Health Benefits of Collagen: Nutrition, Pros and Cons, Sourcing + more

nutrition Nov 13, 2022
Health Benefits of Collagen, nutrition, pros and cons, sourcing

Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in your body and unfortunately (like many things) it declines as you age.


Types of Collagen 

There are about 28 different types of collagen in your body, but the most common supplement types are categorized into 4 types, all of which serve different purposes.

Type 1- for skin predominately in marine and bovine collagen 

Type 2- for joints and cartilage 

Type 3- fibrillar (think organs, heart and also skin) found in bovine collagen

Type 4- also for skin but additionally the most common type in the placenta! 


Sources of Collagen

Collagen is found naturally in animal skins, joints and tendons so if you want to include more through food,  think about including recipes such as slow cooked lamb shanks, fish soup or osso bucco. 


Collagen supplements are usually derived from: 

  • marine sources - usually fish scales
  • bovine - beef - hides
  • eggshell membranes 
  • vegan collagens are usually synthesised by yeast and bacteria. However, many vegan collagen supplements are straight up vitamin C, marketing differently. You may be best just eating more Vitamin C rich foods and enjoying your Vitamin C at the regular price


Molecular Weight 

Molecular weight matters for absorption. This can be a bit of a deal breaker when choosing a collagen. Many bovine collagens are around 10,000-30,000 daltons, this also means that the scoop size is larger. A good quality hydrolysed marine collagen can be as low as 2000 daltons, meaning it is really well absorbed and serving size is smaller. 



Collagen is hydrolysed to form peptides. Peptides are smaller proteins, which means the product will be absorbed better. Hydrolysation can be done via chemical or enzymatic processes. You guessed it, enzymatic hydrolysis is the preferred method


EXPERT TIP: Make sure you opt for hydrolysed or collagen peptides and be sure to ask how it was hydrolysed. 


Ethics and Purity

Grass Fed and Wild Caught are some of the big buzz words flying around. Just because something is wild or grass fed, doesn’t make it sustainable or “pure”.


Vegetarians may prefer eggshell membrane or marine collagen, and vegan collagen being the only option for the plant based community.


In the case of fish, it's important that collagen is tested for heavy metals like mercury and other toxins like PCB’s and dioxins.


For bovine (beef) derived collagen, toxins matter too.


Grazing cattle can be exposed to pesticides and dioxins (a persistent pollutant). You’ll want to understand where the animals have been grazing. You could also argue that it actually doesn’t really matter if your collagen has been grass-fed either because there is no fat in collagen. The omega 3 fatty acid composition of meat is the main reason why people choose grass fed meat over grain fed. 



Another thing to consider is safety. Collagen supplements in Australia are categorised as food products and therefore don’t require warning labels like other supplements do. As a food, collagen supplements do have an expiry date so please check this. 

Collagen lacks the amino acid tryptophan and while this is no big deal if you are getting a variety of protein sources in your diet, it can become a problem if you exclusively have collagen as your only source of protein. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning it must be consumed through diet (your body cannot make it). Tryptophan is a component of serotonin production aiding in mood, brain function and sleep. Tryptophan is rich in turkey, dairy foods, tuna, chicken, bananas, chocolate plus more. If you are suffering from mood or sleep disturbance, please consider whether you are consuming enough tryptophan rich foods.


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