Collagen supplements claim to possess anti-aging properties, bone health benefits, wound healing and weight loss abilities. But each collagen type reacts differently within the human body. And each collagen supplement may contain different types of collagen than another.
With various manufacturers touting the effectiveness of their collagen supplements, it’s important to look at the different types of collagen. With easy names like type 1 collagen, type 2 collagen, and so on, bookmark this article as your go-to guide for sorting out various types of collagen.
We’re looking at five types of collagen — the most important five types, in fact. (There are even two honorable mentions at the end.) There are benefits of collagen, yes, but each of the types of collagen is different, sometimes slightly, and sometimes in a major way.
What is Collagen?
You might ask, “What is collagen?” Whatever type of collagen you’re talking about, collagen always refers to a prominent structural protein found in all animals. It makes up about a third of the proteins found in the human body.
The word collagen comes from the Greek word kólla, which means glue. This refers to when collagen used to be used to produce glue.
Once you turn 25 years old, your body starts to produce less and less collagen. It’s natural. But this causes wrinkled and saggy skin. More importantly, lowered collagen production means weaker cartilage in your knees, for instance.
Science alert: If you want to get very technical, collagen molecules are a tight-packed, triple helix protein found in every known mammal. Type IV, however, lacks the amino acids to form the tight shape, so it turns into more of a sheet structure. Either way, collagen is found in almost all connective tissues found in animals, such as cartilage, skin, muscles — and the list goes on.
Collagen synthesis happens constantly in your body. Collagen synthesis (when you produce collagen in your body, rather than take it in a supplement form) is kick-started by a unique concoction of amino acids: chiefly glycine and proline.
Vitamin C is vital to this process. If you have a vitamin C deficiency, your collagen production will likely suffer. (3)
As more and more collagen supplements burst onto the stage, it’s important to understand the different types of collagen, as well as the different sources and health benefits of each type. Since collagen powder supplements are derived from animals — namely mammals, birds, and fish — collagen is not vegan.
Below, we’ll discuss the five most important types of collagen. Which promote bone health? Which enhance healthy, hydrated skin? Which types have side effects?
Types of Collagen Protein
Though there are twenty-eight known types of collagen, we will only look into the five important types of collagen. We’ll examine the best sources, natural and supplemental, for each type.
Type I Collagen
Up to 90 percent of your body’s collagen is type I collagen. Type I collagen fibers can be found in the skin and bones and blood vessel walls, as well as connective tissue and fibrous cartilage — fibrous meaning fiber-like, or stiff. (4)
It is also found in scar tissue. This fact, along with findings from some studies, suggests type I collagen aids in wound healing and possibly blood clotting. (5)
A more recent study provided type I collagen peptides to 105 women who dealt with cellulite. Results indicate that the collagen reduced the prevalence of cellulite, especially in women of otherwise normal weight ranges. (6)
Type I collagen is most notable for its anti-aging properties. Among the various types of collagen, this fibrous protein best minimizes wrinkles and improves the skin’s health and hydration. (7)
Best Sources for Type I Collagen
- Fish collagen (or marine collagen in general)
- Egg whites (8)
- Bovine collagen peptides
- Protein-rich foods, like fish and beef
- Bone broth
Type II Collagen
Found in more elastic cartilage than type I, type II collagen is known for promoting joint health. If you don’t care so much about skincare or cellulite, this is a different collagen to try out. This type of collagen is known for treating joint pain quite effectively.
Of all the collagen supplements, type II has been shown to survive the digestive system intact more often than the other types of collagen taken orally. (11)
You shouldn’t wait until your joints hurt to take type II collagen. Bone broth is the food richest in type II collagen, but also contains other beneficial compounds like hyaluronic acid. Many collagen supplements also contain type II collagen.
Best Sources for Type II Collagen
- Bone broth
- Chicken collagen
- Protein-rich foods, like chicken
- Multi-collagen protein powder
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen provides and improves the structure of muscles, as well as organs and blood vessels. Comprised of meshy reticular fibers, this form of collagen is the second most prevalent after type I.
Type III is abundant in the intestines. Some have purported type III collagen to aid in intestinal health, but the studies do not yet agree on this point. (12)
There is evidence type III (and to a lesser extent, type I) can enhance exercise performance. It makes sense since the type III collagen is the type most commonly found in the muscles. Utilizing type III collagen, you can more efficiently work at building muscle mass or finally start a weight loss plan with confidence. (15)
Type III collagen deficiency may rupture a blood vessel in extreme cases. An examination of 14 patients who died of a specific type of aneurysm led researchers to find that nearly half had type III collagen deficiency. (16)
Best Sources for Type III Collagen
- Bovine collagen peptides
- Protein-rich foods, like beef and fish
- Bone broth
- Collagen protein powder
- Egg whites (8)
Type IV Collagen
This less common type of collagen aids in the filtration of the kidneys and other organs. Type IV collagen exists naturally as building blocks in different layers of the skin. These layers of skin often surround our muscles, organs, and fat cells.
Type IV forms in sheets, rather than tight helix structure, because type IV collagen lacks a specific amino acid (glycine) present in most other collagens.
Basal lamina is the scientific name for a deep layer of skin. Type IV collagen forms basal lamina, which serves as the upper half of the basement membrane. The basement membrane is where the outer layers of skin meet the inner layers of the human body.
This type of collagen is also thought to be of importance to wound healing and the forming of an embryo. (17)
Interestingly, a drop in type IV collagen levels was linked with digestive disorders. More studies need to be conducted to determine if type IV collagen is an effective answer to digestive upset. (18)
Best Sources for Type IV Collagen
- Egg whites
- Other protein-rich foods
- Type IV collagen is very difficult to find in supplement form
Type V Collagen
Type V collagen is a fiber-like collagen found in some layers of skin, hair, and most importantly the tissue of the placenta. Like some other types of collagen, type V can be found in collagen fibrils — meaning long, very thin collagen fibers. (19)
Since the placenta is vital to providing growing embryos with nutrients and oxygen, type V collagen is considered a crucial protein to neonatal development.
Type V collagen is also found in the cornea of the eye. Deficiency of type V has been associated with decreased transparency in the cornea, which may impact vision and overall eye health. (20)
Best Sources for Type V Collagen
- Multi-collagen protein powder
- Protein-rich foods, like egg whites (22)
Best Types of Collagen
All types of collagen are helpful to the human body. They each work in unique ways and aid many bodily processes and functions.
Most thoroughly researched are types I and II collagen. These are frequently thought to be useful collagen sources for the broadest number of people.
Type I collagen, which is the most abundant collagen naturally found in the human body, is useful for:
- Anti-aging, getting rid of wrinkles
- Skin hydration
- Wound healing, the formation of scar tissue
- Reduction in cellulite, possibly even stretch marks
- Moderate weight loss, especially in non-obese persons
Type II collagen, which has been shown to best survive the digestive system after oral ingestion, will likely promote:
- Bone health
- Joint health
- Of all collagen’s health benefits, research is most certain about type II’s ability to effectively alleviate arthritis and jump-start joint health.
Whichever of the two best types of collagen you use, there are some tips and tricks to most effectively digest type I and type II collagen supplements.
Either way, make sure your collagen supplement is fully hydrolyzed collagen. When hydrolyzed, collagen is reduced to smaller, more digestible peptides. Studies indicate properly hydrolyzed collagen peptides are available in the bloodstream within two hours of ingestion — usually within only one hour. (23)
Don’t forget that vitamin C is a vital part of natural collagen synthesis. Not only will a deficiency result in scurvy, but it will also result in reduced collagen production. Since vitamin C is an antioxidant with no side effects, there’s no downside to supplementing your diet with it. (24)
Another great compliment to collagen supplements is hyaluronic acid — say that five times fast! Hyaluronic acid is a molecule found in nearly every cell in the human body. Its link to collagen has been investigated in recent years. (25, 26)
One study, however, posits that hyaluronic acid actually does nothing to promote collagen synthesis. Interestingly, this same study revealed that caffeine inhibits collagen production. (27)
Other supplements and nutrients have been shown to aid in collagen synthesis:
- Glycine, found in pork and chicken skin (28)
- Proline, found in dairy, cabbage, asparagus, mushrooms (28)
- Copper, found in sesame seeds, cocoa, cashew, lentils (29)
- Zinc, found in shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, dairy, eggs (30)
For some consumers, the treatment of animals from which collagen supplements are derived is very important. Many companies will proudly display that their cows are grass-fed or free-range. Or perhaps their fish are killed humanely — not left to suffocate in the open air or chilled while still alive. Collagen supplement companies are quick to point out when their animals are treated humanely.
Honorable mention: type VI collagen hasn’t been as heavily researched as the first five types of collagen. But type VI collagen has been linked to hair loss therapy and might help fill in those bald spots. (31)
Honorable mention: type X collagen is a network-forming collagen found in cartilage. Type X seems to help with the process of calcification — when calcium builds up in tissues and organs. It seems to be a reliable marker for some kinds of new bone growth. Type X levels are often linked with type II levels, though, so it is seldom singled out. (32, 33)
Before starting any supplement plan, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional to make sure collagen supplements are right for you.
- Collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. It is responsible for the structure of our bones, skin, cartilage, and muscles.
- There are 28 known types of collagen, but only seven types important to human health (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and X). Most collagen supplements come from these five types.
- Type I collagen is the most abundant in the body.
- Type II collagen is the most common found in supplement form.
- Type III collagen is found in the structure of muscles.
- Type IV and type V can be found in layers of the skin.
- Collagen is most efficiently consumed with vitamin C or a hyaluronic acid supplement. Other nutrients which promote the synthesis of collagen include copper and zinc.