Here, we’ll cover what exactly collagen is, as well as what hydrolyzed collagen is, and what the benefits are. Also, we will discuss whether there are there any potential risks to supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen, and how much you need.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that helps form the connective tissues on the body. Collagen is used to form bone, skin, and joints. It’s one of the most abundant molecules in the human body.
The amount of collagen we have in our bodies is directly related to the ageing process — the older we get, the less we have. Because collagen is important for healthy, elastic skin, there’s been a rise in its use for cosmetic purposes.1
Collagen is also a very important protein when it comes to recovery.4 After an injury — especially to soft tissue and bone — there’s an extra need for collagen’s repairing capabilities.4
One study demonstrated that supplementing with 5g of specific collagen peptides improved bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and femoral neck of post-menopausal women.4 There are also useful benefits of collagen in athletic populations. This was shown in a 24-week study on athletes and the improvement of joint pain when using collagen hydrolysate.
What is hydrolyzed collagen?
So why would we want something that’s hydrolyzed? When something is hydrolyzed, it’s broken down into a smaller unit or molecule. This process makes the collagen easier to be absorbed in the bloodstream and transported to where it’s needed. Hydrolyzed collagen doesn’t need to go through the process of being broken down in the body, so less collagen is needed and wasted this way.
Collagen in its supplement form is hydrolyzed collagen. Hydrolyzed collagen comes from 4 main sources — cows, chicken, pigs, and marine sources. It’s important to note that most collagen supplements are not vegan-friendly.1
Hydrolyzed collagen contains amino acids and the amino acid derivatives glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. 6
What are the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen?
The skin is the largest organ in the human body. As we age, our skin elasticity starts to change, and we lose that youthful look and feel. Since a large component of our skin is made up of collagen, it would make sense to investigate if there is any benefit of supplementing with extra collagen.
There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated that hydrolyzed collagen increases skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. 2 An interesting observation showed that topical skin creams with collagen had little to no effect as the molecules were too big to be absorbed through the skin.2
Lean muscle mass
Collagen is a form of protein. Protein is directly linked to healthy lean muscle mass.8 All proteins are made up of amino acids — and collagen is no exception. Whilst it might be inferior to whey or casein protein for muscle growth, it still could be added to your daily protein intake to help with soft tissue recovery and muscle growth.8
There’s scientific evidence that supports collagen protein and its role in promoting lean muscle mass.9 There is a caveat to this: often when there’s a study that uses a supplement, there’s a control group which does not get the supplement. They compare the results of the one group that gets the supplement to the one that does not. If the results are different between the two groups they can determine an effect. The issue with a lot of the collagen protein studies for muscle mass is that they give one group the collagen protein and the other group carbs.
Since carbs don’t promote muscle mass, there’s a positive result for the collagen. If the studies compared collagen protein to a more complete protein like whey, for muscle mass, it’s highly likely that the results for whey protein would be more favorable.
So while collagen could be used for muscle mass it would not be as good as a whole source such as whey or casein protein.
Collagen could also have a positive impact on heart health. There’s evidence that supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen helps with arterial stiffness.5 Our arteries are made up of collagen, so when we age and collagen is low, there’s the potential for them to become weak. Collagen has also shown some mild benefits of increasing “good” cholesterol HDL level. HDL carries cholesterol away from the heart. 5
Hydrolyzed collagen could also help to prevent unwanted bone loss. As we age, we get less new bone formation and an increased amount of bone breakdown. This could potentially lead to osteoporosis if left unchecked. Osteoporosis could lead to increased bone fracture risk. Hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to improve bone mineral density in post-menopausal women, which will help reduce the risk of bone-related illnesses.7
Supplementing with collagen peptides might help reduce joint pain. Collagen supplementation has been shown to demonstrate an anabolic effect on cartilage tissue. 3 These effects might help those who suffer from osteoarthritis, which is a painful joint-related condition. There’s some evidence showing the befits of supplementing with collagen hydrolysate in athletes by minimizing the pain and possibly reducing the risk of injury.3
What are the side effects and risks of using hydrolyzed collagen?
Supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen is considered safe with no known adverse side effect to date. However, don’t over-supplement with anything for the sake of it. Whilst it might not do harm, little good will come from overuse.
There have been some anecdotal reports of heartburn or indigestion as well as a bad after taste. The general consensus is it’s a safe supplement to use unless you have a specific allergy to collagen.
What’s the best hydrolyzed collagen supplement?
As previously mentioned in this article, hydrolyzed collagen comes from 4 different animal sources: cows, pigs, chicken, and marine sources. You might be wondering if there’s any difference on where the collagen comes from?
Currently, there is no hard evidence to suggest a particular source is better than another. What’s important is what the collagen is mixed with.
It’s worth noting that sugar can deplete collagen stores in the body. So, you ideally want to look for a collagen supplement that doesn’t have any sugar or too many additional ingredients.
How much hydrolyzed collagen do you need?
Most clinical studies have shown the benefits of 5g of collagen peptides.4 There have been a few studies which have gone up to 10g per day. There’s little evidence showing that any more will be of any benefit. It’s advised to find a reliable and high-quality source and stick to the recommended use on the label.4 You can check out our Collagen Protein here for more information.
Take home message
Collagen is a protein that occurs both naturally in the body as well as in cows, pigs, chicken and marine sources.
A highly absorbable form of collagen is known as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides. This is a broken down form of collagen that the body – can absorb easily.
Collagen is largely responsible for joint, bone and skin health. If you are coming back from an injury or wanting to help slow down the ageing process, collagen is something you should look in to.
With no serious known side effects as well as being fairly cheap, collagen could be a useful aid in anyone’s’ supplement stack.