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 all around the world. 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 antiaging benefits. 

What is collagen? 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Generally, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the proteins found in your body.

It’s a protein that contains mainly amino acids – made up of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. These amino acids include arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline and proline.  Furthermore, collagen has a structure like a fibre where it helps to create connective tissues.

This type of tissue connects to other tissues and is a primary component of bone, cartilage, muscles, skin and tendons. Additionally, ligaments are a type of connective tissue that link two bones and hold the joints together. Another type of tissue is the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones.

All bones, ligaments, tendons and skeletal muscles are made up of proteins, and collagen is one of the significant proteins in each of them. With collagen’s natural composition, it helps these tissues to 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 is present 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].

Types of collagen

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

Each type of collagen differs by the arrangement of its molecules, cell components added and collagen’s usage in specific functions of your body. All kinds of collagen may be unique to one another – however, one unifying characteristic is that all collagen fibrils contain at least one triple helix structure.

The dominant types of collagen are the following:

  • Type I, which is 90 percent of your body’s collagen
  • Type II, which is commonly in elastic cartilage that mainly provides joint support
  • Type III is residing in your muscles, arteries and organs
  • Type V found in your cornea that aid in maximising transmission of light in your eyes
  • Type X is a type of collagen that ensure the bone formation and is scientifically found to be in your joint cartilage
Benefits of taking collagen

Type I collagen

First on the list is Type I collagen, considered the most common among other types. This densely-packed collagen occurs naturally in your body, and takes up about 90 percent of your body’s collagen stores. Type I collagen is located just below your skin’s surface, which is the dermis.

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

Additionally, Type I collagen is generally 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.

However, despite the many health benefits of Type I collagen, experts suggest talking to your doctors and combining taking Type I collagen supplements with healthy lifestyle habits. By doing these, you are securing whether you have allergies to Type I collagen and providing overall health benefits, especially in your hair, nails and skin.

Type II collagen

Another type of collagen is Type II, which is commonly present 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 with other types except for one use – aiding the pain levels of people with knee osteoarthritis. Type II collagen can be in conjunction with acetaminophen, which helps reduce pain.

Moreover, although Type II collagen can significantly help in pain reduction for common joint problems, a strong research is still a must to prove that it contributes to healthy joint inflammation response, construction of damaged joint cartilage and increased range in motion.

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

Type III Collagen

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

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One of Type III collagen’s unique characteristics is having a singular alpha chain because other types have multiple alpha chains. Together with Type I collagen, Type III collagen can benefit the gut, muscles, blood vessels and women’s reproductive system.

Some studies criticise the use of Type III 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 maximise the transmission of light happening in your eyes. Type V collagen works better together with Type I and Type III collagens. 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. Apparently, Type V collagen has shown to be promising in maintaining healthy eyes, cell membranes and tissues located in your body’s placenta. 

Type X Collagen

Another type of collagen is Type X collagen, which can be located in your body’s joint cartilage. Type X collagen’s primary responsibility is to support bone formation.

This collagen is a network-forming type and can determine severe conditions in your bones. People with a high amount of 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 aid recovery from several bone-related issues, such as limb damage and broken bones. However, this is not fully supported up by research.

The only claim that is proven by studies is that Type X collagen is naturally in bodies that handle bone formation and help in identifying rheumatological disorders. Hence, no scientific evidence proves this type of collagen can heal your body’s injured area [2].

Forms of collagen

There are three (3) primary forms of collagen, namely hydrolyzed collagen, gelatin collagen and undenatured type II collagen.

  • Hydrolyzed collagen: this form of collagen is popularly known as collagen peptides, collagen powder, hydrolysate collagen and hydrolysed gelatin. Hydrolyzed collagen is deemed the easiest to digest by the body because it is basically in a broken-down form. 
  • Gelatin collage: 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. 
  • Undenatured Type II collagen: or also known as UC-II is basically 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. Reportedly, these are 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 those typical collagen supplements. Taking collagen supplements have been patronised by many people all over the world, with them being rich in protein, vitamin C, biotin and zinc. 

Uses of collagen 

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

  • Collagen can help in giving more strength to different structures of your body. 
  • 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.
  • Collagen protein binds everything together.
  • Collagen holds cells and tissues all together which are present in your bladder, blood vessels, digestive tract, gallbladder, heart, kidneys and smooth muscle tissues.
  • Your hair and nails have collagen as their primary component. 
  • 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:

  • Dermal fillers use an injection that fills shallow parts of your skin, including lines and wrinkles. 
  • In wound healing, collagen can also play a role as it attracts new skin cells to heal the wound. 
  • 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. 
  • Collagen is also helpful in reconstructing arteries and aids in the regeneration of peripheral nerves. 

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

Collagen’s benefits to skin

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. 

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Collagen can help by providing non-surgical remedies to people in need of enhancement in beauty aspects, especially by eliminating wrinkles. It can lessen the look of your wrinkles by forming fibroblasts – or specialised cell clusters found in your dermis–and replace dead skin, leaving you with new and younger-looking skin. 

Benefits of taking collagen

Collagen’s benefits in digesting food

One of the beneficial amino acids that make up collagen is glycine, which can greatly 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 connective tissue formation, 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. 

Collagen peptides can reduce pain in joints and tendons

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

Benefits of taking collagen

Collagen can improve your mood and sleep

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 inhibits muscle activity while in REM sleep. Generally, your body temperature decreases as bedtime approaches [3].

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. 

Collagen can boost your brain health

Aside from being a sleep promoter and a mood relaxer, collagen can further help you with keeping 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.  

Food sources of collagen

The primary source of collagen supplements comes from animals; hence, it is not vegan-friendly. It is impossible to source organic and ethically-raised animals to make collagen supplements. You can get collagen from bone broth powder in its whole-food form. If you are uncomfortable with animals as your collagen source, you can always get it from eating food. 

Fresh and saltwater fishes are excellent sources of collagen, particularly their bone broth, skin, organ meats and bones. You may want to choose anchovies and sardines as they are rich in collagen. You can also get collagen from eating liver and onions, chuck steak, kidney pie, pot roast and brisket. Another way to consume collagen is by eating the skin of your food proteins, whether it is fish or chicken. However, bone broth can actually give you a lot, especially around 7 to 10 grams of collagen. 

As your body can produce collagen on its own, you can also eat some foods that boost collagen production. These are eggs, dairy, legumes and soy. For your body to produce more collagen, it also needs several nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin C and copper. 

Hence, it is recommended to eat foods that are high in these, such as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, apsara, wheat and granola for vitamin C and proline. You can combine these with zinc-rich foods, including oysters, pork, beans, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables and milk products. For food options that are rich in copper, you may want to eat lobster, shiitake mushrooms, tofu and dark chocolate [4].

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. Having collagen supplements in your body may overstimulate your production, which can cause increased oxidative stress. Consequently, your body may form free radicals that can overwhelm your defences, leading to cell and tissue damage. 

Furthermore, there are certain people who should not be taking collagen supplements. First is if you have a specific medical condition, as collagen may worsen your symptoms. If you are taking medical drugs for a health problem, it is best to ask your doctor first before taking collagen supplements. Next, children are not to take collagen supplements for several health reasons. 

Pregnant people and breastfeeding mothers are also not advised to take collagen supplements; unless, of course, prescribed by their physician. Lastly, you must not take collagen supplements if you are allergic to various fishes, shellfish and eggs. 

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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 in making your skin more youthful and smooth looking. Thus, ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can destroy collagen and elastin from exposure to the sun. 

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. 

How to prevent 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, or 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 Cortisol levels become high when feeling stressed, 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 in order 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 [5]. 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. Only take around 40 milligrams on an empty stomach. A little warning: Undenatured Type II collagen is not a protein supplement. 

Knowing when you lack collagen is the best way to manage your collagen production. There are several signs to look out for, such as: 

  • Wrinkled and sagging skin
  • Eyes and face are sunken
  • Weakened muscles and muscle aches
  • Stiffer tendons and ligaments
  • Joint pain and easily injured 
  • Gastrointestinal problems or poor gut health 
  • Blood flow problems. 

Importance of collagen

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, and improve your joint mobility and lower joint pain.

As collagen is 60 percent 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 about what to feel. Hence, asking your first healthcare provider before consuming any collagen supplement is better.

[1] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen 
[2] https://www.drugwatch.com/health/collagen/types/ 
[3] https://bluebirdprovisions.co/blogs/news/benefits-collagen 
[4] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/ 
[5] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-collagen-per-day#overdose 

Photograph: YuliaLisitsa/Shutterstock

References

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About the Author: Tung Chi