Understanding Types and Sources of Dietary Collagen
The collagen protein biomolecule is one of the most abundant in a number of living organisms, including humans because of the important connective role it plays in biological structures. Collagen makes up close to one-third of a human body’s tissue forming the conjunctive and connective tissues in the human body: skin, joints, and bones. It gives our tissues elasticity, flexibility and strength, but over time, collagen fibers in the human body become damaged as they lose thickness and strength. Consumption of collagen can be very important in mitigating degeneration associated with aging.
There are many ‘Types’ of collagen
There are at least 28 types of collagen; however, five types are considered the most common with Type I the most prevalent in the human body.
The five most commonly occurring varieties of collagen in the body
Type I collagen is the strongest type of collagen and most abundant protein in humans (and all vertebrates). It helps to form our skin, bones, tendons, corneas, blood vessel walls and other connective tissues.
Type I collagen is often derived from pig (porcine collagen), cow (bovine hide), fish/marine sources and from eggshell membrane. Complete descriptions of these collagen sources are found below.
Type II collagen helps to form the cartilage that protects our joints. Collagen derived from chicken is a very good non-toxic source of Type II collagen and may inherently also offer chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate both of which are beneficial for supporting healthy joints.
Aspirins, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and natural therapeutics such as fish liver oil and anti-arthritic herbs cannot compete with the overall biochemical power of collagen Type II for treating aching or painful joints.
Type II collagen is also a potent cardio-protective agent largely owing to the presence of chondroitin sulfate which naturally coexists with the collagen.
Type III collagen is a major component of skin and organs and can be found in fish/marine sources, eggshell membrane, bovine collagen (muscles, bone and skin of cows) and porcine collagen.
(Types I and III are the two most abundant types of collagen in the body.)
Type V collagen is a minor collagen component which forms interstitiel (the spaces in-between) collagen fibers together with Type I. It plays a significant role in regulating the development of collagen fibers of connective tissue and coexists with Type II collagen in the joint cartilage.
Type V also importantly builds the cells of a pregnant women's placenta. It also helps to form cell surfaces and hair.
Type V collagen is derived from the membranes of eggshells and from chicken and bovine sources.
Type X collagen is a network-forming protein present in normal joint cartilage. It, too, can be derived from eggshell membranes.
These five types of collagen are an absolutely essential part of our physical composition and are found all over the body.
Comparisons of the major sources of collagen
The collagen derived from all the following sources will usually be derived from the parts of animals people typically do not eat—skin, bone, cartilage, scales and membranes.
Bovine collagen is a naturally occurring protein present in the connective tissue, bones, cartilage, and hides of cows. Most collagen supplements you will purchase in stores are derived from cowhide and are offered in hydrolyzed or gelatin form.
Bovine collagen is cheaper to extract therefore it is commonly used in collagen products.
You will need to take a large daily serving of bovine collagen—10 to 20 grams—for the collagen to have an effect, especially since there seem to be no next-level manufacturing methods in place to render the collagen even more efficient.
Cautions for consuming bovine collagen
The large molecule size of bovine collagen makes it less bioavailable. You therefore have to take more to realize a result.
The gelatin form of bovine collagen causes bloating in some people because the protein molecules are quite large.
3% of people have allergies to bovine collagen. It also induces an inflammatory response in some people who consume it.
Bovine collagen has the potential to cause inflammation and contaminants may also be present in the collagen. Because of the outbreak of diseases such as BSE and TSE (these are usually fatal diseases of cattle affecting the central nervous system), FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) and, especially, mad cow disease, all of which pose a threat to humans’ safety and health, some researchers look for alternative safer sources of collagen.
Bovine collagen is reactive and those consuming bovine collagen should conduct a skin test to make sure that will not react negatively to the product as they consume it.
The skin and bones of pigs are utilized for porcine collagen and this source is widely used for obtaining collagen for industrial purposes. Like bovine collagen, porcine collagen is cheaper to extract than other collagens and is therefore more prevalent on the market.
Porcine collagen is quite similar to human collagen and therefore does not cause much allergic response when used although it can invoke an inflammatory response in some people when consumed.
Similar to bovine collagen, you will need to take a large daily serving of porcine collagen—10 to 20 grams—for the collagen to have an effect, especially since there seems to exist no exceptional manufacturing methods that would render this form of collagen even more efficient.
Porcine collagen consumption cautions
The large molecule size of porcine collagen reduces its bioavailability meaning you must consume more to realize a result.
And just like bovine collagen, the threat of zoonosis (the transmission of disease from animals to humans) poses a risk of contamination.
Poultry are rich in high quality protein and desirable fatty acids. Avian collagen is mainly derived from chicken sternal cartilage, chicken, duck and other bird feet, chicken skin and eggshell membrane.(1)
The structure and biochemical properties of chicken collagen have been found to be quite similar to mammalian collagen.
Modere Liquid BioCell, for example, utilizes chicken collagen, namely, the sternal cartilage from chicken which is a very clean source free of contaminants.
Cartilage is a clean and desirable source because it is free from the blood supply of the animal. It is also devoid of lymphatics and nerves unlike the parts and carcasses of fish, cows, or pigs that are used in the manufacture of most collagen products today.
For excellent bioavailability and noticeable results, add to the Modere Liquid BioCell utilization of chicken sternal cartilage the following benefits unique to this collagen product and to no others:
a rigorous multi-tiered manufacturing process of filtration, purification, concentration, hydrolysis and sterilization
a highly bioavailable liquid form of a patented sternal chicken cartilage that is a naturally occurring matrix of collagen, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin; this is not true of any other collagen source
and a Bio-Optimized™ process that transforms this chicken sternal cartilage collagen into smaller bioavailable micro-molecules that are the ideal molecular weight and size to be utilized by the body.
Liquid BioCell has been proven effective at just one to two grams (not 10 to 20 as for bovine, porcine and marine collagens). One to two grams translates to two tablespoons (30 ml) per serving.
Marine collagen is derived from the bones, skin, fins, and scales of fresh or salt water marine life including cod, salmon, algae, seaweed, and marine invertebrates like starfish, squid, jellyfish, octopus, urchins, mussels, oysters, cuttlefish, prawn, sea anemone and sponges.
Though other parts of the marine animal are used, much of the collagen of the fish or invertebrate is stored in the skin.
Marine sources for collagen have advantages over bovine and porcine collagens:
marine collagen sources tend to have smaller molecules and thus are more readily absorbed when consumed;
they are free of zoonosis;
they possess a higher content of collagen;
the lower body temperature and the lower molecular weight of the fish or invertebrate aids better absorption when the collagen is consumed; and
they induce a low inflammatory response.
Similar to bovine and porcine collagens, you will need to take a large daily serving of approximately 10 grams for the collagen to have an effect (though less than for bovine and porcine collagens), especially since there generally are no next-level manufacturing methods in place that might render this collagen even more efficient.
Consuming marine collagen comes with cautions
Marine collagen poses the possibility of allergic reaction for those who have an allergy to seafood.
If the marine source comes from toxic waters, these toxins may be transferred to the marine animal and through the collagen to the consumer. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident of 2011, for example, leaked radioactive waste into the waters off northeastern Japan which subsequently traveled throughout the waters of the world.
Can dietary collagen be vegan?
The answer to this question is a hard, “no.” Supplemental collagen protein is only sourced from animals.
Many supplement manufacturers advertise their vegan products as collagen but they are actually collagen boosters—not collagen itself. This is a very dubious misnomer to be aware of.
Another example of a product using collagen misleadingly in its name is “collagen tea.” It does not contain collagen but rather high amounts of phenols which hypothetically/potentially strengthen existing collagen and elastin in the body.
These collagen boosters promote collagen production in the body by offering the body a variety of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and plant extracts intended to stimulate your body’s own natural collagen production. While the ingredients of vegan collagen boosters may vary, they often include vitamin C, zinc, manganese, copper, silica, proline, glycine, lysine, and arginine from plant sources.
It’s possible to boost the body’s collagen production with the help of certain plant-based foods that are high in the main amino acids comprising collagen: proline, glycine, and lysine.
Silica is a trace mineral that plays an extremely vital role in the synthesis and maintenance of collagen. Read our blog, Silica: The Trace Mineral Requisite for Optimal Collagen Function in the Body here.
Of particular interest to vegans, however, is that scientists have found a way to create dietary actual high quality collagen using genetically modified yeast and P. pastoris bacteria and the digestive enzyme pepsin. Four human genes that code for collagen are added to the genetic structure of the microbes. Once the genes are in place, the yeast or bacteria then start to produce building blocks of human collagen.
While this is an exciting development for vegans, unfortunately, vegan collagen made from genetically modified bacteria has not yet been made available on the market pending further research and study.
(1) Collagen from eggshell membrane: In the avian collagen category, this type of collagen is derived from the clear film membrane which lines the inside of the eggshell. Typically, the membrane is discarded along with the shell after extracting the yolk and albumen, but new research confirms that the membrane contains beneficial components for joint support.
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