Collagen is a vital protein that provides structure to various tissues in the body. Collagen production decreases as we age, leading to several health issues, such as wrinkles, joint pain, and decreased bone density. In recent years, collagen supplementation has become increasingly popular as a way to restore lost collagen and promote overall health.
However, not all collagen is created equal. Although there are at least 16 types of collagen, the vast majority of it in the human body is type I, II, III, IV, or V. Each type of collagen has a unique role and benefit to the body, and understanding these differences is vital when considering supplementation.
In this article, we will explore what collagen is, its role in the body, and delve into each of the five common types of collagen. We'll discuss their sources, unique benefits, potential side effects, and considerations for each. By the end of this article, you will be better equipped to choose a collagen supplement that suits your needs and contributes to your overall health.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It's found in various body parts, including the skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and organs. Collagen provides these tissues with strength and elasticity.
In the body, collagen acts as a scaffolding that holds everything together. It helps to maintain the structure and integrity of skin, hair, nails, muscle, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and more.
While there are numerous types of collagen, the five most common types are type I, II, III, IV, and V. Each type has a unique role and is found in different parts of the body.
Why Does Collagen Type Matter?
The type of collagen matters because each type has a different function in the body. For example, type I collagen, the most abundant type in the body, is primarily responsible for maintaining the structure and health of the skin, hair, nails, organs, and bones.
Different types of collagen are also found in various body parts. For instance, type II collagen is found mainly in the cartilage, while type IV collagen is essential for filtration in layers of your skin and organs.
Understanding these differences is crucial when choosing a collagen supplement. Supplements usually contain a specific type or a combination of types, and the benefits of supplementation can vary depending on the type of collagen they contain.
Type I Collagen
Type I collagen is the superstar of the collagen family, making up approximately 90% of the body's collagen supply. It is integral to the structure of the skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth. Its robust fibrous structure forms the basis of our skin's elasticity and firmness, making it a critical player in maintaining skin health and a youthful appearance.
Supplements rich in type I collagen are typically sourced from bovine or marine collagen peptides. Bovine collagen supplements, obtained from cow hides and bones, and marine collagen derived from fish scales or skin offer a significant source of type I collagen.
These supplements can substantially enhance skin health by promoting skin elasticity and hydration, thereby reducing wrinkles and dryness. This action is especially beneficial as natural collagen production decreases with age, leading to increased skin dryness and the formation of wrinkles.
Beyond skin health, type I collagen supplements can bolster the health of nails, ensuring they stay strong and less prone to breakage. They also promote healthier, thicker hair by improving hair follicle health and function. In addition, these supplements can enhance bone health by contributing to bone density and strength, helping to reduce the risk of bone disorders like osteoporosis.
Type II Collagen
Type II collagen is the main component of our cartilage, making it vital for healthy joints. Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue found in many areas of the body, including the joints between bones, such as the elbows, knees, and ankles. As we age, the wear and tear on our joints can lead to discomfort and conditions like osteoarthritis.
Type II collagen supplements, typically derived from chicken bones, are popular for their joint health-promoting properties. These supplements can help reduce joint pain, inflammation, and swelling in individuals with joint disorders, making them particularly beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. They improve joint flexibility and contribute to the connective tissue's overall health, providing relief from joint discomfort.
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen, often found alongside type I, is integral to the structure and function of our skin, blood vessels, and organs. In skin health, type III collagen helps to maintain elasticity and firmness, making it beneficial in combating the visible signs of ageing.
Supplements rich in type III collagen are usually derived from bovine sources. These supplements can promote cardiovascular health by strengthening the blood vessels.
Type III collagen also plays a pivotal role in muscle health and recovery. It aids in maintaining the structure of the muscle fibres, making it beneficial for individuals who engage in regular physical activity or athletes requiring faster muscle recovery.
Type IV Collagen
Type IV collagen, a less well-known collagen type, performs an essential function as a filter in the skin layers, forming a barrier between the skin and internal organs. This helps to prevent toxins and other substances from moving from the organs into the skin.
Supplements containing type IV collagen, usually derived from egg whites and shell membranes, can significantly boost skin health and aid wound healing. By improving skin health, these supplements can aid in the reduction of wrinkles and other signs of skin ageing.
Beyond skin health, type IV collagen also plays a critical role in the kidneys. By forming part of the basement membranes in the kidneys, type IV collagen helps to filter waste products and prevent kidney damage.
Type V Collagen
Finally, type V collagen, while not as prominent as the others, plays an essential role in the health of our hair and cell surfaces. It contributes to the strength and thickness of hair strands, promoting healthy hair growth. Supplements containing type V collagen can significantly improve hair health, leading to stronger, healthier hair.
Type V collagen also contributes to the fibrillation or fibre-forming structure of other types of collagen, including types I and III. It plays a structural role in the matrix of bones, in skin cells, and the matrix of muscles, liver, lungs and placenta.
How to Choose the Right Collagen Supplement
When choosing a collagen supplement, it's essential to consider your individual health goals. For instance, a type I collagen supplement might be best for you if you're primarily concerned with skin health and healthy ageing.
Different types of collagen suit different needs, so it's crucial to understand the differences. For example, if joint health is your primary concern, consider a supplement with type II collagen.
In terms of incorporating collagen into your diet, you can find it in various food sources like bone broth. However, collagen supplements are an excellent option for a more concentrated source. These can be found in multiple forms, such as powders, capsules, and even gummies.
Understanding The Common Types of Collagen
Understanding the different types of collagen and their unique benefits is vital to choosing the right supplement for your needs. Collagen is a critical component of our bodies, and knowing which type benefits specific aspects of our health can be beneficial.
Most supplements on the market will comprise some combination of type I, II and III collagen, but consuming additional protein foods such as bone broths and eggs, as well as vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables will give your body the raw materials it needs to build all types of collagen.