Collagen is a structural protein that plays a role in building hair, skin, bones, and cartilage. Collagen production in the body declines with age, which means you have to supplement with collagen to maintain the same levels as you had in your youth. When it comes to collagen supplements, you’ll find there are different types of collagen that play different roles in your body. This article will tell you everything you need to know about collagen types and the benefits each of them provides.
You probably know that collagen is important for healthy skin. However, it plays many other roles in your body that are critical to your health. There’s more than one type of collagen, but all types contribute to keeping your skin, tendons, and bones in good condition. Technically, there are over 16 different types of collagen. However, most of them are classed as either type 1, 2 or 3. If you’re considering taking collagen as a supplement, you’ll want to understand the differences between each of these types so you can decide which one is right for you.
Collagen Types 1 and 3
Most of the collagen in the body is type 1 or type 3. These types of collagen act as protein that plays a structural role in your skin. They’re the kind of collagen known for anti-aging effects, as they keep the skin supple and hydrated and reduce the development of wrinkles and fine lines. They also benefit your skin by helping it heal more quickly when wounded. Collagen types 1 and 3 also keep your nail bed strong and healthy, prevent hair loss and improve bone health. They also help you build muscle and burn fat.
If you want to improve the look and feel of your skin and help tissues to repair, types 1 and 3 are the best options. These types of collagen are often included together in supplements because they serve the same purpose. However, collagen types 1 and 3 become less effective when combined with type 2 collagen, because it reduces their absorption .
Type 2 collagen is mostly found in joint cartilage, which is the connective tissue that makes your joints flexible. Unsurprisingly, supplementing with it supports the health of your joints. Collagen type 2 accounts for up to 60 percent of the protein contained in cartilage and up to 95 percent of the collagen in articular collagen. Articular collagen is found on the end of your bones in the area where they meet your joints. This helps your joints to move more smoothly.
If you’re looking to improve joint mobility, flexibility, and strength, or to reduce pain in your joints, you’ll want to give type 2 collagen a try. Again, it’s less absorbable when combined with the other collagen types, so it’s best taken alone. However, collagen two does combine particularly well with compounds called chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, which also improve joint health. Type 2 collagen works with chondroitin to rejuvenate joint cartilage and encourages your body to produce more collagen. Chondroitin protects your joints by inhibiting an enzyme that can destroy cartilage. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid can lubricate your joints and improve their mobility. Supplements sometimes contain type 2 collagen combined with these 2 compounds to support joint health .
Collagen 2 and Your Joints
Collagen 2 helps rebuild stronger joints, making it helpful for people with arthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by degeneration of the cartilage in the joints, and it often affects the knees.
In a 3-month study on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, one group was given type 2 collagen as a daily supplement, and a second group was given glucosamine with chondroitin. At the end of the study, the collagen group saw significantly more improvement in their knees, compared to the other group. They were even able to return to activities they struggled with before taking type 2 collagen.
This study suggested that type 2 collagen supplementation can protect the joints against degeneration and reverse existing degeneration, with no side effects. It could also reduce the pain medication required by people with arthritis .
Collagen and Your Hair
Collagen types 1 and 3 help make up the structural protein of your hair, and research shows collagen can thicken up thinning hair and reduce hair loss. In a 3-month study, women experiencing thinning hair and shedding a daily marine protein supplement, which is a potent source of collagen. After 90 days of supplementation, the women who took the marine protein supplement had less shedding and thicker hair compared to a placebo group, suggesting that collagen strengthened, weakened hair .
Collagen’s Anti-Aging Effects
The body’s natural production of collagen reduces with age, which means collagen levels are continually declining as you get older. Collagen types 1 and 3 act as the structural protein that keeps your skin strong and firm. Studies show that collagen is responsible for the skin’s elasticity and moisture retention. Elasticity is the ability of the skin to return to its original position after being stretched. As elasticity declines, wrinkles and fine lines tend to appear. However, oral supplementation with collagen is shown to improve the skin’s elasticity .
Another key to preventing wrinkles and fine lines is retaining moisture in the skin. Dryness leads to sagging, tired skin. Skin cells that are hydrated remain plump, helping the skin stay firm and “full.” Studies show that oral collagen supplementation promotes better skin hydration and moisture retention, and even leads to softer, more supple skin .
One study on middle-aged women showed that collagen supplementation significantly increased skin elasticity, improved moisture retention, and reduced roughness, within just eight weeks .
Collagen and Bone Health
Type 1 collagen plays a part in the structural makeup of your skeleton. In a study on 102 postmenopausal women, type 1 collagen was shown to increase bone mineral density compared to a placebo. The researchers concluded the collagen played a role in increased bone formation. This suggests collagen could protect against osteoporosis and bone fracture, which are caused by low bone mineral density .
Another study showed that hydrolyzed collagen increased bone metabolism, suggesting it plays a direct role as a structural protein in laying down new bone .
Do You Need Collagen Supplements?
Collagen occurs naturally in the body, but this doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from supplementation to increase your levels. Some nutrients encourage natural collagen production, including vitamins A and C and amino acids found in meat, cheese, eggs, berries, cherries, and cabbage. These nutrients won’t do the same job as collagen, but they can help your body to produce more collagen of its own. Because it’s hard to find collagen in the human diet, it’s easier to obtain it from supplements.
Collagen supplements can be particularly important for older people. Collagen production naturally decreases as you get older and can reduce by as much as 50 percent by the age of 60. Most people will already be producing up to 25 percent less collagen once they turn 40. Collagen can also reduce significantly after the menopause. You may notice this in the appearance of your skin, but there are less obvious signs that you may not realize are linked to collagen. This includes thinner hair and weakened cartilage.
Your lifestyle and general health can also affect collagen production. You may benefit from collagen supplements if you smoke, are under a lot of stress, eat a high sugar diet, spend a lot of time in the sun or have an autoimmune condition, for example.
These factors can result in collagen damage. The chemicals in cigarettes can destroy collagen and elastin, and can also affect the amount of nutrients that can reach the skin. The UV rays in sunlight can also damage collagen and encourage it to break down a lot more quickly than it would otherwise. If you have an autoimmune disorder, it can mean that collagen is attacked by antibodies. Eating lots of sugar can result in glycation. This occurs when blood sugars bind to proteins to become Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) that have a negative effect on collagen .
Different collagen types play different roles in maintaining health and longevity. Because they don’t mix well, you want to choose between supplementing with collagen type 2 or collagen types 1 and 3. If you need joint support specifically, collagen 2 is your best option. Supplementing with collagen types 1 and 3 is the way to go to fight the appearance of aging, improve bone health and support strong, healthy hair. There are no side effects of collagen, and it comes from a natural source. Nonetheless, be sure to adhere to the instructions for doses on the product when supplementing with collagen.