Collagen is a protein that is manufactured by the human body and found in the skin, hair, nails, connective tissue, bone, and cartilage. Despite its widespread presence, collagen lacks tryptophan, so it is considered an incomplete protein. Collagen is made up of 3 chains of amino acids that are wound together to form a triple helix. Since glycine is the smallest of all of the amino acids, it enables the chain to form a tight configuration that can withstand stress. Due to its rigidity and resistance to stretching, collagen is the perfect matrix for skin, tendons, bones, muscles, and ligaments. It promotes skin strength and elasticity and supports nail health and growth.
Collagen peptides are very small pieces of protein that are made by extracting collagen from connective tissue, skin, bone, and cartilage of animals, including cows, chickens, pigs, and fish, and from egg shell membranes through a heating process called hydrolysis. Once broken down, these newly created collagen peptides are more bioavailable and more easily absorbed than collagen. They are then converted into pill, powder, and liquid form and sold to consumers as collagen peptide supplements.
Collagen peptide is simply the protein collagen broken down via hydrolysis during the manufacturing process so that it can be dissolved into water for ease of consumption. The protein is extracted from the skin, bone, cartilage, and connective tissue of bovine, poultry, marine (fish), and porcine. There are five different types of collagen in the human body and each one can be found in different places. Type 1 is the most abundant of them all and is found in hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and eyes. Beef, bone broth, and egg shells are the sources of it. Type 2 collagen can be found in joints, cartilage, and gut lining and its best sources are chicken and bone broth. Type 3 collagen is found in the body’s organs, blood vessels, and structure muscles and its best sources are beef, bone broth, and fish. Type 5 collagen is found in the placenta of a pregnant mother and the human eyes. Its best source is eggshells. Type X collagen is found in joints and bones and the best sources of it are eggshells and chicken.
Can some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, wildly successful reality personalities, and an ever-growing cadre of not-so-famous people all be wrong? If there isn’t enough anecdotal evidence to convince you that collagen peptides work, there is some research that also demonstrates its effectiveness.
This randomized placebo-controlled study of postmenopausal women found that 5g of specific collagen peptides significantly increased bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and the femoral neck in subjects with age-related decline in BMD.
A randomized placebo-controlled study of 120 subjects demonstrated that oral supplementation with fish collagen peptides combined with other vitamins and bioactive compounds significantly improved skin elasticity and joint health and might be an effective solution to slow down some of the hallmarks of aging.
This randomized study found that collagen peptide supplementation, in combination with resistance training, improved the body composition and increased the muscle strength of elderly male subjects.
As people age, their skin gets duller and more wrinkled. Collagen peptides, though, help to firm the skin, plump it up, and keep it hydrated, which helps to prevent wrinkles. This study reports significant elasticity improvement with oral intake of low-molecular weight collagen peptides. When looking specifically at eye wrinkle appearance, the researchers found that women who ingested 2.5g of collagen peptides over an 8 week period had a 20% reduction in eye wrinkle volume when compared to the placebo. A significant reduction of 7.2% was found in as little as four weeks. The maximum reduction in eye wrinkle volume at 8 weeks was found to be almost 50%.
Collagen peptides may support ligament and tendon health, and significantly reduce joint discomfort among athletes, older adults, and people with exercise-related joint discomfort. This study reports that taking 15g of collagen approximately 60 minutes before exercise can promote joint health and improve exercise related joint discomfort. However, more substantial research is needed to understand the mechanism of action.
This 24-week study demonstrated that collagen hydrolysate supplementation can promote healthy joints for athletes with temporary exercise related joint discomfort. The results of this preliminary study may have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of age-related joint changes in high-risk populations. More research is needed.
While some claim that collagen peptides may boost muscle mass, this study contends that whey protein appears to be more effective for lean muscle growth in older women. Researchers gave 22 women 30g of protein two times/day for 6 days. Half of the study group took collagen and the other half took whey protein. Both groups did one-sided resistance training. The collagen group experienced muscle growth, but only with exercise and not as much growth as the whey protein group.
There is some evidence to indicate that taking collagen peptides on a daily basis could help make your bones denser, slowing the aging process and helping your body to maintain healthy bones. More research is needed. The main factors that can contribute to strong and healthy bones include proper balanced hormones, weight bearing exercises, and nutrition. Nutrients that support bone health and can strengthen bones include vitamin D and calcium.
There is no real evidence that collagen peptides support weight management, but proponents claim that it promotes satiety, boosts muscle mass, and promotes joint comfort. The connection to weight loss is not clear so more research is definitely called in order to substantiate this claim.
There are some collagen peptide devotees who contend that it could help boost your mood because one of the amino acids found in collagen is glycine, which is known to increase your serotonin levels without raising dopamine. More research is needed as these findings were from a study conducted on mice. Preliminary research also shows that glycine may help promote healthy sleep and fatigue associated with occasional restricted sleep.
There is some evidence that collagen peptides can support gut health. This study of the effect of a daily peptide supplement on digestive symptoms in healthy women concluded that this protocol may reduce bloating and improve any mild digestive symptoms in otherwise healthy female adults in the absence of any other dietary or lifestyle interventions.
Collagen peptides are characterized by their high levels of specific amino acids glycine (Gly), hydroxyproline (Hyp), proline (Pro), and alanine (Ala). Glycine is needed to make antioxidants like glutathione.
According to this article, collagen can also promote healthy tight junctions, which are important for the gut barrier. The gut barrier manages immunity, nutrient absorption, and digestion, according to this study.
Nails are a modified type of skin, and the skin below the nail is known as the matrix. This matrix can be improved by collagen peptides since they stimulate the growth of the proteins that make up the matrix. Though there are fewer human studies examining the relationship between collagen peptides and nail health than those with skin, this clinical trial of women with brittle nails who ingested 2.5g of collagen peptides for 6 months improved nail health for 24 weeks for 64% of participants. Nail growth increased by 12% and nail breakage decreased by 42%. These findings indicate that collagen may be of benefit to individuals with weak or brittle nails.
There are a number of theories on how to take collagen peptides, but the general consensus is that, no matter when you take them, you should do so every day. Some contend that you take them in the morning mixed in water or coffee, which will help to make it habitual, while others claim you should take it at bedtime so that your skin can rest and be rejuvenated. The choice is yours.
Neither hot liquid or heat is bad for collagen peptides. Many people add their daily dose of the temperature stable supplement to their morning coffee and still get the results they’re looking for.
There is no guarantee as to when you will see results, but most studies report starting to see results in 8-12 weeks, depending on dose, frequency, and health goals.
Taking collagen peptides is both safe and well-tolerated. It is important to take as directed and, as always, check with your physician or healthcare provider when beginning a new supplement regimen.
There have been no serious side effects to taking collagen peptides reported, though some people may experience heartburn, a feeling of fullness, or mild stomach distress depending on the ingredients, dosing, and how they are being used. Always be sure to look at the ingredients label on the collagen supplement you are taking or considering. Be sure to avoid any potential allergens or unnecessary ingredients. It is best to have a product that is non-GMO and third party tested for optimal quality. Taking collagen peptides with food, or even dividing your daily dose into two separate amounts may provide some relief.