You may have heard of some of the numerous benefits of collagen, but did you know that there are different types? While all types of collagen have their benefits, once you start to target a particular goal (i.e., weight loss, muscle gain, etc.), it is helpful to know which type of collagen will best help you achieve it.
Collagen can only be found in animal products and it is a naturally produced protein in the human body. Although we need collagen for healthy skin, bones, and muscles, our production slows down by the time we turn 25.
Aside from understanding the most common types and forms of collagen, it’s important to understand the common uses of each, too. Then, we will address the most pressing question of all: Which collagen type is the best for you? And yes, there is one type of collagen that seems to give the best results - but we’ll get to that.
The 5 Most Important Types of Collagen
Did you know that collagen is the most abundant source of protein in the animal kingdom? In fact, it makes up ⅓ of the protein in our bodies.
And, when we refer to collagen, we are referring to the structural protein found in all animals. As we mentioned above, our body’s ability to naturally produce collagen protein starts to slow down fairly early. So, for us to keep up with collagen synthesis, we may start looking towards supplements to support us.
But this can be where things get tricky.
There are so many collagen supplement options on the market today - we found more than 28 kinds! - that it starts to get confusing to know which type of collagen will work best for you.
The five that we are going to describe are the most commonly used in supplements. So knowing the differences between these five types of collagen will be most helpful in your own personal wellness journey. You can start to get to know which ones are promoted for bone health, healthy skin, weight loss, or muscle strength as you find a supplement that fits your goals.
Here is a brief introduction to the five most important collagen types:
Often considered the most potent form of collagen, type 1 collagen promotes tissue repair and skin health. This means that type 1 collagen can help with forming our skin, tendons, blood vessels, and other connective tissues. Type 1 collagen is usually sourced from fish or bovine (cattle) and features proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline.
Type II collagen is the primary type of collagen found in the connective tissue known as cartilage. Since there is a focus on cartilage with type II collagen, consuming it is thought to promote healthy joints and cartilage growth. Type II collagen is usually sourced from chicken bone broth powder but can come from cows as well.
Type III collagen is a component in our skin and organs, making it fibrillar collagen. It is abundant in our intestines and has been thought to aid in the synthesis of blood platelets. Type III collagen is often used when building muscle or working towards weight loss. It can be sourced from cows and eggs.
As a more minor collagen component, type V collagen helps to form interstitial fibers. This makes it a structural component in tendons and ligaments. It also functions to create cells of a pregnant woman’s placenta. So, it is thought to support neonatal development and eye health. It is commonly sourced from egg whites and the eggshell membrane.
These five types of collagen are not the only ones available to you. However, they are used in many available supplements.
Types of Collagen Supplements
The five types of collagen discussed above are the base of collagen either found naturally in animal products used for food or in other supplemental forms. There are many popular collagen supplements that use at least one of these types of collagen. Still, each specific supplement will have its own properties, absorption rates, and best uses.
If you are debating about which type of collagen protein to buy, here are some questions to ask before buying collagen protein.
Collagen Found Naturally in Food
Since collagen is sourced from animal products, there are many different ways people choose to consume collagen naturally. Depending on the animal you consume or which part of their body you eat, it will determine the specific type of collagen it is.
Here are some of the commonly consumed animal products that contain collagen:
- Egg Whites
- Bone broth
Although there are no plant-based collagen sources, there are some foods that may help boost your body’s natural collagen production. Some of these include:
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy Greens
- Some herbs
The exact properties of food sources of collagen will be different from source to source. One of the most widely consumed food sources of collagen is bone broth. You can buy this premade, but you can also make it yourself. So, the recipe used will determine the exact properties.
To give you a base, we will look at some of the properties used in a standard recipe of bone broth. When bone broth is made, it can be just, well….bones. But many brands will add cartilage and other joint tissues to boost minerals and collagen concentration.
The result of this gives you a concoction of minerals, amino acids, lipids, and collagen.
Additionally, if bone broth is prepared correctly, it should contain a high level of gelatin. Gelatin is thought to help with joint health. Bone broth is considered to be a type II collagen.
Although there may be collagen present in bone broth, that doesn’t mean that our bodies will be able to absorb it.
In fact, scientists have studied how bioavailable collagen in bone broth is and found that humans struggle to utilize collagen in its whole form. Now, absorption rates are different for all supplemental protein sources. So having at least a basic understanding of your protein absorption rates will help you navigate this part a bit better.
As mentioned earlier in the article, most type II collagen sources are thought to benefit joint and cartilage health. Sources other than bone broth may fall under other collagen types. Despite the alleged uses, the benefits of the collagen source are mostly dependent on our body’s ability to absorb it.
Topical Collagen Supplements
Within the cosmetic industry, there has been a growing interest in topical collagen supplements like creams, masks and serums. Since collagen has long been thought to keep skin healthy and reduce wrinkles, it only makes sense there would be topical treatments.
Most topical collagen supplements target skin health, so they are thought to be within the type 1 collagen category. Often sourced from fish and cows, type 1 collagen is believed to contain a wide array of amino acids. Some of these amino acids include proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline.
While it initially seems like a logical idea that your skin will absorb the creams or serums you are using, there has been a debate about whether or not applying a collagen serum or cream to your skin actually works.
The key thing to know here is that our pores - like our stomachs - don’t absorb all creams equally. And the absorption rate likely depends on the size of the collagen molecule being used. Since this can be a bit difficult to confirm, most experts lean towards the idea that consuming collagen supplements at the appropriate size is the best way to get any health benefits.
Other dermatologists believe that topical treatments can help, but it is more beneficial to use natural collagen-boosting ingredients versus collagen itself.
Topical collagen treatments are frequently used in the field of dermatology. Cosmetic companies promote them as an anti-aging remedy that could potentially rid you of wrinkles or cellulite.
Powder Collagen Supplements
Another popular collagen supplement option is the powdered form. Now, you can get powdered protein supplements, and you can also get the powdered bone broth.
These will be two very different collagen supplements.
Each type of powder collagen supplement has a slightly different density of collagen, so it may take some research to determine which powdered collagen protein is best suited to your needs.
Powdered collagen supplements can easily fall within any of the five types of collagen we discussed earlier in the article. For instance, if the target is skin health, then it will be type 1 collagen. However, if the goal is joint and cartilage health, type II collagen is more likely.
There are also multi-collagen protein powders out there.
These make for a well-rounded approach to the use of collagen in our diets. It allows you to consume more than one type of collagen so you can experience more of the potential health benefits.
The absorption rate of whichever collagen protein powder you choose will all come down to the molecule size. When discussing collagen absorption, we often use the unit of mass known as a dalton. Daltons are used to express the masses of atoms and molecules.
Collagen, in its natural and original form, has a molecule size of about 30,000 daltons. To give you perspective on this, our stomach pores are the size of 4,000 daltons. So, for powdered collagen protein to be able to be absorbed by our bodies, then it will need to be small enough to fit in our stomach’s pores.
For the collagen molecules to be small enough, they must go through a process known as hydrolysis, which makes hydrolyzed collagen. In short, this breaks down the dalton sizes before we consume collagen, making it easier for our bodies to absorb.
Powdered collagen protein has many uses. It can be used to improve skin health, joint health, and even promote wound healing. And again, the type of collagen used in a protein powder is what will determine the best use.
Hydrolyzed Liquid Collagen Protein
The final supplemental form of collagen we will discuss today is hydrolyzed liquid collagen.
Hydrolyzed collagen is essentially collagen peptides that have been broken down into a smaller molecule size to make absorption easier. For our ProT Gold supplements, we use a unique blend of fruit enzymes to produce the most absorbable liquid collagen protein available. Being in liquid form makes it simple to consume as well as easy to digest.
Hydrolyzed liquid collagen protein would most likely be classified as a multi-collagen protein. This means that it would contain multiple types of collagen, giving the potential for various benefits. Multi-collagen supplements can provide full-body support in your joints, skin, bones, hair, nails, and connective tissue better than one type alone.
Some hydrolyzed liquid collagen protein supplements - such as our ProT Gold liquid collagen shots - are fortified with additional amino acids that are not naturally occurring in collagen protein in order to ensure you are getting a complete protein with all essential and non-essential amino acids.
Some of the most common amino acids that are added are Glutamine, Cysteine, Histidine, Methionine, Threonine, Taurine & Tryptophan.
In the powdered collagen protein supplement section, we touched on the importance of dalton size. To build off of the content there, most hydrolyzed collagen is going to be around 10,000 daltons. This still makes them about 2.5 times bigger than our stomach pores (4,000 daltons).
So, for your body to fully absorb most hydrolyzed collagen, your stomach needs to use extra energy and create waste to break it down to a digestible size (less than 4,000 daltons). However, you can drastically increase the absorption by buying nano-hydrolyzed collagen, which can be as small as 2,000 daltons.
Nano-hydrolyzed collagen (less than 2,500 daltons) can be absorbed completely in less than 15 minutes because your body doesn’t have to break down the molecules to be smaller than the pores in your stomach. The molecules are already much smaller than the pores so you get more collagen protein faster compared to collagen proteins that are less hydrolyzed.
Hydrolyzed collagen has many uses. Some of the most common ways it may be beneficial include:
- Healing wounds and injuries - some studies show up to 2x healing speed
- Maintaining and improving joint health
- Building and maintaining lean muscle
- Promoting healthy skin
- Promoting a healthy gut
Find out how collagen peptides could promote weight loss here.
Is One Collagen Type Better Than the Other?
The question we have been waiting to answer.
Yes! There is one collagen supplement that is better than the rest, and that is nano-hydrolyzed collagen.
The reason that nano-hydrolyzed collagen beats out the others is the bioavailability of the protein molecules. Our hydrolyzed collagen supplement is pre-digested using a fruit enzyme, so the collagen is broken down to a molecular level of just 2,000 daltons, making it “nano-hydrolyzed.”
With hydrolysis, you have a fast-absorbing (15 minutes) supplement with plenty of potential benefits - for both your training routine and overall health.ProT Gold liquid collagen is a complete protein source with 15 grams of enzyme-hydrolyzed collagen protein that will digest up to 4x faster than the leading whey proteins. So whether you’re an athlete looking to support and build your lean muscle, want to promote overall health, or are working to recover from surgery, our liquid collagen protein will be beneficial.