What Are Collagen Supplements Made From?
Collagen is an essential protein that helps hold the human body together — literally. This structural protein is produced naturally by the body and is a vital building block for connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.
Recently, collagen has hit new heights as a hero product for skin health. Collagen helps provide much-needed strength and support to the skin. It is also the most abundant protein found within the body, making up roughly 30 percent of endogenous protein.
Unfortunately, natural collagen production tends to decline with age, which explains why skin can lose elasticity and wrinkles begin to form. We know, it’s not fun!
Thankfully, collagen supplements can help support the body when decreases in collagen protein occur. Collagen powder can help support the body’s collagen levels while promoting benefits related to skin health.
If you’ve ever wondered what collagen products are actually made from - keep reading. We will explore the many different sources of collagen peptides as a dietary supplement, and some of the most surprising health benefits of this important structural protein.
What Is Collagen?
Due to its skyrocketing popularity over the past few years, many believe collagen is simply another supplement lining the wall of grocery store aisles and vitamin shops.
But the truth is collagen is naturally occurring and necessary for our bodies - making up roughly one-third of all proteins within the body.
Collagen is a key component of skin structure and connective tissues like ligaments and tendons. It can be found within the body’s organs, intestinal lining, and blood vessels.
The body needs collagen for numerous functions. In addition to skin elasticity and health, collagen plays roles in joint health and support, bone health, and gut health. Collagen even has an important role when it comes to hair and nails!
Other roles of collagen in the body include:
- Providing protective covering for various organs
- Aiding the blood clotting process
- Helping form new fibroblasts
How Is Collagen Made?
Endogenous (or naturally occurring) collagen is present in all animals with connective tissue. Collagen synthesis, or collagen production, generally occurs within the cells of fibroblasts. However, collagen synthesis can also occur outside of the cells.
Without getting too complicated - collagen comprises three polypeptide chains. These are known as α chains. Polypeptide chains are essential amino acids joined together by peptide bonds.
You may have heard of Amino acids - which are required by all living things as the building blocks of proteins. The human body requires 20 different amino acids to function properly. Nine of these 20 are referred to as “essential” amino acids.
These nine must be consumed through food. They include:
All collagen possesses a triple-helix structure derived from amino acids and peptide bonds. Every third amino acid within these collagen chains is glycine. Depending on the type of collagen, the “X” can represent any of the other amino acids.
When it comes to producing collagen, the body also relies on essential nutrients to help make collagen when it is needed. For example, nutrients like vitamin C, zinc and copper have roles to play in collagen production along with amino acids.
Different Types of Collagen in the Body
The body produces several different types of collagen. While there are 28 different types of collagen (labeled I - XXVIII), type I, type II, and type III are the most abundant.
- Type I collagen represents the majority of collagen in the body, totaling around 90 percent of the body’s collagen. This collage type is densely packed and is found in tissue within the body — skin, bones, cartilage and connective tissues.
- Type II collagen is primarily found within the elastic cartilage of the body. This includes the body’s joints, the ends of the ribs, the ears, nose and more. Type II collagen is found in joint health and support supplements.
- Type III is generally found alongside type I collagen. It is necessary for fibroblast function. This type of collagen is necessary for skin health and can be found in muscles, organs, and connective tissues.
What Are Collagen Supplements Made From?
As mentioned, endogenous collagen is produced by the body naturally. Collagen supplements are exogenous forms of collagens that come from external sources outside the body.
Thanks to its high bioavailability, collagen is easily absorbed as a supplement which also explains the popularity of collagen supplements in recent years.
There are three main forms of collagen supplements: Gelatin, hydrolyzed and raw (undenatured).
Collagen Peptides (Hydrolyzed)
Collagen peptides, also called collagen hydrolysate, are by far the most popular type of collagen supplement. Collagen peptides are short-chain amino acids derived from collagen through a process known as hydrolysis.
This process allows collagen peptides to be released from their original bonds and extracted. During hydrolysis, bigger collagen proteins are essentially broken down so the body can better absorb them.
Collagen peptide supplements are found in various forms, from powders to gummies and pills. Collagen peptides are primarily derived from animal sources, including poultry, bovine, and marine.
Bovine collagen is generally derived from cows (ideally grass-fed cows). Bovine or beef collagen made from cowhide is the most popular. Under normal circumstances, after the beef is harvested, the cowhide is removed and rendered down to extract the collagen protein.
These proteins are hydrolyzed into more digestible peptides. This type of collagen consists mostly of type 1 and type 3 collagen. Like other collagen peptide supplements, it is used to soothe joint pain and boost overall collagen levels.
A majority of collagen peptide supplements come from bovine. However, collagen is also derived from ocean life. Similar to bovine, marine collagen peptides are hydrolyzed using marine products — skin and scales. Marine peptides tend to be a far more sustainable source of collagen peptides compared to other animal sources.
Marine collagen peptides are composed primarily of type 1 collagen. Studies have shown marine collagen's effectiveness for skin health, supporting skin elasticity and hydration.
Our sustainably-sourced Vitality X + Collagen Powder is 100 percent pure, derived from wild cod skin in the pure waters of Brittany and Nova Scotia. These hydrolyzed peptides are coupled with a blend to help support vitality inside and out. The blend features vitamin C, aloe vera, vitamin E, glycine, turmeric, and more to support your body daily.
If you haven’t already guessed, collagen supplements are not vegan. However, strides are being made to manufacture synthetic forms of collagen using genetically modified yeasts and bacteria. These, of course, are not true collagen sources. Most are meant to simply stimulate the collagen synthesis process.
The Benefits of Collagen Peptides
Collagen peptides are known to support skin health by promoting skin elasticity and firmness. Collagen peptides also stimulate fibroblasts within the skin. This helps trigger the production of hyaluronic acid, which is an important component for skin hydration.
This is a game changer when it comes to skincare and supporting your body through the aging process. The signs of aging are typically tied to the loss of collagen due to sun exposure — another reason why sunscreen is a must, every single day!
Collagen has implications for hair and nail health as well. Collagen production slows down as we age. Over time, a lack of collagen can cause hair and nails to become brittle. Collagen peptides may help hydrate hair and nails, even improving nail growth.
Collagen is also crucial for joint support, especially for those with conditions like osteoarthritis, where joint cartilage is broken down over time.
Are There Side Effects of Collagen?
Collagen peptides are considered generally safe as a daily supplement for healthy adults. Most people won’t experience any sort of side effects with using peptides. Some people may experience minor side effects, including stomach complaints.
Other Sources of Collagen
In addition to supplements, collagen is also found in many foods we eat and can be part of a balanced diet. It is particularly prevalent in animal sources and particular cuts of meat (pot roasts and briskets), and cuts that are full of connective tissue.
Collagen-rich foods also include saltwater fish, skin-on chicken, and organ meats. Bone broth is another collagen-rich food and is made by simmering down animal bones in water. This helps release the collagen and minerals found in the cartilage and bones. It can be incredibly beneficial to add to tea, curries and soups and can also benefit the health of your gut!
In addition to collagen-containing foods, foods that promote collagen production include those with amino acids. These foods include dairy, fish, poultry, and other meats.
The Bottom Line
Collagen is a vital structural protein that helps provide support for the skin and various connective tissues. While collagen declines over time due to factors like age and sun exposure, collagen supplements can help support collagen levels and skin health to keep you glowing for years to come.
Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis - StatPearls | NCBI
A randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study to evaluate the efficacy of a freshwater marine collagen on skin wrinkles and elasticity | NIH
A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study | PMC
Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails - Hexsel - 2017 - Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology | Wiley Online Library