You may have heard of collagen and all of the amazing things it can do for you. But you might not understand the various types of collagen, and that different types of collagen have different effects on the body. Here we explain the most abundant collagen types (Type I and Type III and 40 other types!), the different forms of collagen (hydrolyzed peptides vs gelatin) as well as different sources of collagen (bovine vs. marine vs chicken vs. etc). Learn about collagen types and how supplementing with collagen can provide benefits to the entire body.
What is Collagen?
As you consider supplementing with collagen, It’s critical to know the different types of collagen because each one consists of different proteins that serve different functions.
To get started, collagen is a protein. In fact, it is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and the second most abundant molecule besides water. Collagen is the building block for many parts of the body, including skin, bones, and tendons. It can also be found in our hair, joints, eyelashes, nails, muscles in general, teeth, and even our stomach lining. Are you beginning to see the importance of collagen yet? But wait, we’ve got a lot more to say!
Collagen is so important because it makes up 70% of our skin (the human body’s biggest organ) and 90% of both our connective tissue and organic bone mass. This long chain of amino acids is what builds and connects our skin, bones, and connective tissues. Since our bodies natural production of collagen slows down in our twenties and it’s very difficult to get enough collagen from our Western diets, more and more people are supplementing with collagen to replenish their lost collagen supply and to reap the health benefits of collagen.
Types of Collagen
There are a whopping 40 different types of collagen in the body, and in this article, we’ll be covering Type I, Type II, Type III, differentiating between marine and bovine collagen, as well as between collagen hydrolysate and collagen peptides. Let’s get to know them now!
1. Type I Collagen
More often than not, Types I and III collagen are typically grouped together. This is because these two types of collagen are the most abundant and serve similar functions. In fact, together they make up more than 90% of the total collagen in the body! These two types of collagen are key components in the maintenance of skin, nails, bones, hair, and muscles. Types I and III collagen are produced by osteoblasts and fibroblasts, which are cells located in our connective tissues and cells that create bones respectively.
Type I collagen can be found all over the body excluding cartilaginous tissues (see Type II). The collagen that we mentioned previously that makes up 70% of our skin is Type I collagen. Type I collagen is key to replenishing skin and consequently helping to reverse aging. Clinical trials in patients who supplemented with Type I collagen showed enhanced skin hydration and firmness as well as a decrease in wrinkles.
While there are 18 amino acids in collagen, in particular four key amino acids found within these two types of collagen help keep our bodies healthy and feeling great. Two of them are essential amino acids glycine and proline. Glycine is an all-encompassing amino acid with many important functions in the body. Glycine is important in blocking endotoxin (a compound that activates inflammatory signals and can lead to low thyroid levels).
Another important essential amino acid in Type I and III collagen is proline. Proline is especially important for the stimulation of collagen synthesis as well as acting as an antioxidant and preventing cell damage from free radicals.
Type I and III collagen also includes two other important amino acids; glutamine, which helps prevent gut inflammation, and arginine, which may be able to help synthesize creatine for increased athletic performance.
Supplementing with Type I and III collagen has been shown to have a number of health benefits for the body, including slowing hair loss, reducing wrinkles, thickening fine hair and reducing fine lines, improving circulation, supporting the matrix of our bone structures, and strengthening nail beds.
2. Type II Collagen
Type II collagen is only produced by chondrocytes, meaning you will find it in your cartilage. Type II collagen makes up 50-60% of cartilage protein. Type II collagen comes from chicken, and is helpful in the support of your joints and cartilage, possibly able to help support your jaw, back, and joints – this includes reducing those irritating popping knees.
3. Type III Collagen
As we said before, Type I and Type III collagen are almost always grouped together because of how similar they are in terms of what they can offer. Type III collagen can be found in our artery walls as well as other hollow organs. It also typically occurs in similar fibrils (subdivisions of muscle fibers) along with Type I. Just know that both are rich in those amino acids we mentioned earlier: glycine, proline, and glutamine.
Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides vs. Gelatin
Collagen is made up of three long chains of over 1000 amino acids that are twisted to form a helix conformation. This full length form of collagen is unhydrolyzed and difficult to digest.
Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are made by breaking down the full length chain of amino acids through a process called hydrolysis to form short chain amino acids. Collagen peptides, also called hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate, have the same amino acids as the full length collagen, but with different structural properties. Collagen peptides are physically smaller in structure and thus are absorbed more efficiently (e.g. more quickly in the bloodstream) than the long chain of amino acids. Just think about it – something smaller will get digested, absorbed and moved in the bloodstream faster than something bigger.
Gelatin is collagen that has gone through partial hydrolysis, resulting in a gel. Gelatin is useful in helping to thicken and add texture to foods, such as jello, puddings and gummies.
Marine Collagen vs Bovine Collagen
Bovine collagen consists of Type I and Type III collagen. Bovine collagen can be found in the cartilage, bones, or hides of cows. Most often collagen supplements made from bovine collagen is coming from the hides of cows. Collagen that’s coming from the hides is essentially a by-product of an existing production process. If the collagen coming from the hides weren’t getting turned into gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen, it would just get thrown away Supplementing with bovine collagen provides benefits to the bones, joints, skin and gut.
Marine collagen consists of Type I collagen only. Marine collagen comes from fish and has the smallest particle size as well as lowest molecular weight of all the other collagen types. This means even easier access through the bloodstream for better repair and effective nourishment. In fact, marine collagen is absorbed 1.5 times more efficiently than other collagens!
Marine collagen, or fish collagen, is known for its anti-aging benefits, including helping to decrease wrinkles and reduce appearance of scars. In addition to its efficiency, marine collagen is also great for sustainability; collagen-rich fish skin is typically a large portion of the estimated 60% of fish by-products that would usually become waste. That means less environmental pollution!
Collagen doesn’t just come from fish and beef. Collagen can come from a variety of sources, including chicken, pig, and egg. Chicken collagen is usually extracted from the chicken’s breast cartilage. Chicken collagen is a Type II collagen, and so it is beneficial for medicinal purposes, particularly for your joints, bones, and cartilage.
Egg collagen can be naturally found in both the yolk and the membrane of chicken eggs, containing both Type I and Type V collagen (Type V collagen is important for hair, placenta, and the surfaces of our cells). It also has plenty of other proteins that help promote the body’s production of collagen as well.
Finally there is pig collagen, which is found primarily in pork skin. High in glycine, pig collagen has been known mostly for its skin benefits. When choosing which type of collagen is best for you, it is always important to know where it is sourced from, and what benefits you hope to reap.
How To Choose the Best Collagen Type for You
It’s always important to do your research before choosing the right dietary supplement for you. Based on your unique needs, condition, and lifestyle, certain types of collagen may be better than others. We always recommend talking to your doctor before making your final decision. If you’re really focused on the beauty benefits, for example, Type I marine collagen might be right for you. Maybe gut health is something you’re concerned about – maybe give bovine collagen a try, because it has both Types I and III.
Collagen types are most helpful to the part of the body they are found in, so pay attention to your needs and choose accordingly – thankfully, the research has been done for you!
Further Food offers both bovine and marine collagen. Buy here.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.