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What is Collagen? Get to know the body’s most abundant protein

Article Summary:

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and helps you rebuild from the inside

  • The body's natural collagen production decreases with age

  • Collagen supplements are derived from animal tissue; mostly cow and fish

  • Collagen supports hair, nail, skin, bone, joint, muscle and ligament health**

  • Collagen supplement are easy to use and effective when utilized properly

What you can expect to learn in this article

  • What is collagen and why is it important?
  • What does collagen do for the body?
  • Where does collagen come from and how is it made?
  • Are there different types of collagen?
  • What is Verisol® collagen?
  • What is collagen bioavailability?
  • What causes collagen loss?
  • What are collagen builders?
  • What foods contain collagen?
  • How much collagen should I take?
  • How do collagen supplements work?
  • How should I use collagen?
  • Do collagen supplements work?
  • What is collagen and why is it important?

    Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in the human body. In fact, it accounts for about 30% of all bodily protein. Specifically, collagen is a key component of our connective tissues, playing a critical role in helping to support strength, flexibility, movement and motion.

    As a structural protein, collagen is made up of 18 amino acids and is uniquely high in 3 key amino acids: glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. These amino acids form long chains of polypeptide molecules that create the structure of collagen fibers. These collagen proteins are critical in helping to support the health and integrity of our body’s tissues, especially in our muscles, tendons, bones, joints and skin.

    What does collagen do for the body?

    Because collagen is one of the most abundant proteins found in our bodies, the benefits of collagen are plentiful and diverse. It is present in all connective tissues including bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles, teeth, skin, and many other parts of the body. Essentially, collagen is responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of our body. It helps keep us strong and flexible.


    When it comes to skin - collagen helps to maintain its firm, plump, hydrated and supple nature. It does this through the dermis (the skin’s foundation), which is closely involved in keeping the skin elastic and flexible. Since collagen is a prevalent component of the dermis, keeping collagen in good supply is what helps the body retain the above benefits.

    But as with most things, time takes its toll on the amount of collagen present in our body . And, the body's natural collagen production diminishes as we age, which can result in fine lines and sagging skin. Incorporating ingestible collagen to your diet can help the body regenerate what’s been lost or broken down with age.**

    Read more about collagen’s role in skin.

    Bone, joints, muscles, ligaments

    Collagen is one of the components that make up your bones, so as collagen production decreases your bone health is compromised. This might result in your bones becoming much more susceptible to fractures and breaks. In healthy bones there is a balance in bone turnover between the activity of bone forming cells (osteoblasts) and cells responsible for bone reabsorption (osteoclasts). When the equilibrium is disrupted and cell breakdown is outpacing the synthesis of new bone, the result is less flexible and more fragile bones. There is evidence to show that supplementing with collagen can help support bones**. Collagen peptides also support joint and comfort mobility**.

    Collagen makes up approximately 11 percent of the protein found in muscle. And while collagen peptides do not build muscle, they are shown to help support muscle function.** As we get older and become less active, we lose muscle. Physical activity also puts muscles at risk of injury or muscle soreness.While collagen peptides do not build muscle, they are shown to help support muscle function.**

    Our wide variety of collagen products, such as Vital Proteins® Marine Collagen, can help restore and promote collagen production, which is pivotal for maintaining bone, muscle and ligament health.**

    Read more about collagen’s role in joint health.


    Collagen supplements contain amino acids that our bodies use to build keratin, a primary protein in hair. As such, collagen plays an important role in promoting the health of the scalp and hair follicles**. Additionally, collagen is the primary component of the dermis, which is the connective tissue that holds hair follicles. Supplementing with collagen boosters like Vital Proteins® Hair Boost Capsules can help repair the skin at the base of the hair follicle.


    When your body is not producing sufficient amounts of collagen, your nails may be more prone to cracking and splitting. Daily collagen supplements, such as Vital Proteins® Collagen Gummies contain arginine, an amino acid that supports overall nail health.**

    Active Lifestyle

    Collagen is vital for muscle recovery after exercise. While it does not contain specific amino acids (like leucine) that are essential for muscle protein synthesis it is believed that collagen can help boost muscle mass, specifically by stimulating growth of muscle after exercise and through synthesis of muscle proteins.4

    Athletes who take collagen supplements before and after workouts may experience faster recovery times and improved endurance. Try adding our Vital Performance™ Protein Powder to your workout supplement routine, which combines both collagen peptides and high-quality, lactose-free milk protein isolate.

    Where does collagen come from and how is it made?

    As a naturally occurring protein, collagen is always derived from animal sources. Collagen supplements are generally produced by extracting collagen proteins from animal tissue such as beef, chicken and fish. The majority of collagen extracted today comes from bovine (cow) bones.

    Bovine (Cow) Collagen

    One of the most common sources of collagen peptides comes from cows. Typically obtained from the hide, bone, and tendons of the animal, it’s most commonly referred to as bovine collagen. Bovine collagen is rich with types I and III collagen.

    Marine (Fish) Collagen

    Marine collagen has the same benefits as collagen sourced from cows or other land animals. Made from one simple ingredient, Vital Proteins® Marine Collagen is sourced from the scales of Non-GMO Project Verified, wild-caught white fish off the coast of Alaska. The latter is a favorite among those following a Pescatarian-friendly diet and will offer similar benefits as collagen peptides from land animals.

    Poultry (Chicken) Collagen

    Poultry collagen is primarily derived from the breast bones of chickens, but it may also be obtained from the skins of chickens. Chicken collagen is predominantly type I collagen, which is most abundant in the joints of the body. It also contains components such as chondroitin and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which the body uses to make cartilage tissue that cushions the joints. Chicken collagen also contains high levels of proline and glycine - both of which are important building blocks of collagen.

    Are there different types of collagen?

    There are many types of collagen throughout the body; more than 25 distinct types, in fact. The differences between these collagen proteins range from slight variations in protein subunits to broad differences in the primary peptide sequences.

    Types I-IV are the most prevalent collagen proteins, found in bones, skin, and vessels (Type I), cartilage (Type II), ligaments (Type III), and structural networks (i.e. extracellular matrix, basement membrane) in organs (Type IV). Across all types of collagen glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline are the most abundant amino acids.

    Read more about the different types of collagen.

    Type I Collagen

    Type I is the most prevalent type of collagen in the body. This is the type of collagen you're probably thinking about if you’re interested in preserving the levels of collagen in your skin, hair or nails. Because it is so prevalent in the connective tissues, the decrease of type I collagen often results in characteristics such as sagging skin, fine lines, brittle nails and thinning hair. But type I collagen isn’t just a beauty-related substance. It’s also a major component of the tendons, organs and bones.

    Type II Collagen

    Though somewhat less prevalent in the body than type I, type II collagen is extremely important. It is the main component of cartilage and is extremely healthy for the skeletal system. Active people who rely on their joints may also benefit from adding type II collagen into their diet.

    Type III Collagen

    The third common type of collagen, Type III, is generally found in reticular fibers, such as in the bone marrow. It's usually found alongside Type I collagen in the body.

    What is VERISOL® collagen?

    VERISOL® collagen is a patented collagen peptide derived from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine. It stimulates the fibroblast cells in the dermal layer of the skin to increase collagen production which helps combat collagen loss.

    Read more about VERISOL® collagen.

    What is collagen bioavailability?

    Collagen bioavailability refers to how much collagen can be absorbed into the bloodstream after oral ingestion.

    Many studies have evaluated the bioavailability of oral collagen and gelatin peptides in humans. Among those, 3 studies provide particularly clear evidence that collagen peptides are orally bioavailable in humans:

    • A 2005 study of 12 healthy participants identified 400% and 550% increases in free hydroxyproline and 300% and 450% increases in peptide hydroxyproline in the blood 30 and 60 minutes, respectively, after participants consumed 10 grams of collagen peptides.2
    • A second bioavailability study, which used LC-MS/MS to quantify collagen-derived peptides in the blood of 5 healthy fasting males, reported substantial increases in collagen peptides in serum, including 9 specific hydroxyproline-containing peptides, within 1 hour after consuming collagen peptides (0.385 g/kg).3
    • A 2017 randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study in healthy, recreationally-active males demonstrated statistically significant increases in serum glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine within 2 hours after participants consumed 5 or 15 grams of gelatin peptides, compared with time after consumption of the placebo control 1

    What causes collagen loss

    The body’s natural production of collagen is a continuous, dynamic process that involves a balance between the synthesis of new collagen proteins and the breakdown of old/damaged proteins. As we age, our body’s own internal (endogenous) production begins to decline which contributes to elements of aging such as saggy, lackluster skin and less joint mobility and flexibility.

    Both age and lifestyle factors including stress, sun exposure, smoking and alcohol have an impact on the presence of collagen in our body. Collagen loss naturally starts to occur after the age of 30 and is increasingly lost with age with an estimate of 1 percent collagen loss annually. By the time we reach 80 years old, it’s believed that collagen production has decreased by 75 percent.

    That fact, combined with dietary preferences that may be void of collagen-rich food sources (such as plant-based diets, or discarding collagen-rich parts of meat such as bones, organs, tendons and ligaments), makes a supplemental, daily dose of collagen beneficial. Adding collagen to your diet can help your body regenerate and makeup for what has been broken down or lost.

    An oral collagen supplement, such as Vital Proteins® Collagen Peptides, is a safe, convenient, and effective way to help support new collagen synthesis and counter age-related decreases in collagen synthesis.

    What are collagen builders?

    Collagen builders are a good option for those who are following a plant-based diet but are still looking to boost their body's natural collagen production.** So, what are collagen builders exactly? They contain nutrients that support collagen production, but don't actually contain collagen. Think: products that contain biotin and vitamin C (like our Beauty Boost™!), which are considered building blocks of collagen.

    Read more about the difference between collagen and collagen builders.

    What foods contain collagen?

    Getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet that includes both collagen-rich foods and foods that promote collagen production — like bone broth, berries, citrus fruits, cashews and gelatin — are a few ways to help keep the important parts of our bodies well-oiled and strong.

    In addition to supplementing with daily collagen, it’s easy to start incorporating more collagen and collagen promoting foods into your diet. Foods rich in collagen are from animal proteins, especially those with a lot of tough connective tissue present like brisket and roasts. A simple swap to incorporate more collagen is by replacing traditional broths with bone broth. The flavor will be stronger than broths and you’ll get both collagen and minerals that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten from broth.

    High protein foods including meat, eggs, fish and poultry are also believed to nurture your body's own collagen production because they contain the amino acids (glycine, proline, hydroxyproline) that make collagen. Among other nutrients, collagen production also requires zinc, which you can naturally boost in your diet by filling your plate with shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds, citrus fruit, berries, and bell peppers.

    Learn more about foods that contain collagen.

    How much collagen should I take?

    One serving size of Vital Proteins® Collagen Peptides is equal to 4 tablespoons.

    One serving size of Vital Proteins® Marine Collagen Peptides is equal to 3 tablespoons

    Exact instructions are provided on each label.

    How do collagen supplements work?

    Collagen peptide supplementation can support bone health and joint function as well as slow muscle and cartilage loss.**^ While there are different forms of collagen, including gelatin, collagen peptides are the most effective form as a supplement to support the musculoskeletal system. This form of collagen has a lower molecular weight, which makes it incredibly bioavailable and, thus, ideal for use as a supplement.

    In fact, research has shown that over 90 percent of collagen peptides are digested and are highly absorbable, appearing as small peptides in the blood just 1 hour after consumption. And when consumed, collagen peptides stimulate the activity of special cells like chondrocytes and osteoblasts.**^ These cells are found throughout the body and are responsible for the production of new collagen, providing the body with the same amino acids that are naturally present in our collagen.

    How should I use collagen?

    Learning how to use collagen effectively is not difficult. Collagen can be a simple addition to your diet and can easily be integrated into your existing wellness or fitness routine.

    Collagen supplements can be added to almost anything and do not alter the taste or texture of foods or drinks. Some of our favorite ways to incorporate collagen into our daily routine include:

    Need some inspiration? Check out our collection ofcollagen recipes!

    Expert Tip: If blending in cold liquid, start with filling your glass 1/3 of the way with lukewarm water, adding a scoop or two of collagen, then topping it off with cold liquid and mixing. This will help avoid powder clumping and creates the best sipping experience.

    Using ice? Follow the same steps, adding ice before topping off your collagen drink with cold water. 

    Do collagen supplements work?

    Many randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have evaluated the safety and efficacy of oral collagen supplements in humans. Indeed, the clinical evidence from these trials is further supported by extensive peer-reviewed results from in vitro models and preclinical animal studies. Taken together, there is considerable peer-reviewed evidence that oral collagen supplements are safe, well-tolerated, and orally bioavailable in humans.

    Furthermore, these studies also demonstrate that oral collagen supplements can support improvements in joint health and joint pain/discomfort, reduce age-related decreases in bone mineral density, and help improve skin hydration and skin elasticity.

    **These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


    1Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(1):136-143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594.

    2Iwai K, Hasegawa T, Taguchi Y, et al. Identification of food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(16):6531-6536. doi:10.1021/jf050206p.

    3Ichikawa S, Morifuji M, Ohara H, Matsumoto H, Takeuchi Y, Sato K. Hydroxyproline containing dipeptides and tripeptides quantified at high concentration in human blood after oral administration of gelatin hydrolysate. International journal of food sciences and nutrition. 2010;61(1):52-60. doi:10.3109/09637480903257711.