Collagen Supplements – Hydrolyzed, Marine, & More – Benefits and Side Effects

What is collagen? Do collagen pills work? Study says collagen pills for skin are effective.
Among other benefits, new research suggests consuming a daily collagen supplement could reduce the appearance of wrinkles by 8%

What is Collagen & Collagen Peptides?

Collagen is a type of protein fiber that provides cushioning and strength to many parts of the body. Collagen is a family of molecules, not just one.1 Collagen is present in skin, cartilage, blood vessels, muscles and even the cornea.2

Hydrolyzed collagen, commonly referred to as a collagen peptide, is processed collagen that has been broken down from long strands of collagen peptides into smaller peptide chains.4 Collagen peptides can be found in pill and powder form.

What is collagen made of?

Collagen is a protein composed of various sequences of amino acids such as proline, glycine and hydroxyproline.5 Structurally, the amino acids wind together in three long chains to form a triple helix, similar to the structure of a rope, making collagen extremely strong and flexible.3

Is Collagen a Protein?

Collagen is the most common protein found in the human body. It accounts for 25-35% of total protein. There have been at least 28 different types of collagen identified in scientific literature that are commonly found in connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage.1,3

What is Collagen Good For?

Collagen is used by cells for a variety of functions including maintaining structural integrity.1 Collagen has multiple tissue functions in the human body such as helping repair, morphogenesis (formation of tissues) or act as scaffolding.2

Taking collagen is often associated with providing support for tissues such as ligaments or tendons.5 In these areas, collagen functions to transmit force from the bone to the muscle and store any excess energy. The role of collagen is often underestimated but is essential. Without this connection, the human skeleton would be unable to move.2

Collagen can also be found in mineralized tissue located in teeth and bones. In these areas, collagen provides flexibility and some protection against fractures to the rigid structures.2

Collagen dietary supplement.
Collagen is wound together in a triple helix formation.

What is Collagen Protein?

Collagen protein is a type of fibrous and structural protein.2 Collagen is often referred to as the ‘glue’ that holds the human body together. Similar to all proteins, collagen is comprised of amino acids that are absorbed in the digestive tract.4

Is Collagen Good for You?

Taking a collagen protein supplement can have duel benefits, as it delivers additional dietary protein and provides some essential amino acids, ones that cannot be produced by the body.5 Consuming a collagen peptide supplement for protein is an alternative to traditional proteins such as whey, casein or soy protein.

Collagen Pills

As the most commonly available form, collagen tablets are an easy way to boost collagen and can contain up to one gram of collagen per pill. Collagen capsules may combine various strains of collagen to provide complimentary benefits and include vitamins such as Vitamin C to help with absorption.

Did you know: Pound for pound, Type I collagen fibrils are stronger than steel.5

Before purchasing collagen pills, read the label to identify what type of collagen the product contains. Type I collagen is the most abundant in the body and commonly found in tendons, scar tissue, artery walls and bones. Of collagen types, it’s considered the strongest and most tensile.3

Type II collagen is found is specific forms of cartilage such as the ears, nose, trachea, and larynx.

Type III collagen is found in blood vessels.3

Collagen Powder

For individuals who do don’t want to take pills or have trouble swallowing, taking a collagen peptide powder may be a more suitable choice. While limited research exits on powered collagen, it is hypothesized to provide similar results to when it’s manufactured in pill form.

How to Take Collagen Supplements in Powder Form

Powdered collagen can be added to water, juice or smoothies and is often unflavored allowing it to easily blend in. Collagen protein powder offers multiple benefits such as increased levels of protein, as well as protection for joints.

Liquid Collagen Supplement

In recent years, collagen liquid supplements have been growing as a popular way to consume collagen. Even celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston are hopping on board with taking a collagen supplement to increase collagen levels from the inside out.7

Liquid collagen supplements and collagen for hair growth are used by celebrities for their results.
Jennifer Aniston shares her secret to glowing skin – collagen peptides.

For more adventurous consumers, drinking collagen has become one of the latest fads in Japan to maintain a youthful appearance. Marketed as the ‘beer that makes you beautiful’ a Japanese brewery has come out with a light beer that contains 2 grams of collagen per serving. While consuming collagen is nothing new in Japan, this is the first time a liquid collagen supplement has been combined with an alcoholic drink.7,8

Collagen Supplement Types

As the market for collagen supplements has expanded, various types of collagen supplements exist today. It’s important to note, that the molecular structure of collagen varies from animal to animal – each providing different benefits and uses.

Hydrolyzed Collagen

Hydrolyzed collagen (or collagen peptides) is one of two available forms of collagen supplements. To reach this state, collagen is processed through water and acid to break down large peptide chains into smaller components. Ingesting hydrolyzed collagen supplements can affect various parts of the body including joints, bones, the Achilles tendon and skin.9

When collagen is taken orally it’s absorbed in the digestive tract and can appear in the blood in its peptide form. In in vitro studies, a hydrolyzed collagen protein can demonstrate antioxidant properties and once in the blood stream is circulated throughout the body to benefit multiple sites.9 Collagen peptide supplements have been primarily used in research on joint health and reducing symptoms of arthritis.4

Marine Collagen

With an increase in demand for collagen supplements, new sources such as marine animals can provide alternative bioactive peptides. Fish collagen provides a different amino acid structure than found in bovine or porcine supplements and has been consumed for many years in countries such as Japan.10,12

Marine collagen supplements have been noted to carry a wide range of health benefits such as being an antioxidant, anti-hypertensive and have some anti-aging effects on skin.10

In a 2010 study on patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, patients were prescribed a marine collagen supplement to understand what do collagen supplements do to the glucose and lipid metabolisms.11

Results from the three-month long study indicated that the collagen supplements significantly reduced levels of blood glucose, blood insulin, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein.11

While marine collagen supplement research is still ongoing, this study observed that a marine collagen supplement may be an effective treatment in improving lipid and glucose metabolism in certain diabetic patients.11

Bovine, Porcine, & Fowl Collagen

Collagen is commonly found in animal sources such as bovine (cows), porcine (pigs) and fowl (poultry). For supplemental use, collagen is extracted from the animal bone, hide or scales using hot water. At this stage it is called gelatin. It can then be separated further by a process of hydrolysis which turns into collagen peptides.9

Bovine, porcine and fowl collagen have been successfully used for medical treatments involving the extra cellular matrix. Extra cellular matrix (ECM) is a substance secreted by cells that helps organize cells within the tissue, help them bond together and provide a protective fluid.13

As a highly complex network of proteins, it can be semisolid or very rigid and similar to bone. The ECM is made up of proteins such as collagen, elastin, and glycoproteins.13,14 Since there is a diversity of sources, each substance contains differences in cell structure, characteristics and functions, allowing different ECMs to be used for various medical procedures.14

Vegan & Vegetarian Collagen Supplements

Most collagen supplements are derived from animal sources and thus not vegetarian or vegan friendly.9 But in the past few years, alternative vegetarian collagen supplements have emerged to appeal to a wider consumer audience.

A vegetarian or vegan collagen supplement may contain a mix of amino acids, wheat extracts and vitamins, which may be easier and more affordable to source then animal byproducts.15

Natural Collagen Supplements

Currently, collagen supplements come from natural animal sources that go through various processes to be modified for consumption. Although the original source may be considered natural, and collagen naturally occurs in the human body, chemicals are added to the supplements to concentrate or hydrolyze the protein.

Organic Collagen Supplements

In scientific studies to date, researchers have not specified whether the animal sources of the collagen supplements used were organic or not. Likely, these collagen supplements are not sourced from certified organic animal sources in attempts to reduce supplement costs or due to unavailability in the marketplace. In stores, collagen products that are certified USDA organic may be difficult to find.

Collagen Benefits – What Does Collagen Do?

With over 28 identified collagen variations, specific strands can have specific benefits. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, type II collagen is thought to play a role in reducing the effects of overreacting T cells in articular collagen.16

In a randomized, double-blind trial, 60 elderly patients (65+) with active and severe rheumatoid arthritis took collagen peptide supplements to establish whether or not the collagen pills could reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Type II collagen was administered at a dose of 0.1 mg for one month then increased to 1 mg and was tested against a placebo.16

After the 3-month study, a decrease was observed in the number of swollen or tender joints. The benefits of taking collagen supplements also included reduced joint pain and stiffness. Four patients even experienced complete remission of the disease, illustrating the positive benefits of taking collagen daily. While no adverse side effects were reported, after the trial, the disease reemerged in all four of these patients, indicating the remission was heavily reliant on the collagen boosting supplements.16

Osteoarthritis is another form of joint disease which affects millions of North Americans each year. With increasing numbers, the demand for non-traditional treatments, such as taking supplements, has grown.17

A review of emerging medical studies shows that orally taking hydrolyzed collagen benefits users of this condition and across several double-blind trials has improved joint function, while reducing pain. It appears that the collagen supplement benefits both men and women and in the medical literature reviewed was considered to be safe.17

While clinical data surrounding the benefits of collagen protein is still ongoing, a 2005 clinical study concluded that concentrated, fortified, hydrolyzed collagen protein may be a useful tool for reducing symptoms of pressure ulcers (PrU).18

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, are formed from unrelieved pressure or friction on the skin in areas where the bone protrudes such as heels, elbows and knees. It’s estimated that up to a third of patients in hospitals or community care facilities will develop a pressure ulcer.26

In the United States, the incidence of pressure ulcers ranges from 10-18% of the population. Estimates have calculated that the cost to treat pressure ulcers can be in excess of $10,845.18

To reduce rates of PrUs and associated long term costs, researchers conducted an eight-week, controlled, multicenter, randomized trial to evaluate what does collagen do to PrU symptoms.18

Are collagen supplements effective? Collagen supplement reviews show ulcer healing and symptoms improved nearly twice as much as placebo patients.
In patients with pressure ulcers, taking a collagen protein improved ulcer healing nearly two times more than a placebo treatment on the pressure ulcer scale for healing (PUSH).

Data indicated that by week eight, the collagen protein benefits were significant compared to the placebo group. Scores measuring the healing of the pressure ulcers indicated that the rate of healing was nearly double in the hydrolyzed, collagen protein group.18

There are several collagen powder benefits which include boosting metabolic function and maintaining healthy looking skin. Collagen powder tends to contain large amounts of glycine, an amino acid which acts as a building block for internal collagen production and promotes healthy immune and central nervous system.19,20

While several studies have tested for collagen pills benefits on skin, limited data has evaluated collagen in its powdered form. As we age, the production of type I collagen decreases, eventually losing the elasticity, firmness and smooth appearance of younger skin. Taking a collagen powder supplement with high concentrations of type I collagen may promote increased levels of collagen production, tackling aging from the inside out.20

Collagen for Skin

Collagen is frequently found in the middle layer of skin, known as the dermis layer.

Does collagen work? Collagen for skin may combat external factors that speed up aging.
Collagen depletion plays a major role in wrinkle development and the loss of firmness in aging skin.

While collagen levels naturally decline with age, individuals can help control and prevent external factors that work to speed up the aging process. Taking collagen supplements for skin is thought to prevent or reduce the effect of these external factors, and maintain the structural integrity and elasticity that gives young skin its radiance.9

One of the leading factors of extrinsic aging is repeated exposure to ultraviolet light. UV-B rays can result in photoaging, reduced elasticity, uneven pigmentation, increased roughness and wrinkle formation. Internally, exposure to UV-B can damage the skin’s antioxidant defenses. As a result of this cell oxidation, premature skin aging, weakened immune function and cancer cell formation may occur.9

Collagen for Hair

Walk into any salon and the shelves will be lined with products enhanced with a collagen hair treatment. As collagen is present in a number of connective tissues, it’s been thought for many years that taking collagen pills for hair could help reduce damage, strengthen hair strands and follicles. It seems, the scientific research may be catching up.

Early this year, a team of researchers identified a specific collagen that contributes to hair growth in mice. The study observed mice who were 18 months old, the age when hair loss can begin in the rodent. In older mice, or mice lacking collagen type XVII, hair follicles shrunk and became damaged – eventually turning themselves into skin cells and leading to hair loss.21 Currently type XVII collagens are not available in retail products, but ongoing research is investigating if type II collagen supplements may also assist in maintaining healthy hair.

Separate studies on the human scalp have observed a similar decrease in hair follicle size in women over 50, compared to those in their 30s or 40s.21

Researchers believe the phenomenon is similar in humans and that the results may pave the way for research in curing baldness.21

Collagen Supplements for Joints

Looking for a complete supplement for joint pain? Read our ultimate guide on Joint Supplements.

Collagen Supplements Weight Loss

Currently, there is no peer-reviewed data to support that taking collagen supplements leads to weight loss. However, if you are interested in losing weight be sure to read our comprehensive guide to Weight Loss Pills and Fat Burners.

Do Collagen Supplements Work

To date, collagen supplement research has focused on areas such as promoting healthy skin, healing wounds, treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.3

In a recent scientific study, researchers posed the question do collagen supplements help skin damaged by external forces such as UV-B rays?

In a double-blind study, 88 female participants aged 35-65 years old were recruited to determine the effect collagen has on wrinkle reduction. Women either took a pill containing five grams of marine collagen or a placebo for eight weeks. Digital images were taken before and after and were analyzed through a VISIA Complexion Analysis, along with a self-assessment at weeks 0, 4 and 8.27

Collagen supplements before and after.
Taking a daily marine collagen supplement was observed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by 8%.

Data indicates that women taking the collagen pills saw an 8% reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, particularly on the face.27

Collagen Side Effects – Are Collagen Supplements Safe?

Is it safe to take collagen supplements?

To date, only minor side effects have been reported. In studies such as a 2004 trial, type II collagen was noted to have an excellent safety profile that was clinically indistinguishable from the placebo used in the study, leading to a high completion rate of the trial.22

Undenatured type II collagen (collagen that has not been broken down into amino acids) has been tested an appears safe in rodents at oral doses of 5,000 milligrams per kilogram for up to 90 days with no abnormalities.

Collagen pills side effects, hydrolyzed collagen side effects and collagen powder side effects are thought to be similar as they are derived from the same animal source, but prepared into different forms.

Collagen supplements side effects may include:23,24

  • Upset stomach
  • Bad aftertaste
  • High calcium levels
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

For individuals who are allergic to types of shellfish or marine animal sources, an allergic reaction may be possible after taking marine collagen supplements.23

Are collagen supplements safe for pregnant women or children?

To date, there is not enough information on the side effects of collagen in children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Always consult your health care practitioner before starting a collagen supplement routine.24

GNC Collagen – And Other Retailers

Looking to buy collagen supplements? Click here to read the latest Buying Guide first.

Collagen supplements can be purchased in pharmacies, select supermarkets and reputable supplement stores like GNC.

GNC collagen supplements come in a variety of forms including capsules, chews, powder and liquids making it easy to incorporate a collagen building supplements into your everyday routine.

For users who don’t live close to a GNC store, and Amazon provide no-hassle, speedy shipping on high quality collagen supplements.

Collagen Supplements Reviews

Click here for all the latest collagen supplements reviews including hydrolyzed collagen reviews, liquid collagen reviews and collagen powder reviews.


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