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Updated March 28, 2023
Buying a Collagen Supplement? 7 Things You Need to Look For (& Avoid)
Mention collagen 10 years ago and very few people would know what you’re talking about.
Now, collagen is a household name.
Its popularity has increased exponentially in the last decade, with people—specifically women—flocking to it in hopes of reversing signs of aging (think: crepe-like skin, wrinkles, thinning hair, achy joints).
They’re not stopping, either. By 2027, the collagen market is expected to be a 76.08 billion dollar industry (1).
In this article, we’ll reveal the seven most important things to look for when buying a collagen supplement—and most importantly—what to avoid.
But First, What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body (it makes up about 30% of your total protein!).
Because of this, it’s often called the building block of your skin, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. It repairs several tissues in your body and plays a supportive role in skin health, bone mineral density, joint health, gut health, and more (2, 3, 4, 5).
7 Things to Look for in Your Collagen Supplements
Not all collagen is created equal. Before you buy just any collagen supplement, make sure you are choosing one that will help you feel (and look) your very best.
1. Type 1 & Type 3 Collagen
Did you know that there are 28 distinct varieties of collagen (6)?
However, 90% of the collagen in your body is comprised of only Types 1, 2, and 3 (7).
Type 1 collagen is primarily found in your skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular system, and organs. Type 2, although abundant, is found only in your cartilage (6). Type 3 is found in your skin, muscles, and blood vessels.
Supplementing with all three types of collagen seems best, but studies show that Type 2 inhibits the absorption of Type 1 and Type 3 (8). The ideal collagen supplement contains only Types 1 and 3 collagen.
- Skin health (anti-aging)
- Bone mineral density
- Bone strength
Skin health (anti-aging)
The health of blood vessels
Organ health (liver, kidney, lungs, heart)
Many companies market their collagen as “multi-collagen”, boasting that it contains several collagen types in one. Don’t be fooled: these added collagen fibers are filler fibers that take away the effectiveness of the more potent fibers like Type 1 and 3.
2. Certified Grass-Fed & Non-GMO
Collagen supplements can come from a variety of sources like bovine (cow), marine (fish), and even vegan options (yeast) (14). When it comes to bovine collagen, it’s essential that it’s grass-fed bovine.
Conventional beef is pumped with all kinds of chemicals like growth hormones (rBGH and rBST) and antibiotics that you shouldn’t be ingesting every day. 95% cows in the U.S. that are not 100% grass-fed are fed GMO corn (16).
To avoid these potential contaminants in your bovine collagen supplement, always look for “grass-fed” along with “non-GMO” on the label.
3. Serving Size of 10 Grams or More
That said, there are several collagen supplements out there that offer a measly 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen per serving—barely enough to offer the transformational benefits that so many are after when taking collagen. (This is especially true for liquid collagen supplements.)
We recommend taking at least 10-20 grams of collagen peptides per day—and that’s if you’re just wanting to maintain collagen levels. If you’re 50 years old and just starting collagen, we recommend taking 40 grams of collagen for 8 weeks to replenish the collagen that you’ve lost over the years. And then lowering your daily dose back down to 20 grams.
Some research suggests that 2.5 to 5 grams is enough to notice changes in cellulite and skin elasticity, but not for more serious issues like sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging), osteoporosis, or activity-related joint pain (18, 19, 20, 2).
4. “Hydrolysate”, “Hydrolyzed”, or “Peptides” on the Label
Hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides both mean the same thing: that the collagen has gone through a process that breaks it down into smaller, ready-to-absorb amino acids that can easily be soaked up by your body. Put simply, collagen peptides require much less effort from your digestion and guarantees a more potent dose of collagen (6).
Non-hydrolyzed collagen, on the other hand, requires your digestive enzymes to work harder.
The easiest way to tell if a collagen powder is truly hydrolyzed is if it doesn’t clump when you add it to coffee, tea, or water.
5. No Artificial or Chemical Ingredients
The first thing you should do with any food, beverage, or supplement product is look at the ingredient label.
Many companies will throw in unnecessary filler ingredients like artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and more.
6. No Added Sugar
Added sugars are everywhere. And the last place you need them are in your health supplements. As previously mentioned, stevia and monk fruit offer the sweetness of sugar—without the calories or blood sugar spike.
Another reason to take a look at the ingredient label on your collagen is to ensure that it's free of potential allergens. Ingredients like dairy, gluten, and soy are signs of cheap fillers that should be avoided.
The Bottom Line
Collagen can support your body in a myriad of ways—from skin to bone to gut health and more. And the purity of your collagen supplement depends on the quality of the collagen itself AND the other ingredients added.
In order to get the best collagen supplement, remember:
Type 1 and Type 3 collagen are optimal.
Non-GMO and grass-fed represent high quality..
The serving size should be at least 10 grams.
Hydrolyzed collagen is absorbed better by the body.
Avoid artificial sweeteners, added sugar, allergens, and other fillers.
If you have lingering questions about collagen, join our Private Facebook Community. Our health coaches are there to answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Chad Walding
As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped millions of people improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #OnThePath.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.