Lucas always makes fun of me that I put collagen in everything. Coffee, baked goods, soups, casseroles, one dish meals, yogurt, protein shakes, smoothies, you name it I’ve probably added it to it. Now you may be asking why? For the simple reason of adding protein, but there are so many more benefits that I will share with you. I’m also including the Dr. Axe article as he does an incredibly thorough job of talking about collagen. (1) I wanted to summarize and highlight some of the parts I felt are important.
First, I want to give a little background information on collagen. It is a protein abundant in hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons. It gives strength to these parts of our bodies. In animals (including us) there are at least 16 types of collagen. (2) Collagen is high in amino acids and is important for muscular growth and joint health.
As we get older our collagen production slows down and the stress we put on our bodies in addition to our diets impacts our collagen production as well. This impacts our joints, hair, causes our nails to be brittle, and adds to our wrinkles.
I’ve had many people ask me if gelatin and collagen are the same and the two will be used interchangeably in sentences. It isn’t the same. When collagen breaks down it turns into gelatin. Think about the gel layer that forms on the top bone broth. It’s great for making knox blocks and gummies. Collagen is hydrolyzed gelatin and is typically easier to digest. One benefit of collagen is that it can be mixed into hot beverages or foods and doesn’t gel up. I love having both on hand so I can mix it into a variety of things and make jello when I want or elderberry gummies during the winter.
There are 4 common types of collagen found in the human body, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 (3).
- Type 1: This is by far the most abundant, and almost considered to be the strongest, type of collagen found in the human body. It’s made up of eosinophilic fibers that form parts of the body, including tendons, ligaments, organs and skin (dermis). Type 1 collagen also helps form bones and can be found within the GI tract. It’s very important for wound healing, giving skin its stretchy and elastic quality, and holding together tissue so it doesn’t tear.
- Type 2: Type 2 collagen primarily helps build cartilage, which is found in connective tissues. The health of our joints relies on cartilage made of type 2 collagen, which is why it’s beneficial for preventing age-associated joint pain or various arthritis symptoms.
- Type 3: Type 3 collagen is made of reticular fibers and a major component of the extracellular matrix that makes up our organs and skin. It’s usually found with type 1 and helps give skin its elasticity and firmness. It also forms blood vessels and tissue within the heart. For these reasons, deficiency in type 3 collagen has been linked to a higher risk for ruptured blood vessels and even early death, according to results from certain animal studies.
- Type 4: Type 4 collagen has the important job of forming basal lamina, which is found in endothelial cells that form tissue that surround organs, muscles and fat. Basal lamina are needed for various nerve and blood vessel functions. (16) They line the majority of our digestive organs and respiratory surfaces. Basal lamina can be found in the spaces between the top layer of skin/tissue and the deepest layer. They’re a thin layer of gel-like fluid that provides cushion/padding for the tissue above it.
- Type 5: This type of collagen is needed to make the surface of cells, as well as hair strands and tissue found in women’s placentas (the organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy, provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby, and removes waste). (17)
- Type 10: Type 10 helps with new bone formation and forming articular cartilage. It’s involved in the process of endochondral ossification, which is how bone tissue is created in mammals. It’s been found to be beneficial for bone fracture healing and repairing of synovial joints. (18)
There are 3 sources of collagen that include bovine, chicken, fish and eggs. (https://draxe.com/what-is-collagen/).
- Bovine (cow or beef) collagen: Bovine collagen comes from cows, specifically from their skin, bones and muscles. It’s made of mostly types 1 and 3 collagen, which is a good fit considering these are the most abundant types created and found in the human body. It’s a rich supply of glycine and proline, and therefore useful for creatine production, building muscle and also helping the body make its own collagen.
- Chicken collagen: The type of collagen most abundant in chicken collagen is type 2, which is best for building cartilage. This makes it beneficial for joint health, especially since this source also provides chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both of which have anti-aging effects. Most supplements containing collagen usually use chicken collagen and provide type 2.
- Fish collagen: Collagen derived from fish has been found to be easily absorbed and provide mostly type 1 collagen, with the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Because type 1 can be found throughout the entire body, consuming more fish collagen has been associated with benefits for the joints, skin, vital organs, blood vessels, digestion and bones. Hydroxyproline is an important component of the collagen triple helix, and lower levels have been associated with joint degradation and therefore symptoms/signs of aging. (19) Hydroxyproline is needed for collagen stability and is created by modifying normal proline amino acids after the collagen chain is built. This reaction also requires vitamin C (to assist in the addition of oxygen), which is why vitamin C deficiency can cause abnormalities in collagen levels.
- Egg shell membrane collagen: Egg collagen, found in the shells and whites of eggs, contains mostly type 1 collagen. It also has type 3, 4 and 10, but by far the most type 1, just like the human body (approximately 100 times more type 1 than type 4). (20, 21) It provides glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and various amino acids that have benefits for building connective tissue, wound healing, building muscle mass and reducing pain/stiffness.
You may be asking what specific benefits collagen can provide. As I stated earlier, it’s a great way to get a little extra protein in. It can also help strengthen hair, skin and nails. It has been shown to help repair a leaky gut by helping you break down proteins and heal the lining. Collagen is also full of the amino acid proline that can help release the build up of fat on the artery walls making it beneficial for heart health.
As with all supplements, quality matters. My two favorite powder forms is the Vital Proteins brand (blue can). They also have a marine option for those interested in that. Great Lakes is my second favorite (green can) and I love the non-hydrolyzed version (orange can) for my gummy/knox blocks needs. I also have the Sports Research brand, but haven’t opened it yet.
I remember when I first bought gelatin about 5 years ago I got the Great Lakes orange can as I didn’t know any better and tried mixing it in my oatmeal. I remember that first time it gelled up so bad I struggled eating it. I also tried it in a cold liquid and that was worse! From that day forward I powered through that can, mixing quickly. I then got a little smarter and switched to the hydrolyzed version and it was wonderful!
The other night Lucas admitted that he added collagen to his bowl of cereal. Haha! I must be rubbing off on him!