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Your Guide to Collagen Supplements

by Matt Durkin
MSc Nutrition Specialist

Most of us are likely to have heard of collagen, whether this is because it is found in large amounts in the body, or from adverts promoting its benefits to the skin and joints.

However, as there are different types of collagen from different sources, the topic is quite complex and is worthy of a thorough review. That’s why we have written this present article as part of the SimplyGo series to help answer all your questions relating to collagen.

What Is Collagen?

A large proportion of your body is made up of protein. It is commonly found in the muscles, organs and the millions of enzymes found within the human body. Collagen is a key protein that is found in the skin, connective tissues and even blood vessels, where it provides structural integrity. Our body naturally makes collagen out of the amino acids we obtain from protein-rich foods. As well as protein, vitamin C also has an important role in ensuring we are producing collagen.

Unfortunately, even if we take care of our bodies, providing it with all the nutrients it needs our levels of collagen still decline with age. More often than not, if you are suffering from excessive skin wrinkling or joint issues, it is likely that insufficient collagen is at the heart of the issue.

It should come as no surprise then that collagen supplementation, be it through tablets, capsules, powders or drinks has soared in popularity. However as there are numerous types of collagen on the market that are derived from various sources, customers can often be left unsure with which supplement is best for them. In the next section, we will walk through the various types, their benefits and how much to take to experience these benefits.

The Different Types of Collagen

Although there are many more types in the human body, supplements typically provide two types of collagen:

Type 1 Collagen

The first type of collagen makes up around 90% of the skin, hair and nails and therefore is the most popular choice for those seeking beauty or anti-aging effects. That being said, type 1 is also found in tendons, ligaments and bones so can help us stay functional as well as looking good.

Type 2 Collagen

50% of the collagen in joint cartilage is made up of type 2 collagen, so for those with cartilage issues and overall joint health concerns, type 2 is the preferred supplement.

Hydrolysed vs Undenatured Collagen

To make matters more complicated, type 2 collagen supplements can come in two different forms, hydrolysed or undenatured. Although the supplements have the same effect in the body, they should be thought of as different supplements. This is because hydrolysed collagen is required in relatively large doses, whereas undenatured collagen is beneficial even in very small quantities.

Which Form of Collagen Should I Take?

Collagen supplements can come in various forms, with marine, chicken and bovine being the most widely used due to their quality. As marine collagen is almost exclusively type 1 collagen, this is the form you should take if you are looking to support aesthetic appearance. 

On the other hand, chicken and bovine collagen are high in the types of collagen that supports joint health and is therefore highly popular with those who suffer from arthritis or other joint-related ailments. 

What Are the Benefits of Collagen Supplements?


Although as humans we are living older – a fact that should be celebrated - many of us are concerned with what the natural aging process is doing to the condition of our skin. Women in the UK alone spend more than £10 billion every year on cosmetics and hair care products; looking good is big business. Unfortunately, many of the items on the market provide lacklustre results which can be highly frustrating, especially when they promise so much.

Collagen is one supplement that does live up to the hype, however, with numerous research studies pointing towards its effectiveness for making skin look younger and healthier. One study of particular interest found that in middle-aged women, supplementing with either 2.5g or 5g of type 1 collagen was effective for improving elasticity, roughness and hydration of the skin in as little as 4 weeks. Notably, no side effects were reported from any of the 69 participants.

Providing type 1 collagen in liquid form, researchers from the UK back in 2014 reported findings that complement the above study as they concluded that collagen supplementation ‘reduces visible signs of aging’. Wrinkles, dryness and skin collagen content were the benefits reported after 12 weeks of daily collagen provision.


Osteoarthritis affects almost 9 million of us in the UK alone, with three-quarters of sufferers reportedly being in constant pain.  This condition comes about when joint tissues break down and the body cannot efficiently repair them. The knee, hip and hands are the most commonly affected sites. Like the decline in skin condition, osteoarthritis becomes all the more common with advancing age, as almost 50% of adults over 60 have the condition with varying degrees of severity.

As you can imagine, there is significant interest in uncovering ways to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Because of collagens fundamental importance to the health of the joints, supplementing with this protein was, of course, an exciting prospect.

The first set of results didn’t disappoint, as it was found that in females with osteoarthritis between the ages of 58-78, daily collagen supplementation was effective at combatting symptoms. In as little as 6 weeks, the women who took part in the study reported a substantial reduction in pain and stiffness whilst simultaneously seeing an improvement in range of movement and overall joint function. These are, of course, very impressive findings indeed.

But how does collagen compare to some of the other supplements that are known to be beneficial? When looking for supplements to manage the pain that originates from osteoarthritis, most of us are likely to have come across glucosamine and chondroitin. Although research has shown they can be effective by themselves, they are often referred to as ‘perfect partners’ as they work synergistically to boost their effectiveness.

In 2009, Canadian researchers published some very interesting results which gained some serious attention. The researchers, who recruited 52 participants with osteoarthritis, randomly assigned them to either receive type 2 collagen or glucosamine & chondroitin daily.

After 3 months, it was found that both treatments led to improvements with varying degrees of success. Although the participants taking glucosamine and chondroitin saw an improvement in their condition, those taking the collagen saw the greatest benefits across multiple parameters that measured arthritis severity.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis, there are still 400,000 people in the UK with rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease causes severe inflammation which leads to painful, stiff and swollen joints that can, unfortunately, cause lasting damage. This debilitating condition can severely reduce physical capacity and quality of life, with statistics showing a third of all sufferers will stop work within 2 years of developing it.

Fortunately, there are things that can be done to make the condition manageable, with research showing the earlier that treatment starts, the more effective it will be. To complement its ability to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis, type 2 collagen has been shown to be effective for this type of arthritis as well.

Preliminary research showed that in 60 men and women with rheumatoid arthritis, daily collagen provision for 3 months was far more effective than a placebo for reducing joint pain, swelling and tenderness. This was realised with no evidence of any negative side-effects. The researchers also reported that 4 of the participants actually experience a remission of the disease!

As you can imagine, these findings certainly stimulated further investigation. Interestingly, subsequent research was in agreement. For example, one study conducted 5 years later again showed that collagen supplementation was effective for improving various aspects of the condition.

This study was held in such high regard as it recruited over 270 participants and was double-blinded - meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received the collagen and who received the placebo. This means the results are highly valid as there was a decreased likelihood of bias.


As collagen is a protein, collagen supplementation will contribute to your daily protein intake. Typically, hydrolysed collagen, be it type 1 or type 2, is often taken at a dose of 10g per day. This will provide a respectable 9g of protein, which for a woman is around 20% of their daily needs. So not only will this help aesthetic appearance and joint health, it will also support an almost inexhaustible number of key bodily functions.

Undenatured collagen is typically taken in much smaller doses, with 20-40mg per day being a common range. Although this type will not boost protein intake, it still boasts significant benefit to joint health.

What Are the Side Effects of Collagen Supplements?

As we touched on earlier, the research paints a positive picture with regards to the safety of collagen supplements, as very few side effects have ever been reported in the scientific literature. Anecdotally, minor issues such as constipation, stomach cramps and flatulence have been reported but these are certainly not common.

As some collagen supplements are derived from fish, they are obviously not suitable for someone with a fish allergy. In a similar vein, all collagen supplements are animal derived, and therefore will not be suitable for vegetarians or vegans.


Unlike a number of supplements that don’t live up to the hype, collagen’s anti-aging benefits are backed by strong scientific evidence. Not only can it help reduce the signs of aging, it can also combat symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, something not many other supplements can claim. All of this whilst providing a respectable amount of protein in convenient, hassle-free doses. So to conclude, if you are worried about the appearance of your skin or the health of your joints, you should certainly give collagen supplements a consideration.



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