By Sharon Lehman, RD
You may have heard about the many health benefits linked to taking collagen. For example, it may have anti-aging skin benefits, support joint health and improve digestion and gut health. But where does collagen come from?
Collagen supplements, often referred to as collagen peptides, can come from a variety of animal sources. Collagen is a protein found in the bodies of humans and animals. Its primary function is to support body structure (think skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, bone, muscle and cartilage). Although there are many types of collagen, human bodies contain three primary types of collagen, known as collagen I, II, and III.
Keywords to look for on a high-quality collagen supplement label include: organic, pastured, grass-fed and/or non-GMO.
Since animals’ bodies also contain an abundance of collagen for structural support, animal proteins like beef, poultry, pork and fish are the best sources of dietary collagen.
Gelatin and bone broth, made from collagen-rich parts of animals, are also good food sources of collagen. Bone broth is made by slow-simmering the bones of animals for long periods of time to break down the proteins in the bone and marrow. Gelatin is made in a similar manner.
However, it’s unknown how much collagen from bone broth or gelatin the body is able to utilize because collagen is a large protein molecule that our digestive systems don’t efficiently digest.
Collagen supplements are usually made from hydrolyzed collagen, which is more bioavailable than gelatin or bone broth. Hydrolyzation refers to the process of breaking down larger proteins into smaller components through the use of chemicals or enzymes. These smaller protein structures are called peptides, which are thought to be easier for our bodies to absorb.
Animal bones, skin and connective tissue are also used to create collagen peptide supplements. The main types of collagen are sourced from animals. You can determine the sources of your collagen peptide supplement by checking the label and using the following guide:
Research shows that regular collagen supplementation is required to maintain its anti-aging benefits.