Collagen: Types, benefits, side effects and dosage

Want to know the secret to maintaining your fountain of youth? Put simply, it’s collagen.

With billions of people finding a way to retain their youthful look, collagen has become a top-selling supplement worldwide.

It predominantly helps you look good by nourishing your hair, strengthening your nails, skin – and, most significantly, your face.

A recent statistical report said that online searches for collagen and sales of companies selling any form of collagen have increased throughout the years.

Hence, if you have not started taking collagen in any form, it might be time to begin today to get its many health and anti-aging benefits. 

What does collagen do to the body?

Collagen is considered the most abundant protein found in the body. Generally, collagen makes up about 30% of the proteins found in your body [1].

It is a protein that contains mainly amino acids–carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. These amino acids include arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline, and proline. 

All bones, ligaments, tendons, and skeletal muscles are composed of proteins, and collagen is one of the significant proteins in each.

Collagen’s natural composition helps these tissues become strong, resilient, and elastic, which can withstand stretching.

In addition, collagen aids connective tissues in their firmness, suppleness, and continuous renewal of skin cells.

Naturally, collagen can be found in mammals’ flesh and connective tissues. As years go by, many kinds of research and studies prove that collagen is an excellent help for the body to become healthy, especially in the skin. It first appeared as a primary ingredient in skin creams and serums [1].

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What are the 5 types of collagen?

Collagen has many forms and types available anywhere for different purposes and intentions. In fact, there are twenty-eight (28) types of collagen you can find around [2].

All kinds of collagen may be unique; however, one unifying characteristic is that all collagen fibrils contain at least one triple helix structure. The dominant types of collagen can be categorized into five:

Type I collagen

First on the list is Type I collagen, which is considered the most common among other types.

This densely-packed collagen can be found naturally in your body and takes up about 90% of your body’s collagen stores. Type I collagen is located just below your skin’s dermis.

Typically, Type I collagen is the usual ingredient for most supplements available in the market [3]. This is because of this collagen’s broad potential benefits to your body.

Additionally, Type I collagen is generally found in bovine, marine, and eggshell membranes. A present study also states that Type I collagen can increase nucleation and development of the body’s bone mineral crystals.

Type II collagen

Another type of collagen is Type II, commonly found in marine and chicken products. That is why health experts advise people to consult their doctor before taking supplements with Type II collagen, especially those with fish and chicken allergies.

The efficacy of Type II is limited compared to other types except for one use, aiding the pain levels of people with knee osteoarthritis. Type II collagen can be used with acetaminophen, which helps reduce pain.

In comparison to Type I, Type II collagen is said to be less tightly packed. This means your body can easily break down and absorb Type II collagen.

Type III Collagen

Next is Type III, the second most common type of collagen that can be naturally found in your body. This type of collagen is commonly sourced in bovine products.

One of the unique characteristics of Type III collagen is having a singular alpha chain because other types have multiple alpha chains.

Together with Type I collagen, Type III collagen can be used to support the gut, muscles, blood vessels, and the women’s uterus.

Some studies criticize the utilization of Type II collagen in helping fight inflammatory disease. This is because our body is set to use amino acids in whatever it needs, so the role of collagen supplements is somewhat in question. 

Type V Collagen

Found in the cornea, Type V collagen helps control collagen fibril sizes to maximize the transmission of light happening in your eyes.

Type V collagen works better together with Type I and Type III collagen. Its primary responsibility is forming optimal fibrillary and enhancing connective tissue quality in your body. 

Additionally, Type V collagen supports bone matrix, corneal stroma, and the interstitial matrix of muscles, liver, lungs, and placenta.

Type V collagen is promising in maintaining healthy eyes, cell membranes, and tissues in your placenta. 

Type X Collagen

Another type of collagen is Type X collagen, which can be found in your body’s joint cartilage. The primary responsibility of type X collagen is supporting bone formation [4]. This collagen is a network-forming type and can determine severe conditions in your bones.

People with high Type X collagen may have a higher propensity for rheumatological disorders, specifically affecting bone and cartilage. 

Furthermore, some collagen-selling companies claim that Type X collagen can be used to aid recovery from several bone-related issues, such as limb damage and broken bones. However, this is not fully backed up by research.

The only claim proven by studies is that Type X collagen is naturally in bodies that handle bone formation and help identify rheumatological disorders. Hence, no scientific evidence proves this type of collagen can heal your body’s injured area.

type II collagen

What form of collagen is best?

There are three primary forms of collagen: hydrolyzed collagen, gelatin collagen, and undenatured type II collagen [5].

1. Hydrolyzed collagen

This form of collagen is popularly known as collagen peptides, collagen powder, hydrolysate collagen, and hydrolyzed gelatin. Hydrolyzed collagen is deemed the easiest to digest by the body because it is broken down. 

2. Gelatin collagen

This one is produced by boiling collagen with a mixture of amino acid chains and some other chemicals.

When done, the result is in the form of a gel and is notably cool in temperature. Gelatin collagen is considered to be the simplest form of collagen. 

3. Undenatured Type II collagen

Also known as UC-II, this is the least broken-down form among the two other collagen forms. It is extremely difficult for the body to digest. This form is a nutritional supplement coming from chicken sternum cartilage. 

Moreover, the oral collagen supplements that are generally seen in the market are in the form of pills, powders, and certain gummies or foods. These are suggested to be highly effective and easily absorbed by your body. 

Among the forms of collagen mentioned above, hydrolyzed collagen, commonly known as collagen peptides, is the main ingredient of typical collagen supplements.

Taking collagen supplements has been patronized by many people worldwide, with them being rich in protein, vitamin C, biotin, and zinc

What is collagen mainly used for?

There are many uses for collagen, so its popularity has skyrocketed in the beauty and health supplements market. Some significant uses of collagen are as follows: 

  1. Collagen can help in giving more strength to different structures of your body. 
  2. Collagen protects the structures of your skin by preventing any absorption and spreading of pathogenic substances, toxins from the environment, micro-organisms, and cancerous cells.
  3. Collagen protein binds everything together.
  4. Collagen holds cells and tissues together which are present in your bladder, blood vessels, digestive tract, gallbladder, heart, kidneys, and smooth muscle tissues [6].
  5. Your hair and nails have collagen as their primary component. 
  6. Collagen can give structure, strength, and support to your body. 

Some other uses of collagen in your body system are aiding fibroblasts in forming your dermis (middle skin layer), which helps new cells grow and replace dead skin cells. Collagen also protects your organs and helps in preventing blood clots. 

For medical purposes, collagen can be used in medicines and cosmetics, such as:

  1. It can be used for dermal fillers using an injection that fills shallow parts of your skin, including lines and wrinkles. 
  2. In wound healing, collagen can also play a role as it attracts new skin cells to heal the wound. 
  3. Collagen can also serve as a barrier to stop a fast-growing gum tissue from having a wound in a tooth. This provides the tooth cells the opportunity to regenerate. 
  4. Collagen is also helpful in reconstructing arteries and aids in regenerating peripheral nerves. 
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What are the health benefits of collagen?

Different researchers have claimed that collagen is a multifunctional powerhouse. It has numerous health benefits, from joint pain to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s [7], [8].

Some significant health benefits of taking collagen are controlled blood sugar, radiant skin, joint health, longer lifespan, and overall well-being. 

1. Skin health

As you age, your natural collagen production lowers which may cause slow deterioration of your hair, nails, skin, and teeth. Some apparent signs of these are wrinkles on the skin or osteoporosis. 

Collagen can help by providing non-surgical remedies to people needing enhancement in beauty aspects, especially by eliminating wrinkles.

It can lessen the look of your wrinkles by forming fibroblasts–or specialized cell clusters found in your dermis–and replace dead skin, leaving you with new and younger-looking skin. 

2. Food digestion

One of the beneficial amino acids that make up collagen is glycine, which can significantly help your gut. It can regulate inflammation in your stomach, small intestine, and GI tract.

When harmful toxins enter your gut and pass through your digestive tract, you may experience inflammation.

These harmful toxins are in the form of food particles and can have a free pass into your bloodstream, causing different inflammatory issues in your body.

Moreover, glycine in collagen can reduce inflammation by forming connective tissue to protect the mucosal barrier of your gut.

With the formation of connective tissue, the tiny junctions can be tightened, which aids those with leaky gut syndrome. 

Additionally, glycine in collagen can manage ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

3. Joint health

Well-designed studies have proved that collagen peptides can help improve pain in joints, ligaments, and tendon injuries. Collagen, combined with vitamin C, can help repair tendons and prevent injuries.

To get the healthy benefits of collagen for your joints and tendons, take 15 grams of collagen gelatin with vitamin C an hour before exercise.

4. Mood and sleep improvement

It is said that collagen is a potent mood relaxer, sleep promotor, and productivity booster. Several studies have shown that three grams of glycine–one of the compositions of collagen–can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.

Glycine can lower your body’s temperature and inhibit muscle activity while in REM sleep. Generally, your body temperature decreases as bedtime approaches [9].

Also, collagen has a mood-boosting effect through the use of its glycine. It inhibits neurotransmitters and increases serotonin levels without increasing dopamine levels; this is good as it can keep your circadian rhythm healthy. 

mood and sleep improvement

5. Brain health

Aside from being a sleep promoter and a mood relaxer, collagen can help you keep your brain health in check.

Researchers have found positive effects on patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who take supplements with glycine as the major ingredient.

It can aid in treating schizophrenia’s negative symptoms, including mainly depression and loss of mental fluency. 

Additionally, glycine, an ingredient of collagen, can also assist people with depression and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. Plus, glycine can protect against neurological damage when you experience a stroke.  

6. Gut health

Collagen contains amino acids like glycine and proline, essential for maintaining a healthy gut lining. A strong gut lining can help prevent leaky gut syndrome and digestive issues.

Moreover, collagen may support digestion by promoting the production of stomach acid, aiding in the breakdown of food, and supporting a healthy gut microbiome.

Collagen may also indirectly benefit gut health by supporting the growth and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome. A balanced microbiome is crucial for proper digestion and overall well-being.

7. Muscle mass and strength

Collagen provides the structural framework for muscles. It forms a network of connective tissue within muscle fibers, helping to anchor them in place. This network of collagen fibers is essential for maintaining muscle integrity and function.

Weak or damaged tendons and ligaments can lead to an increased risk of muscle injuries. Collagen supplementation may help improve the strength and flexibility of these connective tissues, reducing the likelihood of strains or tears during physical activities.

As individuals age, they often experience a natural loss of muscle mass and strength, a condition known as sarcopenia.

Collagen production also decreases with age. By providing additional collagen through supplementation, older adults may support their muscle health and potentially slow down the progression of sarcopenia.

Which foods are high in collagen?

Collagen is a crucial protein that contributes to the strength and structure of various tissues in the body, including skin, joints, and tendons. While collagen is often associated with supplements, you can also obtain it through natural food sources [10]:

  • Bone broth: Bone broth is one of the richest sources of natural collagen. It is made by simmering bones (such as chicken, beef, or fish bones) for an extended period. 
  • Chicken skin: Chicken skin is a good source of collagen. When cooked, it can provide both flavor and collagen content to your meals.
  • Fish skin: The skin of fish, especially cold-water fish like salmon, contains collagen. Grilling or baking fish with the skin on can help you retain these collagen-rich portions.
  • Pork skin: Pork skin, commonly used in dishes like pork rinds or chicharrones, is another source of collagen.
  • Gelatin: Gelatin is derived from collagen and can be used to make a variety of foods, including desserts, gummies, and even savory dishes like aspic.
  • Chicken feet: In some cuisines, chicken feet are used to prepare collagen-rich soups and stews.

While these foods may not contain collagen directly, they are rich in nutrients that support collagen production in the body:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, and bell peppers, are essential for collagen synthesis. Vitamin C helps convert amino acids into collagen fibers.
  • Seafood: Seafoods like shrimp and lobster contain compounds like astaxanthin, which can help protect existing collagen in the body from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Eggs: Egg whites contain amino acids that are important for collagen production, particularly proline and glycine.
  • Leafy greens: Vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in chlorophyll, which may help promote collagen production and protect skin from UV damage.

Incorporating a variety of these collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods into your diet can help support overall collagen production and contribute to healthy skin, joints, and connective tissues.

What are the negative side effects of collagen supplements?

Collagen’s side effects are not something to worry about as they are not that usually major. Some people may only experience mild digestive symptoms after taking the collagen supplement. 

Allergic reactions

Collagen supplements can be derived from various sources, including bovine (cow), porcine (pig), marine (fish), and chicken. Individuals with known allergies to these sources may experience allergic reactions when consuming collagen from those sources.

Digestive issues

When introducing collagen supplements, some individuals may experience mild digestive discomfort, such as bloating, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. This can occur as your digestive system adjusts to the new supplement.

Risk of contaminants

The purity and quality of collagen supplements can vary among brands and manufacturers. To mitigate the risk of contaminants, ensure you choose reputable brands that undergo third-party testing for quality and purity. 

Consult with a healthcare professional before starting collagen supplementation, especially if you have underlying health conditions or allergies or are taking medications.

What causes collagen loss?

Your body is not operating the same as it was years ago. As you age, your collagen production decreases, and that is inevitable. However, major factors can actually make you lose your collagen. 

Exposure to UVR

Regular exposure to the sun can cause you to drop your collagen big time. Your dermis basically contains collagen and elastin, which are responsible for your skin’s structure.

Collagen and elastin are two powerhouse elements that make your skin more youthful and smooth-looking. Thus, when you are exposed to the sun, your collagen and elastin are destroyed by ultraviolet radiation (UVR). 

Smoking and excess alcohol 

Another factor is when you smoke and take in excess alcohol. Too much alcohol in your body may speed up collagen loss by depleting essential nutrients, especially vitamin A. 

Lack of sleep 

Not getting enough sleep can also cause you to lose your body’s collagen. With a consistent lack of sleep and improper sleeping routine, you may eventually become stressed as you struggle to regain hormonal balance. And chronic stress can significantly damage the collagen in your skin. 

Lack of regular exercise

Here is another reason to exercise! Not regularly exercising may rapidly lower your collagen production over time.

Research has shown that collagen continuously creates and constructs your body. By doing some workout routines, you can stimulate collagen production.

lack of regular exercise

How do you stop collagen loss?

The answers to prevent collagen loss are simple. Wear sunscreen every day, even without the visible sun, because, as mentioned, UV light can directly damage your collagen. The minimum recommended use of sunscreen is around 3 to 4 times a week to acquire adequate vitamin D.

Better use a sun protection factor, also known as SPF, of about 30, or if you are in the sunniest place, use even higher.

The minimum recommended use of sunscreen is around 3 to 4 times a week to acquire adequate vitamin D. Wearing hats, sunglasses with UV protection, and light dresses may help. 

Avoid excessive alcohol intake and prevent yourself from smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke. Sleeping also has a significant impact on your collagen production.

Ensure to have eight to nine hours of sleep every day. Prepare yourself with a meal plan with a well-balanced diet. Load your meals with vegetables, fruits, seafood, poultry and meats.

Moreover, controlling your stress can manage your collagen production. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels become high, causing you to decrease your collagen production. 

What is the recommended dosage of collagen supplements?

Different collagen supplements are available in various forms, such as capsules, liquids, powders, and tablets.

Studies found that to get the minimum benefits of collagen supplements, you must consume around 2.5 to 10 grams per day.

This is the recommended dosage for taking collagen supplements [11]. Let’s look at each recommended dosage based on collagen forms:

Hydrolyzed collagen

This collagen is the most common form and can easily be absorbed by your body. You can have this in your typical hot or cold beverages, soups, and baked goods. Around 2.5 to 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen is safe and effective to take every day. 

Gelatin collagen

This form is generally the ingredient for collagen supplements. This is cooked and can be used for gelatinous desserts, sauces, soups, smoothies, and others that can boost your collagen protein.

There is a limited report on the recommended amount of gelatin collagen intake. It is best to follow the suggested number of supplements indicated in the package.

Undenatured Type II collagen

This form is being used in the medical field to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Hence, it is not something to consume in large amounts every day unless you have the mentioned medical conditions.

It only takes around 40 milligrams on an empty stomach. A little warning: Undenatured Type II collagen is not a protein supplement.

Closing thoughts

Overall, collagen is important because it helps in enhancing your joint and skin health. Taking collagen supplements can give you deep skin radiance and elasticity, improve your joint mobility, and lower joint pain.

As collagen is composed of 60% cartilage, it may be crucial for you to have a lower amount of collagen in your body.

Cartilage refers to a firm tissue that encloses bones and cushions them whenever you execute high-impact movements.

Consequently, you may experience loss of cartilage and develop joint problems without a proper amount of collage. 

In the case of taking collagen supplements, regular collagen supplements can help you, but at the same time, not taking them will not cause you any harm either.

This is because your body can naturally produce collagen and other proteins you need by combining different amino acids. 

While collagen supplements may cause minor side effects, it depends on your overall health and what to feel. Hence, asking your first healthcare provider before consuming any collagen supplement is better.

FAQs

What is collagen and why is it important?

Collagen is a vital protein that provides strength and structure to various tissues in the body, such as skin, joints, and bones. It’s essential for maintaining their health and functionality.

How can I increase collagen production naturally?

You can naturally boost collagen production by consuming foods rich in amino acids like glycine and proline, found in lean meats, fish, eggs, and vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits.

What is the benefit of collagen supplements?

Collagen supplements offer potential benefits such as improved skin elasticity, joint health, and support for hair, nails, and gut lining.

Are collagen supplements safe?

Collagen supplements are generally safe when used as directed. However, individuals with allergies to collagen sources should exercise caution, and consulting with a healthcare professional before use is advisable.

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[1] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen 
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3003457/ 
[3] https://www.drugwatch.com/health/collagen/types/ 
[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780128098479000106 
[5] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-714/collagen-type-ii-native 
[6] https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Collagen.aspx 
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10058045/ 
[8] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/ 
[9] https://bluebirdprovisions.co/blogs/news/benefits-collagen 
[10] https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7896640/best-foods-to-eat-for-a-collagen-boost/ 
[11] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-collagen-per-day#overdose

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