The Truth About Collagen Supplements

The Truth About Collagen Supplements

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found throughout the body providing structure and strength. Collagen makes up 70-80% of our skin and accounts for 30% of the total protein in the body.

There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80-90% consist of types I, II, and III.

- Type I: This is the most abundant type of collagen in the human body. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and organs.

- Type II: This type of collagen is found in cartilage, connecting joints, and giving them structure and shock absorption.

- Type III: This type of collagen is found alongside type I and provides structure and elasticity to organs and skin.


Collagen is found in many parts of our bodies:

- Skin - Collagen gives structure and strength to the skin. It provides elasticity and prevents sagging.

- Bones and joints - Collagen's rope like fibers provide strength and flexibility to bones and joints. 

- Muscles and tendons - Collagen fibers hold muscles and tendons together allowing for movement.

- Blood vessels - Collagen provides structure to blood vessels ensuring proper circulation.

- Gut - Collagen maintains the tissue in the digestive system.

- Eyes - Collagen fibers provide structure to the cornea of the eyes.

- Teeth - Collagen fibers help attach our teeth to our gums.

Benefits of Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements have become extremely popular due to their many health and beauty benefits. Here are some of the top benefits of taking a collagen supplement:

Improved Skin Health

Collagen is a major component of skin. It plays a role in strengthening skin, plus may benefit elasticity and hydration. Oral collagen supplements have been shown to significantly reduce wrinkles and dryness. This may help counteract natural declines in collagen due to aging.

Joint and Bone Support 

Collagen provides structure to bones, tendons and ligaments. It's been suggested that collagen supplements may help reduce joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. Research indicates supplements may help maintain strong bones and prevent bone density loss.

Gut Health  

Collagen supplements may aid leaky gut and other intestinal issues. The amino acids glycine and proline in collagen help repair and strengthen intestinal lining to promote healthy digestion.

Hair, Nail, and Teeth Benefits

Collagen is a major component of hair, nails and teeth. Supplements support their health and growth. Specific research shows collagen may increase nail growth and hardness as well as reduce brittle nails. It may also improve hair and nail growth.

Types of Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements come in different forms including:

Collagen peptides

Collagen peptides are a hydrolyzed form of collagen where the collagen has been broken down into small peptides for better absorption. Collagen peptides come in a powder form that can be easily mixed into drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods etc. Collagen peptides are flavorless so they can be added to many foods and beverages without altering the taste.


Gelatin is a form of hydrolyzed collagen that has been extracted from animal bones and tissue. It comes as a powder that can be stirred into hot liquids like tea or coffee to make them gel. Gelatin can also be used in recipes to make jello desserts or added to broths to make them more gelatinous.  

Hydrolyzed collagen

Hydrolyzed collagen contains collagen that has been broken down into smaller peptides for better bioavailability. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements come in capsules, powders, tablets, gummies, and liquid forms. The hydrolysis process helps improve the absorption of the collagen in the body.

Bone broth

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue in water for an extended period of time. This breakdown of collagen from bones results in a broth rich in collagen, amino acids, and minerals. Consuming bone broth is an easy way to obtain more collagen in your diet. Bone broth can be sipped straight as a beverage or used as a base for soups and stews.

How Collagen Supplements Work

Collagen supplements provide the building blocks for your body to synthesize its own collagen. The supplements usually contain a bioavailable, hydrolyzed form of collagen that is easily absorbed and used by the body. 

When you take a collagen supplement, the peptides are absorbed through the intestinal lining and transported into the bloodstream. From there, the peptides make their way to various tissues where they can increase collagen production and stimulate collagen synthesis.

Specifically, collagen supplements help in the following ways:

Absorption Process: The collagen is broken down into small peptides that are easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. This makes the collagen highly bioavailable so your body can readily use it. 

Increases Collagen Production: The peptides signal cells like fibroblasts to ramp up production of new collagen fibers. This helps boost overall collagen levels throughout the body.

Collagen Synthesis: The peptides provide amino acids like glycine, proline and hydroxyproline that are directly used to synthesize new collagen fibers. This helps maintain collagen density and integrity in the skin, joints, bones and other tissues.

In summary, collagen supplements spur collagen absorption, stimulate collagen production and provide the raw materials for collagen synthesis. This triple-impact allows the supplements to effectively increase the body's collagen content and reap the benefits.

Dosage and Side Effects

Collagen supplements are generally safe for most people. The recommended daily dosage is 2-10 grams per day. Since collagen is digested as protein, you'll want to spread your dosage out throughout the day for maximum absorption. 

Most collagen powders suggest taking 1-2 scoops (around 10-20 grams) per day, either mixed into water, smoothies or baked goods. Collagen peptides can be taken any time of day on an empty or full stomach.

Some potential side effects of collagen supplements include:

- Bloating or fullness

- Stomach pain 

- Bad taste in mouth

- Rash

- Itching

These side effects are generally mild. Lowering your dosage or stopping supplementation typically resolves them. 

People who should not take collagen supplements include:

- Those with food allergies to beef, fish or eggs since collagen is sourced from these foods. 

- People who take blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin - collagen may increase bleeding risk.

- Those allergic to collagen supplements or with asthma triggered by milk, fish or eggs.

- Those with metabolic disorders affected by amino acids like phenylketonuria or high urea levels.

As with any supplement, it's best to consult your doctor before starting a collagen regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications. Start with a low dosage and monitor for any side effects.

Collagen vs. Gelatin

Collagen and gelatin are closely related proteins, but they have some key differences:

- Collagen is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. Gelatin is an incomplete protein as it does not contain tryptophan.

- Collagen in supplements contains hydrolyzed collagen, which is broken down for easier digestion and absorption. Gelatin is partially hydrolyzed collagen that needs further breakdown. 

- Collagen supplements contain specific types of collagen like types I and III found in skin and bones. Gelatin contains a mix of collagen types from animal bones and tissues.

- Collagen can add structure and elasticity to skin and bones when taken as a supplement. Gelatin does not provide the same targeted structural benefits.

- Collagen supplements can be flavored and are often unflavored powders. Gelatin has a distinctive taste and is used to make jello desserts.

- Collagen supplements are taken for joint, skin, hair and nail health. Gelatin is more often used as a cooking ingredient.

So which is better? Collagen supplements are the better choice if you want to improve your hair, skin, nails and joints by getting specific collagen types into your diet. Gelatin can be used as a substitute in cooking and recipes, but does not provide the same targeted benefits as a daily collagen supplement.

Food Sources of Collagen

Collagen is found naturally in many foods. Consuming collagen-rich foods is an easy way to increase your intake without supplements. Here are some of the best food sources:

Bone Broth

Bone broth made by simmering bones contains collagen, amino acids, and minerals. The collagen is extracted from the bones during cooking. Chicken and beef bones work well. Bone broth makes a tasty and nutritious addition to soups, stews, and sauces. 


Eggs are an excellent source of proline and glycine, two amino acids vital for collagen production. The yolk contains the highest amounts. Make sure to eat the whole egg for the full benefits.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are high in vitamin C. This antioxidant plays a key role in collagen synthesis. Vitamin C helps boost production and protect existing collagen from damage. Eat citrus fruits whole or as juice.


Berries like strawberries and blueberries contain anthocyanidins. These plant compounds provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that may support collagen health. Eat fresh or frozen berries as a snack, in desserts, or blended into smoothies.

Eating a varied diet with these collagen-rich foods can help promote natural collagen production without the need for supplements.

Other Ways to Boost Collagen

In addition to taking collagen supplements, there are other ways you can help support your body's collagen production:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage that can deplete collagen levels. Vitamin C also plays a key role in the enzymatic reaction that produces collagen. Getting enough vitamin C from foods like citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, and strawberries can help optimize your body's natural collagen production.  


Copper assists in cross-linking, which gives collagen its strength and structure. It also acts as an antioxidant and boosts the effects of vitamin C and other nutrients that support collagen production. Foods high in copper include shellfish, nuts, beans, mushrooms, avocados, and dark leafy greens.


Retinoids are compounds derived from vitamin A. They support collagen production by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks it down. Retinoids are found naturally in some animal foods like liver and egg yolks. Some plant foods also contain beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A.


Silica is a trace mineral found in foods like leeks, green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, and asparagus. It plays an important role in collagen formation by helping the body produce and cross-link collagen fibers. Silica supplements may help improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles.

Making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, protecting your skin from sun damage, staying hydrated, and managing stress levels can also preserve and boost collagen. Overall, making sure you get enough of the nutrients involved in collagen production can help maintain healthy levels as you age.

The Bottom Line: Should You Take Collagen Supplements?

Collagen supplements have become popular in recent years as a way to support skin, bone, and joint health. Here is an overview of some of the key points about collagen supplements:

- Collagen is a protein that provides structure and elasticity to connective tissues like skin, tendons, cartilage, and bones. As we age, collagen production declines leading to signs of aging like wrinkles and joint pain.

- Collagen supplements may help improve skin hydration and elasticity, reducing wrinkles and dryness. They may also support joint, bone, and muscle health by improving cartilage and reducing joint pain.

- Collagen supplements come in powder, capsule, and liquid forms. Common sources are bovine, marine, or chicken collagen. Look for a reputable brand providing 10-20 grams per day.

- Taking collagen supplements long-term for 2-12 months seems to provide the most benefits. Improvement is gradual over time, not overnight. Consistency is important.

- Collagen supplements are well-tolerated by most people. Potential side effects are mild like feelings of heaviness, heartburn, and bad taste. Start with a low dose and increase slowly. 

- People over 30 who are starting to see signs of skin aging or joint problems can benefit most from collagen supplementation. Athletes and those recovering from injury may also see benefits for performance and recovery.

Overall, collagen supplements appear helpful for supporting skin, joint, bone, and muscle health as we age. Taking a quality supplement consistently for 2-12 months provides the greatest benefits. Talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements. Be patient, as improvements happen gradually over time.