Everything You Need To Know About Collagen
As the largest producer and seller of collagen in the Baltics, we frequently receive questions from our customers that are based on nothing more than myths and false information. In this article, we explain what collagen is, examine 9 of the most common myths around it, and present a research-based guide to choosing collagen products and assessing their quality (with references to studies at the end of the page).
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most important protein in the human body, accounting for 25–35% of all protein in the body. Collagen is highly concentrated in the skin, nails, cartilage, blood vessel walls, bones, gums, etc. While in our younger years, the body is able to produce all of the collagen we need, from around 25 years of age, the body’s collagen production capacity decreases on average by 1.5% each year. Due to this, it is advisable to take collagen supplements daily from around the age of 25–30.
This decrease in collagen production in the body usually manifests itself in the appearance of your first wrinkles or joint pain. Of course, collagen deficiency is rarely the sole cause of any one problem, which is why you should not expect collagen supplements to be the answer to all of your problems. However, collagen still plays a major role in the health of the skin, hair, and joints.
Structure and types of collagen in different stages
Raw materials include 28 different types of collagen sources, but the differences are only actually relevant in the raw material stage. Yet information about collagen source types has come to the attention of many consumers, because numerous manufacturers depict their collagen as type I, II, or III in ads and on packaging. Below, we explain in more detail why these types do not actually make any difference.
In the first production step, the bonds in the structure of the raw material are separated, i.e. the material is gelatinised. However, the produced gelatin is not too useful. Yet, as its particles are still rather large (approx. 100,000 Da), the human body is unable to absorb more than around 10% of it.
The second production step consists of hydrolysis, which yields small bioactive collagen peptides, otherwise known as hydrolysed collagen. This brings the particle size down to approximately 3,000 Da, which is sufficient for the body to be able to absorb around 90–95% of it. Starting from here, the type of the raw material used to produce the hydrolysed collagen no longer makes a difference. Thus, the differences between collagen types only matter in the raw material stage, where the body cannot yet actually absorb it .
Upon consumption, new collagen structures are formed in the body from the collagen peptides. This results in greater skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles, stronger nails and hair, increased joint mobility, and reduced joint pain due to collagen deficiency.
Collagen production methods, purity, and quality
Collagen production using acids and other chemicals
This is the most common method of collagen production. The animal raw materials used in the process include, among other things, animal skin with hair, which need to be treated with acids. Marine collagen, meanwhile, is produced from the scales, bones, and fins of fish. To clean the raw material, it is first pre-treated with acids and other chemicals, which also involves the risk of impurities. This is a slightly less costly method of production, but it also yields a less pure product of, normally, 80–90% collagen (protein) and 10–20% impurities. The vast majority of collagen products sold in the Baltics are manufactured by acid and chemical treatment, which, by the way, is not indicated on the packaging!
Chemical-free collagen production
This process is less common, a little more expensive, and uses fresh animal raw materials, i.e. animal bones and connective tissue. It is a purely enzymatic natural process, which utilises heat and pressure. Innovative technologies make it possible to obtain extremely pure collagen (with nearly 100% protein content) using this method. Hydrolysis brings the particle size of this collagen down to as little as 3,000 Da, where the body is able to absorb around 90–95% of the product. ICONFIT collagen is also produced using this chemical-free method to ensure the highest level of purity!
Purity and quality
Purity can sometimes be determined from the packaging of the product, if the collagen content is listed. Note, however, that if the packaging promises you 100% collagen, but the protein content of the product is around 80–90%; that means that it also contains 10–20% impurities, which is indicative of chemically treated collagen. Of course, this is usually left unstated on the packaging, although the product is still likely to be advertised as pure collagen. Not only that, but some products on the market actually have no information about the nutrient content on the packaging, and the information is actively concealed. If you have already used a collagen supplement, you may want to ask the vendor about the production process and the protein content.
Why should you take collagen supplements?
Age, intense physical activity, as well as being overweight, all contribute to the decrease of collagen levels in the body, which can cause joint pain (arthrosis), brittle bones (osteopenia and osteoporosis), and skin aging. This also increases your risk of injuries. Studies have shown that collagen supplements have beneficial effects on joints and cartilage: in one study, cartilage thickness increased by 14% in athletes who consumed 10 g of collagen per day. Meanwhile, in athletes in the control group, who received no collagen, but performed the same level of physical activity, cartilage thickness actually decreased.
Collagen is also beneficial if you are suffering from osteoarthritis. It helps improve joint mobility and flexibility, as well as reduce joint pain, and increases bone density. This is particularly important for older people as well as athletes in preventing potential bone fractures. Studies have even shown that taking 10 g of collagen daily is significantly more beneficial than a daily intake of 1.5 g of glucosamine.
Collagen for hair, skin, and nails Studies have shown that collagen consumption stimulates skin regeneration and reduces signs of aging (e.g., wrinkles). It significantly increases the concentration of fibroblasts as well as the diameter and density of collagen fibres in the skin. And it even helps the body to recover from skin damage caused by exposure to sunlight. In young people, collagen levels in the body start to drop at around 25 years of age. At first, the changes may not be very noticeable, but consistently taking collagen supplements keeps the skin younger for significantly longer.
How much collagen should you take daily?
Studies have shown that 10 g of collagen per day yields the best results. As such, we recommend adding 10 g of collagen to your diet every day to benefit from its wonderful properties. The easiest and most affordable way to get your daily 10 g of collagen is to consume powdered collagen products, which you can mix at home into a glass of water or other drinks, smoothies, or food.
While collagen is also sold in liquid form as ready-made drinks, the price per portion of these is several times higher: some 10-day programme sets, for example, can cost nearly €100. Ten days’ worth of powdered collagen, meanwhile, usually only costs about 3 to 6 euros. Other collagen products on the market include collagen capsules, tablets, and gumdrops, which should be avoided, because they only contain a very small amount of collagen. The average capsule, for instance, holds only 0.5 g, which means that to get your daily 10 g of collagen you would have to take 20 such capsules a day.
Finally, collagen is also great for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Doctors actually often recommend you take extra collagen during these periods.
9 myths about collagen
How and where can you buy collagen?
Various collagen products are sold in almost all food supplement stores as well as a number of retail stores and supermarkets. However, our ICONFIT collagen products are among the few that are produced without chemicals to achieve the highest purity. That is also why they have become the best-selling products in the Baltics. ICONFIT collagen products include unflavoured collagen as well as MSM Collagen with Vitamin C. For smoothies, try our delicious Collagen Superfoods with mixed freeze-dried berries and natural inulin. Place an order directly through this website and your goods will be delivered to a parcel terminal in as little as 1–3 business days. Orders worth €40 or more are eligible for free delivery!
Why are ICONFIT collagen products so much cheaper than many others?
Despite the fact that we only use collagen of the highest quality and purity, produced without chemicals, we are still able to offer our products at a lower price. ICONFIT’s aim is not to sell small quantities at a high price, but large quantities at a lower price. We acquire our main raw materials from fully loaded trucks, utilise a fully automatic production line (with an output of 700 containers per hour), and have built the entire process on efficiency. Being a local producer enables us to offer our products directly to customers in the Baltics at the best prices and makes it very difficult for importers of collagen products produced abroad to compete with us.
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- Campos, Patrícia Maia, et al. “An oral supplementation based on hydrolyzed collagen and vitamins improves skin elasticity and dermis echogenicity: a clinical placebo-controlled study”. Clin Pharmacol Biopharm 2015, 4: 142
- Sibilla S, Godfrey M, Brewer S, Budh-Raja A and Genovese L “An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies” The Open Nutraceuticals Journal, 2015, 8, 29-42 29
- Zague, V. et al “Collagen peptides modulate the metabolism of extracellular matrix by human dermal fibroblasts derived from sun-protected and sun-exposed body sites”. Cell Biol Int. 2018 Jan;42(1):95-104.
- Jimbo N, Kawada C, Nomura Y. “Optimization of dose of collagen hydrolysate to prevent UVB-irradiated skin damage” Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2016;80(2):356-9.
- Sugihara F., Inoue N., Venkateswarathirukumara S. “Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhanced pressure ulcer healing in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study” Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 11403 (2018)
- Benito-Ruiz P., Villacis R.A., Zurita L.A. et al. “A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort”. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2009, 60 (S2): 99-113.
- Clark K. L., Sebastianelli W., Flechsenhar K. R. et al. “24- week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain”. Current Medical Research and Opinions 2008, 24 (5): 1485-1498.
- Gonçalves FK. “Impact of collagen hydrolysate in middle-aged athletes with knee and ankle osteochondral lesions: A case series”. Int J Case Rep Images 2017;8(6):364–369.
- Kumar S, Sugihara F, Suzuki K, Inoue N, Venkateswarathirukumara S. “A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis” J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Mar 15;95(4):702-7.
- Moskowitz, R. W. “Role of Collagen Hydrolysate in Bone and Joint Disease”. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2000; 30 (2): 87-9
- Trc T, Bohmova J. “Efficacy and tolerance of enzymatic hydrolysed collagen (EHC) vs. glucosamine sulphate (GS) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (KOA)”. Int Orthop.2011; 35:341—8.
Tendons and ligaments
- Praet, S. et al “Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Combined with Calf-Strengthening Exercises Enhances Function and Reduces Pain in Achilles Tendinopathy Patients”. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 2;11(1).
Absorption of collagen
- Zeijdner E.E. “Digestibility of collagen hydrolysate during passage through a dynamic gastric and small intestinal model (TIM-1) “. TNO Nutrition and food Research Report. 2002, 24 June
- Watanabe-Kamiyama M, Shimizu M, Kamiyama S, et al. “Absorption and effectiveness of orally administered low molecular weight collagen hydrolysate in rats”. J Agric Food Chem 2010; 58(2): 835-41
- Jendricke, P. et al. “Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 20;11(4).
- Oertzen-Hagemann, V. et al. “Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men”. Nutrients. 2019 May 14;11(5).
- Olson GB, Savage S, Olson J. 2000. “The effects of collagen hydrolysate on symptoms of chronic fibromyalgia and tempomandibular joint pain”. Cranio, 18(2): 135-41.
- Zdzieblik D., Oesser S., Baumstark MW., Gollhofer A., and König D. “Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial” British Journal of Nutrition 2015, 114, 1237–1245
Reviews of benefits
- Figueres T., Basés E. “Revisión de los efectos beneficiosos de la ingesta de colágeno hidrolizado sobre la salud osteoarticular y el envejecimiento dérmico” Nutrición Hospitalaria, vol. 32, núm. 1, 2015, pp. 62-66
- Koyama Y. “Effects of Collagen Ingestion and their Biological Significance” J Nutr Food Sci 2016, 6: 504.
- Paul, C. et al. “Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance”. Nutrients. 2019 May 15;11(5).
- Song H., Li B. “Beneficial Effects of Collagen Hydrolysate: A Review on Recent Developments”. Biomed J Sci &Tech Res 2017, 1(2).
Bone loss and osteoporosis
- Wauquier, F., et al. “Human Enriched Serum Following Hydrolysed Collagen Absorption Modulates Bone Cell Activity: from Bedside to Bench and Vice Versa” Nutrients 2019, 11, 1249
- Daneault, A., et al. “Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bone metabolism” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2017, 57:9, 1922-1937
- König D., Oesser S., Scharla S., Zdzieblik D., Gollhofer A. “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study” Nutrients 2018, 10, 97
- Porfírio E, Fanaro GB. “Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review” Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia 2016, 19: 153-164