collagen

The functions and benefits of collagen in your body depend on the type of collagen you’re taking. Many people don’t realize that there are actually 28 different types of collagen that have been identified thus far[5].

With that being said, 90% of the collagen in your body is made up of either type I, type II, or type III[6]. This is why most companies choose to make supplements that contain one, or a mixture, of these three types of collagen. 

Collagen type I is found primarily in your skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular system, and organs. Type III is found mainly in your skin, muscles, and blood vessels. And type II, although abundant, is only found in your cartilage[5].

While it may occur to you that supplementing with all three types (I, II, and III) would be optimal, research actually shows that when you add type II collagen to a formulation, it can inhibit some of the absorption of type I and type III[7].

Therefore, the ideal formula would contain only types I and III collagen.   

What’s more, type I and type III collagen are the main constituents of the interstitial matrix, which is the material that fills the space between your cells. For this reason, the incorporation of these two types of collagen in your diet can impact multiple systems.

Type I and type III also happen to be two of the most heavily studied forms of collagen.

Type I collagen has been studied for its positive impact on[8][9][4][2][10]:

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

Type III collagen has been studied for its positive impact on[4][11][12]:

  • Skin Health (anti-aging)
  • 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 fiber like type I and III. 

For the most effective collagen supplement, look for types I and III only.

#2 Make Sure It's Certified Grass-Fed and Non-GMO

The types of collagen included in your supplement directly impact its effectiveness. However, the quality (i.e., where it's sourced from) is equally important. 

Grass-fed bovine, in general, is much less likely to be contaminated with antibiotics and hormones. In addition, grass-fed cows are never fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs)[13]

Conventional beef can be pumped with all kinds of chemicals that you certainly do not want to be ingesting every day. Hormones like rBGH and rBST (also known as growth hormones) and antibiotics are regularly used in conventional agriculture. 

What’s more, most cows in the U.S. that are not 100% grass-fed are fed GMO corn[14]

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 as an effective serving size for collagen supplementation. When you’re browsing different collagen brands, it’s important to note the serving size because many brands will offer a 30 serving container, with a serving size of 2.5 grams or 5 grams.

Therefore, purchasing a collagen supplement that considers a serving size to be five grams will net you half the amount of collagen as a supplement that offers a ten gram serving size. 

In general, most studies have looked at collagen supplementation in the range of 2.5 grams to 15 grams, making ten grams being the sweet spot for daily consumption[15].

To be fair, some research suggests that 2.5 to 5 grams is enough to notice changes in cellulite and skin elasticity. But for issues such as sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging) and activity-related joint pain, a higher intake of collagen is necessary[16][17][18][19].

#4 Look For “Hydrolysate” Or “Hydrolyzed” On The Label

Hydrolyzed collagen has gone through a manufacturing process that breaks it down into smaller components, making it much easier to digest and absorb. If you want to get the most out of your collagen supplement, it’s essential that you actually absorb it. 

Unlike other collagen forms that require your own digestive enzymes to go to work, hydrolyzed collagen presents your body with ready-to-absorb peptides that can easily be assimilated into your body. This requires much less effort on the part of your digestion and guarantees a more potent dose of collagen[5].

Research also shows that hydrolyzed collagen has higher antioxidant capacities due to its lower molecular weight. The smaller collagen particles are more easily able to donate electrons or hydrogens to stabilize free radicals[20][21][22].

With oxidation being one of the primary factors in aging, this further highlights the link between collagen and its anti-aging benefits[23].

From a practical perspective, hydrolyzed collagen is also much more readily dissolved in liquids, meaning it doesn’t chunk up as much as collagen that has not been broken down. This makes for a much more seamless process when you’re adding collagen to your tea, coffee, or smoothie.  

#5 No Artificial or Chemical Ingredients

Before purchasing collagen, the first thing you should do is look at the ingredient label. Many companies will throw in filler ingredients that either add flavor, color, or assist in the product's solubility. 

While this can be true of almost any product you see on the shelves, if it's a supplement you plan to take daily, it becomes twice as crucial that you feel good about each and every ingredient included. 

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. 

Instead, look for sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, which come from natural sources, and have the added benefit of acting as antioxidants in your body[24][25].

#6 No Added Sugar

Added sugars are everywhere; you don’t need them in your health supplements. 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. 

#7 Allergen-Free

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 not only on the quality of the collagen itself but also on the other ingredients added. 

Takeaway

If you’re considering adding collagen to your dietary regimen, there are plenty of reasons to go for it. From skin and bone health 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. 

There are plenty of collagen supplements on the market, but if you want to see and feel collagen's benefits, you must go for quality.  When searching for a collagen supplement, ask the questions:

  • What type of collagen does it include? Type I and type III 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 you can reap the maximum benefits from your collagen. 

References:

  1. Clark, Kristine L., et al. "24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain." Current medical research and opinion 24.5 (2008): 1485-1496.
  2. König, Daniel, et al. "Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women—A randomized controlled study." Nutrients 10.1 (2018): 97.
  3. Song, Wenkui, et al. "Identification and Structure–Activity Relationship of Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Function Protective Collagen Peptides from Alaska Pollock Skin." Marine drugs 17.8 (2019): 450.
  4. Bolke, Liane, et al. "A collagen supplement improves skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density: Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, blind study." Nutrients 11.10 (2019): 2494.
  5. León-López, Arely, et al. "Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications." Molecules 24.22 (2019): 4031.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  7. https://www.longdom.org/open-access/effects-of-collagen-ingestion-and-their-biological-significance-2155-9600-1000504.pdf
  8. Dar, Qurratul-Ain, et al. "Daily oral consumption of hydrolyzed type 1 collagen is chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory in murine posttraumatic osteoarthritis." PloS one 12.4 (2017): e0174705.
  9. Furuzawa-Carballeda, Janette, et al. "Polymerized-type I collagen downregulates inflammation and improves clinical outcomes in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis following arthroscopic lavage: a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trial." The Scientific World Journal 2012 (2012).
  10. Viguet-Carrin, S., P. Garnero, and P. D. Delmas. "The role of collagen in bone strength." Osteoporosis international 17.3 (2006): 319-336.
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/collagen-type-3
  12. Liu, Xin, et al. "Type III collagen is crucial for collagen I fibrillogenesis and for normal cardiovascular development." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94.5 (1997): 1852-1856.
  13. https://www.americangrassfed.org/about-us/our-standards/
  14. https://gmoanswers.com/genetic-engineering-and-animal-feed#:~:text=It%20has%20been%20estimated%20that,(Beever%20and%20Kemp%202000)
  15. Paul, Cristiana, Suzane Leser, and Steffen Oesser. "Significant amounts of functional collagen peptides can be incorporated in the diet while maintaining indispensable amino acid balance." Nutrients 11.5 (2019): 1079.
  16. Zdzieblik, Denise, et al. "Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial." British Journal of Nutrition 114.8 (2015): 1237-1245.
  17. Schunck, Michael, et al. "Dietary supplementation with specific collagen peptides has a body mass index-dependent beneficial effect on cellulite morphology." Journal of medicinal food 18.12 (2015): 1340-1348.
  18. Proksch, E., et al. "Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Skin pharmacology and physiology 27.1 (2014): 47-55.
  19. Clark, Kristine L., et al. "24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain." Current medical research and opinion 24.5 (2008): 1485-1496.
  20. Edgar, Suzanne, et al. "Effects of collagen-derived bioactive peptides and natural antioxidant compounds on proliferation and matrix protein synthesis by cultured normal human dermal fibroblasts." Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 1-13.
  21. Aguirre-Cruz, Gabriel, et al. "Collagen Hydrolysates for Skin Protection: Oral Administration and Topical Formulation." Antioxidants 9.2 (2020): 181.
  22. Nurilmala, Mala, et al. "Characterization and Antioxidant Activity of Collagen, Gelatin, and the Derived Peptides from Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) Skin." Marine Drugs 18.2 (2020): 98.
  23. Lin, Michael T., and M. Flint Beal. "The oxidative damage theory of aging." Clinical Neuroscience Research 2.5-6 (2003): 305-315.
  24. Xu, Q., et al. "Antioxidant effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress induced by palmitic acid in mouse insulinoma NIT-1 cells." Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 46.11 (2013): 949-955.
  25. Ruiz-Ruiz, J. C., et al. "Antidiabetic and antioxidant activity of Stevia rebaudiana extracts (Var. Morita) and their incorporation into a potential functional bread." Journal of food science and technology 52.12 (2015): 7894-7903.


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