A popular question in today’s health-crazed world is, “Collagen vs gelatin — is one better than the other?”
Collagen is the most common protein found in the human body, making it one of the most important building blocks of humanity. It forms the structure for our connective tissues, bones, cartilage, and skin.
Various parts of an animal can be boiled to produce gelatin. More intense processing produces collagen peptides, even more broken down than gelatin.
By the time you turn 35 years old, your body’s natural collagen synthesis has slowed drastically. Therefore, it is important to find external sources of collagen.
It can be hard to get enough collagen in the diet. Supplementing collagen is a common and safe way to gain several health benefits.
Differences between Collagen Hydrolysate and Gelatin?
Hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin have similar health benefits, but different chemical properties.
But first, people often get these terms confused — even some professionals. Let’s talk about the differences in terminology between native collagen, collagen peptides, collagen hydrolysate, hydrolyzed collagen, and gelatin.
Native collagen refers to the most abundant type of protein which makes life in the animal kingdom possible.
Collagen, in its natural state, is made up of three chains in a triple helix. Each chain is hundreds and hundreds of amino acids long. This makes native collagen very difficult to absorb and reap maximum benefits. So we need to break down the collagen protein into smaller pieces, via hydrolyzation.
The term hydrolyzed refers to the process by which collagen is heavily processed and broken down into easy-to-digest particles. This is most often achieved through controlled boiling.
Completely hydrolyzed collagen is called collagen peptides — a dietary supplement form. A peptide is a much shorter-chain version of a protein.
The phrase “collagen peptide” is often used interchangeably with hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate. But gelatin is partially hydrolyzed collagen, so make sure not to confuse them.
Gelatin is simply partially hydrolyzed collagen. This partial process does not completely break down the collagen particles, allowing for some unique chemical properties.
Gelatin is made up of a mixture of peptides and proteins — due to the partial breakdown process. But gelatin is not considered collagen peptides.
Dissolves in Cold Water
Collagen peptides are fully broken down through the process of hydrolyzation. This means their chain structure is so short, collagen peptides are able to dissolve in cold and hot water.
True gelatin only dissolves in hot water. Gelatin is not made up of short enough amino acid chains to dissolve in cold water.
Gelatin is the most common material used to produce medicinal capsules. This is because of its unique ability to dissolve in hot liquids but not cold liquids.
Makes Liquids Gel
When gelatin dissolves, it makes liquids into gel. Hydrolyzed collagen peptides do not have this effect because they fully and efficiently dissolve into cold or hot water.
Gelatin is used in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. It is much desired for its unique gelling properties. The first recorded instance of using gelatin to make gel was in medieval Britain. There, cattle hooves were boiled, and a gel formed. Now, we use gelatin to make Jello, cosmetics, and shampoo.
When gelatin dissolves into hot liquids, the liquid maintains its molecular structure. It does not become something different. But because of the stray hydrogen strands in the chemical chains of gelatin, the oxygen atoms of the liquid bond weakly with the gelatin. This weak bond is what turns hot liquids into firm gels.
Easier To Digest
Collagen peptides (fully hydrolyzed collagen) are easier to digest than gelatin. Since these peptides go through a fuller, more intense hydrolysis, they are more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Collagen peptides can increase blood collagen levels threefold in a normal, healthy adult — possibly more if you are collagen deficient. Hydrolyzed collagen peptides digests more readily into your system than gelatin.
Benefits of Collagen and Gelatin
We move on from collagen vs gelatin, because their amino acid profiles are similar, both collagen peptides and gelatin have several shared benefits.
Since native collagen is a structural protein found in our bones and joints, you can imagine that collagen peptides and gelatin would both help with bone and joint health.
But there are other health benefits of gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen. For instance, collagen has been shown to be an antioxidant.
As an antioxidant, hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin both fight oxidative stress. This means they fight age-related free radicals in your system.
If antioxidants are outnumbered by free radicals, your body might experience some adverse symptoms:
- High blood pressure
- Heart diseases, like congestive heart failure
- Respiratory diseases, like COPD
- Neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
- Delayed puberty
But hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin fight age-related diseases in other ways as well.
In a 2019 animal study, gelatin reversed the effects of skin aging in rats. This gelatin was extracted from a fish, so it was primarily type I collagen.
Lower collagen production in your body results in loss of bone density. Since collagen production naturally decreases with age, it’s important for your bone health to ensure you get enough collagen in your diet via supplements.
A collagen deficiency decreases your bone strength. Healthy collagen production is important to maintaining healthy bones.
A 2018 study linked collagen peptide supplementation with increased bone density. This study observed 131 postmenopausal women.
As we get older, joints deteriorate. But both hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin have shown to protect the joints.
Collagen is important to joint health. Our bodies produce less collagen as early as 25 years old. Consuming type I collagen is known to reduce symptoms of arthritis in the knee.
In an exercise study, athletes reported improvement in joint pain after supplementing collagen peptides. Preliminary studies have shown collagen protein (type II collagen, specifically) may alleviate rheumatoid arthritis.
The science backs up the claim that people suffering from joint pain and joint soreness can benefit from collagen supplementation.
Collagen peptides and gelatin are paramount to immune health, as well as gut health. Immune and gut health actually go hand in hand. Collagen supplementation prevents leaky gut syndrome.
What is leaky gut? Well, your intestines are supposed to make sure that nutrients are absorbed from your digestive system into your circulatory system. When you have leaky gut syndrome, the proteins in your gut are letting foreign bodies and bad bacteria into your bloodstream.
Use collagen to promote gut health, and, therefore, immune health. Collagen fixes a leaky gut because it strengthens the connective tissue in the intestines that prevent toxins from entering your bloodstream.
In a study showing gelatin’s gut-healing effects, researchers also observed that subjects felt fuller after gelatin-based meals. This sense of fullness suppresses your appetite and might lead to weight loss.
A Good Night’s Sleep
One of the primary amino acids in collagen is glycine. In the past decade or so, glycine has been linked with a good night’s sleep. Glycine is a non-essential amino acid, found in collagen and other proteins. Like collagen, glycine by itself also has no side effects.
Glycine seems to act as a sleep aid without the unwanted side effects of next day drowsiness. A 2011 study out of Japan accidentally discovered the soporific effects of glycine. Researchers intended to use glycine as a placebo, but it provided consistent results related to subjects’ sleep.
Best Ways to Get More Collagen vs Gelatin
Whether through supplementation or through changes in your diet, here are some of the best ways to get more collagen in your system. The reason Western diets are often devoid of both collagen and gelatin are because these nutrients come from parts of the animal that are no longer used as food sources as often as in historical times.
You may have noticed there is more than one form of collagen. They all have their benefits. Here, we will focus on how to get more dietary type I and type II collagen.
Foods High in Type I Collagen
- Bone broth
Foods High in Type II Collagen
- Bone broth
Foods High in Gelatin Content
Though small amounts of gelatin are used in culinary dishes all throughout the world, we don’t recommend dessert as your main source. These are the best healthy sources of gelatin:
- Skin on meats
- Fatty proteins
- Bone broth
If you’re looking for the best way to get both collagen and gelatin in your diet, bone broth is clearly a great choice.
You can always turn to high-quality dietary supplements for an additional collagen boost. Many of the studies cited in this article used collagen peptides and gelatin supplements that you can easily purchase online.
Hydrolyzed collagen vs gelatin supplements… which is better? Since collagen peptides absorb into your body more efficiently — due to their smaller chain structure — collagen peptides (fully hydrolyzed collagen) are widely considered more effective than gelatin supplements.
Before beginning any dietary supplement plan, seek medical advice to ensure the supplements will not react badly with any medication you are currently taking.
Whether in the form of protein powder or gelatin powder, there are many ways to incorporate collagen supplements to your diet. For an extra boost of nutrition, search for grass-fed varieties.
- Native collagen is the most abundant protein found in the animal kingdom. It provides structure for our connective tissues, bones, joints, and skin.
- Native collagen can be broken down (through a process called hydrolysis) into gelatin or collagen peptides.
- Collagen peptides (also called hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen hydrolysate) are fully broken down. This makes them easier to digest and absorb.
- Gelatin is only partially broken down from native collagen. It can only dissolve in hot water. When it does dissolve, it naturally turns the liquid into a gel.
- Both hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin promote bone health, joint health, skin health, and immune health.