Collagen is a connective protein that is found in every tissue in your body. Its purpose is to prevent tissues from stretching and to help them return to their normal shape when stretched.
It is a protein that we also lose when we age, which leads to wrinkles.
Our Top Picks of Collagen Supplements
- Vital Proteins
- Premium Collagen Peptides
- Great Lakes Gelatin
- Neocell Super Collagen
- Zint Beef Collagen Powder
Collagen supplements might sound like something you’d expect to find in the beauty aisle but superficial collagen replacement isn’t as effective as consuming a collagen supplement.
The natural loss of collagen can also make it more difficult for muscles and other soft tissue to recover after exercise as we age.
Whether you’re looking for a new collagen supplement to add to your diet, or are looking for more information about collagen supplements, it can be hard to know where to start due to the sheer number of products on the market.
To help make your decision a bit easier, we’ve gathered some information about the product itself and reviewed some of the most popular collagen supplements on the market. Now, on with the show!
What are the Benefits of Collagen Supplements?
Aside from aging, environmental factors like UV radiation (from sunlight or tanning beds) and smoking both contribute to collagen loss.
Taking collagen supplements has a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved skin condition – Taking collagen supplements can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve the overall condition of your skin, and even reduce cellulite and prevent stretch marks from forming.
- Preventing osteoporosis – Collagen helps to stimulate the generation of bone creating cells known as osteoblasts which help to prevent the bone loss associated with osteoporosis.
- Improved weight loss and overall body composure – One study has found that a collagen supplement can help with weight loss, and help maintain muscle mass, especially in elderly men.
Collagen supplements have also been shown to be beneficial for hair and nail growth, strengthening weak nails or fine hair.
It could also have benefits for joint health and as a remedy for joint pain, but that hasn’t been studied at length yet, so all reports of these benefits are still anecdotal.
Are there Different Types of Collagen Supplements?
There are actually three different types of collagen in the body, and as such there are different types of collagen supplements that offer different benefits for different parts of the body.
Collagen 1 and 3 are made up of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and alanine – amino acids that help support healthy bones, muscles, and skin, and also help with hair and nail health.
These supplements can be taken together, since both collagen 1 and collagen 3 help to maintain the same bodily systems.
Collagen 2 is a liquid form of collagen, made up of chondrocytes. Supplements for collagen 2 should be taken separately to ensure that they are properly absorbed by the body.
Not all supplements will specify which collagens they are made up of, so it’s important to do your research based on the kind of benefits you’re looking for.
What are the Sources for Collagen Supplements?
Most collagen supplements come from the animal kingdom – piscine supplements are made from fish and are considered to be the most effective source of collagen supplements. Other sources are bovine (cow), porcine (pig) and fowl (chicken), though none of these are considered as effective as piscine sourced supplements.
Unfortunately, that tends to leave out those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle due to the use of animal products. There are some vegan alternatives for collagen supplement sources, including silica from plants such as the horsetail stem, and soy which contains genistein which has been shown to naturally increase collagen production.
What Should You Consider Before Purchasing a Collagen Supplement?
The most important thing to remember when choosing a collagen supplement is that topical applications – like creams and other similar anti-aging products – do not work. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed readily into the skin. Supplements like pills and powders are the best source for collagen supplementation.
Also, it is important to note that while tablets and capsules might last longer in your medicine cabinet, they don’t get absorbed in the body as well as powders or liquids.
What Ingredients Should You Look For In A Collagen Supplement?
The exact formulation of collagen supplements will vary depending on the manufacturer, but in general you want to look for:
- Hydrolyzed collagen – This type of collagen is simply absorbed better by the body.
- Vitamin C – This can appear in many forms, but this vitamin is essential to proper collagen synthesis. In addition to working well with the supplements, it helps your body create it’s own collagen. (Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18505499 )
- Hyaluronic Acid (HA) – This component helps to reduce skin dryness and wrinkles, which compliments the benefits of the collagen supplement. (Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/ )
- Glucosamine Chondroitin – This supplement is often used for joint health, which makes it ideal if you’re pairing it with collagen 2, but it has also been found to help improve skin health and collagen production because it stimulates the body’s production of hyaluronic acid. (Study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1473-2165.2006.00277.x/abstract )
Other ingredients you’ll likely see in your collagen supplement include fillers, flavors, and sweeteners, especially in powdered and liquid supplements to counteract the sharp and bitter flavor of the primary ingredients.
What is the recommended dosage for collagen supplements?
The recommended dosage of hydrolyzed collagen that has been found to be effective is at least 10,000 mg a day. Many powder and liquid supplements contain this much or more per serving, making it easier to adjust your dosage as needed.
Are there any side effects of collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements are considered safe to take as a supplement, though there have been some reported side effects, including:
- Hypercalcemia – Some supplements, especially those made with collagen from fish, can cause excessively high levels of calcium in the body. You should avoid taking a calcium supplement and a collagen supplement at the same time, or if it is unavoidable, make sure you do so under the supervision of a doctor.
- Hypersensitivity – Depending on the source of the collagen, it could cause allergic reactions. Additionally, some ingredients could cause food sensitivities.
Any side effects you experience should be discussed with your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you to continue taking collagen supplements.
Now we get to the heart of the matter – product reviews! We’ve reviewed 5 of the most popular collagen supplements on the market and at the end, we’ll let you know who has won the title of best collagen supplement.
Vital Proteins is the first collagen supplement on our list, and for good reason – it’s filled with bovine collagen peptides from grass fed Brazilian beef. The cold water soluble formula is ideal for mixing with your favorite juice, coffee, or tea, or even just a glass of cold water in the morning. The product is marketed as a solution for skin, bone, joint health, and weight maintenance, though it doesn’t offer a lot of information on the label as to the type of collagen it is made of – remember, types 1 and 3 are good for skin, hair, nails, and connective tissue, while type 2 is better for joints.
- Grass Fed Sources – The collagen is sourced from organic, grass fed beef, making it ideal for anyone who prefers organic foods.
- Cold water soluble – Easily dissolves in cold water, making it simple to enjoy in any beverage.
- Information Unclear – The nutrition label is full of info about various amino acids but doesn’t provide a lot of information about the product itself.
Premium Collagen Peptides
Premium Collagen Peptides is the first item on our list that utilizes pure hydrolyzed collagen peptides as the one and only ingredient in this supplement. This specifically utilizes type 1 and 3 collagen as well as amino acids for skin, hair, and overall body health. This is also a bovine based protein, derived from pasture fed cows. It mixes easily in cold water or warm water, and as an unflavored supplement, it doesn’t affect the flavor of anything you mix it with.
- Easy Mixing – Mixes well in cold or warm beverages, and can also be mixed into recipes like pancakes or muffins.
- Pasture Fed – The bovine source for the collagen peptides is pasture fed, though it is not verified as organic.
- 100% Hydrolyzed Collagen – This supplement is nothing but collagen, with no additives or artificial ingredients.
- Sodium Concerns – This supplement contains 28mg of sodium, which is higher than many other similar products – it may not be suitable for anyone who needs to lower their sodium intake.
Great Lakes Gelatin
Great Lakes Gelatin might sound like an off brand Jell-O snack, but it’s actually one of the best collagen supplements that we’ve tried. This is a certified paleo-friendly bovine collagen supplement, made of 100% collagen hydrolysate from pasture fed sources. The supplement itself is 90% protein, dissolves well in every liquid we’ve tried, and doesn’t add any strange flavor to the drinks we’ve tried.
This collagen supplement is also marketed as a metabolism booster that helps to increase athletic performance and improves overall muscle recovery. This may be true, due to the need for collagen to repair connective tissue that is stretched during exercise, but there are no studies that we were able to find that support the use of collagen as an exercise supplement.
- Pasture-fed cows – This bovine supplement is derived from organic, pasture-fed cows raised in Argentina and Brazil.
- No Flavor, No Problem – This unflavored supplement mixes well with everything and leaves little to no aftertaste.
Neocell Super Collagen
If mixing a powder isn’t your cup of tea (or coffee, or juice), Super Collagen +C is right up your alley. This supplement comes in tablet form, each serving containing 6000 mg of collagen. Unlike many of the other supplement’s we’ve reviewed, it also includes Vitamin C which we mentioned above as a vitamin that is essential for collagen production. These tablets contain type 1 and 3 collagen which is ideal for skin, hair, and nail health. It is also marketed as a useful tool for joint health, but it does not contain any collagen type 2 so we are unsure how accurate that last claim is.
- Grass fed bovine collagen – This supplement is made from pasture raised beef.
- Vitamin C – The addition of vitamin C helps enhance the effect of the collagen in this supplement.
- Proprietary Blend – These tablets rely on a proprietary blend of collagen, making it difficult to discern the precise ingredients in this supplement.
Zint Beef Collagen Powder
Our final review is of Zint Beef Collagen Powder. This supplement is made of bovine collagen, specifically types 1 and 3 for skin and hair rejuvenation. This hydrolyzed collagen powder is flavorless and mixes well with nearly every fluid, warm or cold. Produced from grass fed beef, this supplement is also marketed for cartilage and tendon health, as collagen can help to reduce inflammation in these connective tissues.
- Paleo-friendly grass fed formula – The collagen in this product comes from grass fed beef.
- No allergen risk – Zint is produced in a facility that only produces collagen supplements, so there is no risk of cross contamination or additional allergens (like dairy, soy, or tree nuts) being introduced into the product.
- Extra additives – the packaging claims to include only collagen, but other ingredients such as arginine and aspartic acid, which may cause allergic reactions in those that are unaware.
After trying all of these collagen powders, which one comes out on top? There’s one clear winner here for anyone who wants to try to add a collagen supplement to their diet and that’s the Great Lakes Gelatin. It mixes well, is made from grass fed beef, and offers all of the benefits with none of the extra fluff. We simply couldn’t find any downsides!
If you’re planning to add a collagen supplement to your diet, make sure you do your research and don’t buy the cheapest stuff. As with everything, you get what you pay for, and cheap collagen supplements are often full of fillers, artificial sweeteners, and all sorts of other stuff that you don’t need to be adding to your body. Even if you don’t choose our winner, be smart when you pick your collagen supplement so you get something that works!