What Is Collagen And How Do I Find It?

Dr Axe headshot

It’s no secret that as we age, noticeable changes occur, particularly in our skin. But what exactly is going on behind the scenes?

While many biological and environmental factors are at play, one thing is certainly clear: Collagen levels generally begin to drop when people are in their 20s and 30s. And that affects not only appearance but certain things inside of our bodies, too.

The typical woman can expect to lose about 1 to 2 percent of her body’s collagen every year starting in her mid-30s, and this rate generally only increases as she makes her way through her 40s, 50s and beyond.

There’s evidence that collagen production in sun-protected and well-maintained skin of older adults (over the age of 80) is up to 75 percent less than the production in the skin of young adults (under the age of 30). You read that right. There’s up to 75 percent less collagen in elderly adults as compared to those in young adulthood. That’s a staggering number.

collage protein in a wooden spoon on a green leaf

Collagen makes up about 30 percent of all of the proteins in the human body.

Why Is Collagen Important?

Ever wonder what holds the human body together? Collagen plays a major role, impacting the joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons of the body, along with many other functions.

In fact, collagen makes up about 30 percent of all of the proteins in the human body, and it’s created by building blocks known as amino acids.

Aside from acting like the “glue” that holds us together, collagen is also necessary for normal bodily functions like clotting blood, digestion, and human movement. Because the protein is vital for so many different functions, it’s actually considered both a “functional” and “structural” protein.
Besides the normal aging process, other factors can drain us of collagen, including collagen killers like:

  • Poor sleep
  • Too much sugar in the diet
  • Injuries
  • High cortisol from emotional stress
  • Sun overexposure
  • Diet low in antioxidants
  • Sitting all day and lack of activity
  • Bad gut health
  • Nutrient shortfalls of vitamin C and zinc
  • Free radicals

Thankfully, there are natural ways to boost your collagen levels, including:

  • Chicken bone broth (preferably simmered for 48 hours with bones, along with tendons and ligaments for the most collagen)
  • Adaptogenic herbs including ashwagandha, holy basil, ginseng, and fo-ti
  • Vitamin C-rich foods including kiwi, citrus, camu camu, broccoli, bell peppers, and kale
  • Sulfur-rich foods including garlic, onions, egg yolks, and cruciferous vegetables
  • Antioxidant-rich herbs, spices, and foods, including turmeric, rosemary, green tea, acai, and goji berries

Still, for busy people, collagen supplementation is often the quickest and easiest way to get some added collagen support.

two clear glass cups with green tea in them

Antioxidants like green tea, boost your collagen levels.

Where Is Collagen Found?

Collagen is only found in animals, mainly in the flesh and connective tissue; it’s the second most common substance in the body — second only to water. Collagen functions to help skin retain and maintain its firmness and smoothness, while also playing a large role in healthy hair and nails.

While collagen is found in numerous tissues in many forms, it is especially plentiful within and around our joints via cartilage. Collagen actually makes up about 95 percent of joint cartilage.

Collagen is so often thought of in its relationship to joints and their health that we can easily forget that collagen is also necessary for healthy bones, which helps keep them strong yet elastic. Generally speaking, bones that don’t have enough collagen become dry and brittle and can often be easily broken.

What Is Multi-Collagen Protein Powder?

Many collagen powders on the market claim to help fill in the collagen gap as we age, with many promoting skin health claims. But not all collagen supplements are created equally. The type of collagen and how it’s sourced really matters.

Most collagen supplements on the market include only one source of collagen. For a more full-spectrum approach, seeking out a multi-collagen product featuring five different types of collagen from food sources is key.

A multi collagen product featuring hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides, chicken bone broth collagen concentrate, hydrolyzed fish collagen peptides, and eggshell membrane collagen ensures that you’re getting collagen types I, II, III, V, and X.

“Hydrolyzed collagen,” sometimes referred to as “hydrolysate or collagen peptides,” comes from bone, cartilage, and connective tissues. The hydrolysis process results in small, intact amino acids which haven’t been damaged and function as the building blocks to help to form and support collagen in the body.

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen is a naturally occurring protein found in the skin, bones, and muscles of cows, providing type I and type III collagen. Type I collagen is among the most abundant collagen found in the human body and forms collagen fibers. It’s present in ligaments, tendons, bones and other areas.

Type III collagen frequently works in tandem with type I collagen and is in bone, cartilage, bone marrow and connective tissue. Collagen Type I and III are the major components of skin, hair, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, gums, teeth, eyes and blood vessels.

Together, Types I and III collagen constitute more than 90 percent of the collagen found in the body. They are composed of amino acids which support growth, maintenance and repair of the body with high amounts of the amino acids glycine and proline plus hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, all of which are found in muscle and skin.

Chicken Collagen

One of the most popular and well-researched collagen types, chicken collagen is also known as collagen Type II — a protein found in the cartilage, bones and other tissues of chickens. It’s also a major component of joint cartilage and helps support joint health, thanks to its inherent features of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.†

Chicken collagen also features hyaluronic acid, a gel-like substance that functions to hydrate the skin, surrounds tissues around nerves and also resides in the lubricating synovial fluid between joints. Think of it as a natural shock absorber.

Fish Collagen

Fish collagen peptides rich in type I collagen are typically known for their absorption rate and bioavailability, thanks to smaller particle size. It functions to support healthy, normal collagen synthesis in the joint tissues, bones and in the skin.

Like the other collagens, fish collagen typically features the amino acids glycine and proline, in addition to hydroxyproline, a non-essential amino acid that naturally supports healthy, normal collagen production.

Eggshell Membrane Collagen

Substances similar to types I and V collagens are found in each of the two layers of the eggshell membrane.

Type V collagen is one of the minor collagen components, forming interstitial collagen fibers — along with type I collagen — and plays a significant role in regulating the development of collagen fibers of connective tissue. In general, type V collagen co-exists with type II collagen in joint cartilage, while supporting healthy collagen fibers of type II collagen.

Eggshell membrane also features chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans — all of which occur naturally together within the eggshell membrane. This effective combo helps provide joints with what they need to thrive.

Glycine

Glycine is a main component of collagen, and is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that the body can produce it on its own when given the proper diet. In general, it’s necessary for the building of healthy DNA and RNA strands, the genetic building blocks that are essential for properly functioning body cells.

Proline

A non-essential amino acid, proline is typically necessary for proper collagen formation, tissue repair, healthy arterial function and more. Proline makes up approximately 15 percent of collagen and generally helps the body to break down proteins to use in healthy cells. Since proline functions to help produce collagen, it also benefits the health of skin and skin tissue.

Hydrolyzed bovine hide collagen peptides and help with skin elasticity and hydration.

Benefits of Multi-Collagen Protein

Hydrolyzed Bovine Hide Collagen Peptides

Be sure to source hydrolyzed bovine hide collagen peptides from sources that are grass-fed, cruelty-free, hormone-free and allergy-free.

These collagen peptides can support healthy:

  • Skin elasticity*
  • Skin hydration (in combination with other ingredients)*
  • Gut health*
  • Joint function*

Chicken Collagen Type II from chicken bone broth collagen concentrate can support:

  • Joint-health benefits (reported as early as 3 weeks)*
  • Key areas of joint health, including joint comfort, flexibility, and physical function*

Hydrolyzed Fish Collagen Peptides from wild pollock can support:

  • Healthy skin elasticity*
  • Healthy skin hydration (in combination with other ingredients)*

Eggshell Membrane Collagen can support:

  • Knee comfort and flexibility*
  • Joint comfort, both rapidly and continuously*
  • Healthy joint flexibility*
  • A comfortable range of motion*
  • Healthy joint recovery after exercise, as well as healthy flexibility*
  • Comfort immediately following exercise*

How to Use Multi-Collagen Protein

One of the beauties of a high-quality multi-collagen protein is the ease of use. Hydrolyzed multi-collagen protein powder mixes almost instantly with water, coffee, tea, smoothies, juice or any other beverage of choice.

Since high-quality collagen contains about 9 grams of protein per serving, it can also be used as a replacement for traditional protein powders, for a pre- or post-workout boost, in baked goods or even in healthy side dishes and desserts.

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.