How to choose a collagen supplement

Collagen comes in multiple types, sources and forms and may benefit multiple areas of health.

Once known mainly as an anti-aging ingredient for beauty products, collagen is increasingly regarded as a multi-functional dietary supplement. Orally taken collagen can contribute to healthier skin, nails, joints, bones, muscles and cardiovascular system. So how do you go about picking the right collagen supplement?

The primary way to choose a collagen product is based on the collagen type(s) it contains. Type I, type II and type III are the main ones, which collectively constitute about 90% of the total collagen in the body. Some products may also include minor collagen types such as type V and type X.

Type I collagen, the most abundant type, has multiple beneficial effects. It can help smooth and firm up the skin, fight brittle nails, strengthen tendons, ligaments and bones, support healthy muscle growth and keep blood vessels supple.

Type II collagen targets cartilage health. It has been found to reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness in joints affected by arthritis.

Type III collagen helps maintain the linings of organs and muscles and the elasticity of tendons and ligaments.

The source of collagen is another way to narrow down on product choices. Since only animals naturally produce collagen, collagen supplements so far are all derived from animal sources. Products labeled as “plant-based collagen” or “collagen builder” contain nutrients that can support collagen production in the body, but do not contain collagen per se. The following are the major commercially available collagen sources:

  • Bovine collagen, purified from the skin and bones of cows, is a rich source of type I and type III collagen. It’s therefore a good choice for healthy skin, muscles and bones for someone with no objections to beef products. Some bovine collagen products feature grass-fed or pasture-raised cows as their source.
  • Marine collagen, extracted from the skin and scales of fish, is mainly a source of type I collagen. It offers similar benefits as bovine collagen, but would not be suitable for people with fish or shellfish allergies. Some marine collagen products are labeled as wild-caught or sustainable.
  • Chicken collagen is prepared from chicken sternum cartilage. It provides type II collagen, and is therefore the right choice for a focus on joint comfort. Chicken cartilage products are often available in cage-free varieties. Type II collagen in a native, unaltered form appears to serve as an immune modulator, able to lessen joint inflammation.
  • Egg shell membranes from hens’ eggs are a source of type I and type V collagen. The type I content makes them a good alternative to bovine and marine collagen, but only for individuals without egg allergies. The cage-free label may apply here.

Thanks to modern biotechnology, a form of collagen derived from genetically modified yeast has already been formulated into cosmetic products, so stayed tuned for possible vegan collagen supplements in the future.

Regardless of the type and source, many of the collagen products on the market are in the form of collagen peptides, also referred to as collagen hydrolysate or hydrolyzed collagen. Unlike the original long, fibrous collagen protein, collagen peptides have been broken down into small pieces, allowing them to be much more easily absorbed through the digestive system. Collagen peptides are known to reach tissues including the skin and stimulate collagen production there.

Replenish what aging takes away: a collagen supplement may be a worthwhile investment for a healthier, more radiant you.

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