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Can collagen supplements boost your health?

As we age, our body's natural collagen production decreases. This fact has prompted many people to consider taking collagen supplements - not only for their cosmetic benefits but for potential health improvements too.

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What is collagen?

Collagen is a crucial protein your body makes to give structural support, strength and elasticity to your skin, tendons and bones.

It's basically the glue that holds your body together, and accounts for around 30% of its natural protein. Your body creates collagen by combining amino acids - glycine and proline - with other essential nutrients like vitamin C, zinc and copper.

Collagen has many uses in medicine, surgical practices, food and cosmetics. It's considered by some a wonder ingredient, due to its range of benefits - from reducing wrinkles to enhancing bone health.

There are around 28 different types of collagen in your body. The most common types are I, II, III, IV and V.

Type I - makes up around 90% of your body's collagen. It gives strength and support to your skin, hair, bones, tendons, and ligaments.

Type II - vital for elastic cartilage - the tissue that cushions your joints.

Type III - supports your muscles, blood vessels and organs.

Type IV - forms the basement membrane - a thin layer separating your skin (epithelial) cells from the tissues underneath.

Type V - contributes to bone strength, the clear part of your eye (cornea), and organs such as muscles, liver, lungs, and placenta.

What are the different types of collagen supplements?

Interest in collagen supplements is growing, with people looking beyond mere skin benefits, and towards potential ways to support healthy ageing.

Dr David M. Brady, Chief Medical Officer, Designs for Health says the type of collagen found in supplements depends on the form and source.

The three main types of collagen supplements are:

  • Hydrolysed collagen (collagen peptides) - from animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, and fish.

  • Undenatured collagen is unprocessed and extracted from chicken breastbone cartilage.

  • Gelatine is a gelling agent derived from cooked animal collagen.

Research suggests that hydrolysed collagen - which is broken down into an easily digestible form - may be the most effective type of supplement1. This comes in a variety of forms, including:

  • Powders.

  • Capsules.

  • Drinks.

  • Gummies.

Because of its low molecular weight, hydrolysed collagen can be quickly digested and absorbed into your bloodstream. You can mix it into your favourite foods and drinks, or take it on its own.

Collagen supplements are extracted from two main sources - natural materials such as animals or plants, or genetically modified organisms. Most, however, are sourced from animals. The most common types are:

Marine collagen - from the skin, scales and bones of sea creatures such as fish, jellyfish, and sponges. It contains high amounts of types I and III.

Bovine collagen - from the skin, tendons and cartilage of cows. It too contains collagen types I and III. Although it's more affordable, the body doesn't absorb it as well as marine collagen.

Porcine collagen - from the skin and bones of pigs. A less common form, it contains collagen types I and III.

Chicken collagen - from the breastbone cartilage and skin of chickens. It contains collagen type II.

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Benefits of collagen supplements

The core types of collagen found in oral supplements are I, II and III. Each plays a specific role in supporting your body's health.

Six key benefits of collagen supplements include:

  • Speeding up wound healing - boosts new skin growth, blood vessel formation and cell movement2.

  • Skin elasticity - helps reduce wrinkles and improves skin firmness2.

  • Nail health - increases growth and reduces breakages if you suffer from brittle nails3.

  • Bone strength - could strengthen your bones and alleviate joint pain - especially after menopause4.

  • Muscle support and repair - provides structure and support to the tissues connecting your muscles, such as tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Research suggests they could also help repair muscle damage5.

There is also limited research to suggest that taking collagen supplements could lead to thicker hair growth. Currently the studies are in mice but could be significant for humans6.

How much collagen should you take?

The ideal dosage for collagen supplements depends on whether you want to improve joint health, fortify bones, boost muscle strength or enhance your skin. Collagen supplements usually include a recommended daily dosage on the packaging label. However, studies found that the following doses were safe, effective and shown to have the following benefits7:

Hydrolysed collagen

  • 1/2 a teaspoon (2.5 grams) per day may benefit joint pain8, skin health9, and hydration10.

  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) per day may improve bone density if you are osteopenic and postmenopausal11.

  • 3 teaspoons (15 grams) per day may improve muscle mass with resistance training12.

Undenatured collagen

  • Up to 40 milligrams per day may improve joint health 13.


This is not considered a standalone supplement - it's more common as a food ingredient.

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Do collagen supplements work?

According to Brady, collagen supplements have been shown to support skin, nails, bone, and joint health. While studies have shown positive effects from taking collagen supplements, research is still ongoing. Many collagen supplement manufacturers usually advise taking them for at least 12 weeks to benefit from noticeable results.

"Exact dosage amounts provided by specific brands will vary. I always recommend using a product that is third party tested. This ensures you are taking what the product lists on the label, and nothing else." - Jessica Garay - Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Professor at Syracuse University.

The most reliable way to support your body's natural collagen levels is to focus on a balanced diet rich in the nutrients it needs. Foods that help your body produce collagen include:

  • Protein sources: chicken, beef, fish, pork, eggs, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, beans.

  • Vitamin C sources: citrus fruits, strawberries, potatoes, peppers, broccoli.

  • Gelatine products: foods made by boiling animal skin, tendons and ligaments - for example, bone broth.

Further reading

1. Musayeva et al: A review on collagen as a food supplement

2. A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies

3. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails

4. König et al: Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study - PMC (

5. Khatri et al: The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review

6. Hwang et al: Hair-Growth-Promoting Effects of the Fish Collagen Peptide in Human Dermal Papilla Cells and C57BL/6 Mice Modulating Wnt/β-Catenin and BMP Signaling Pathways

7. Paul et al: Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance

8. Schauss et al: Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

9. Proksch et al: Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis

10. Bolke et al: A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study

11. Elam et al: A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial

12. Zdzieblik et al: Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial

13. Lugo et al: Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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