- Ashley Oswald, RDN, IFNCP, CNSC, CLT, LD
How Much Collagen Should You Take Per Day? Everything You Need To Know About Collagen
Updated: Feb 27
You've been asking about this topic for a while, and I'm so glad to discuss it today and get to share this information with you about collagen.
And this topic, it's going to be comprehensive. We're going to talk about what is collagen.
How is it made?
How do you take it?
What's the difference between the different forms like powder, liquid, capsule, and topical, which ones work, which ones don't, and what should you do?
How is it absorbed?
How much should you take? How long should you take it? Is it safe?
What are some good brands?
So really thorough. And I hope you find a lot of value.
I'm Ashley Oswald. I'm a registered dietitian, and founder of Flusso Nutrients, where we are passionate about providing quality supplement information to you.
So let's go ahead and dive right in.
What is Collagen?
So an easy way to think about collagen is that it's protein. It has certain amino acids like glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxyproline, that are not in normal protein.
So that's kind of unique to collagen. And it's that glue that kind of holds the body together.
A quarter of our body is made up of collagen. It's in our bones, it's in our skin and our tendons and ligaments and connective tissue, the cornea of our eyes and more so a quarter of the proteins in the body is collagen.
And we're going to talk later on about how you can get it from food as well. And what are some of the differences between food and supplements.
So the collagen production in the body starts to decline when people enter their thirties, and that's why starting in the thirties or forties, people might start to notice more wrinkles, because it's that collagen that helps to keep skin nice and smooth and wrinkle-free.
So like a baby's skin is smooth, right? Wrinkle-free. It's because they have a high supply of collagen.
And then as we age, we start to lose collagen in the body naturally.
What is Collagen Made From?
Collagen is made from mostly animal hides like cow, pig, chicken, and fish.
Some are made out of egg shells too, but there's no such thing as vegan collagen, becuase collagen comes from animals.
How are Collagen Peptides Made?
Collagen peptides are made by boiling the animal hides.
So heat is used to break the hide down into gelatin.
And then enzymes are used to break down that gelatin into collagen peptides.
We have that protein that's coming from the animal hide and then the heat and those enzymes are breaking it down into smaller versions, which are called peptides.
So then we get those collagen peptides that you can buy in supplement form.
What are Collagen Peptides?
Peptides are little sequences of amino acids.
So say you're eating a hamburger. That protein, then enters your stomach, where your stomach acid starts to break it down.
This breakdown continues as it moves into your intestines, and eventually, it gets to it's smallest form - the amino acid.
These amino acids are what your body is able to absorb and use.
So collagen peptides, are basically a string of animal acids. They can get further broken down into single amino acids.
These single animo acids are what I mentioned above - such as the glycine and proline.
Gelatin versus Collagen
You might say, why don't we just eat the gelatin?
There is some research saying that the absorption is about equal.
But, collagen is often used instead of gelatin, because collagen absorbs well in cold water and other beverages, making it more user-friendly and practical.
So if we break the gelatin down to collagen peptides, you can mix it in cold. You can mix it into warm, hot, into everything.
Whereas the gelatin, while you might get similar benefits, you can really only dissolve it into warm or hot liquids.
And so how does it get absorbed in the body then?
You eat those collagen peptides and it goes past your stomach and to your small intestine, and you have your enzymes coming from your pancreas and then enzymes on your brush border, which is the inside lining of your intestines, and these enzymes help to break down those peptides even further into those amino acids.
So there might be like three chains, two chains, one chain, a single amino acid that then is going to get absorbed into your bloodstream that can start to have those benefits on your body that we're going to talk about.
And there is some information going around online saying that we as humans absorb from certain animals, like cows better than other animals like fish.
And I just want to kind of bust this sort of myth because there's research also showing the opposite.
So certainly you can pick and choose your research, but you have to take a look at the big picture.
And honestly, from a common sense standpoint, that doesn't even make sense because look at the Mediterranean diet and some of these diets and the blue zones around the world, where people are living long and healthfully, or they have a high amount of fish in their diet and they're getting collagen from the fish.
And so to say that we're more genetically aligned with these other animals, and that's why we can't absorb the fish collagen well, is just not true. So I hope that's helpful.
And when the hydroxyproline level in the urine was checked, which gives an accurate marker of how much collagen you absorbed within six hours after taking the collagen, the research found that there's no difference between the different types of animal collagen.
Why are people saying fish collagen is not absorbed as well?
And, it's likely certain companies are trying to distinguish themselves and want people to use their specific product.
So just know that even the powdered collagen peptides, are going to get about 90% absorbed within 12 hours of you taking it.
Now, the reason somebody might not absorb is pretty rare, because think about it, we're breaking it down to peptides already.
Peptides are an easier form of protein for your body to tolerate compared to most food proteins.
So if somebody is having trouble eating a hamburger or chicken, or just, beans or some sort of like whole protein, what we would do then is supplement with a sort of peptide sort of protein in a powder form, to help support their absorption.
So somebody can't absorb the collagen peptides in powder. I mean, that's probably a much more serious issue, which would be pretty rare. In these situations, the person is likely not tolerating many foods and really should connect with a dietitian expert.
What does collagen help with?
What can collagen peptides help with? The research is really around skin health and osteoarthritis.
1. Osteoarthritis inflammation of the joints, and particularly the knees is what you will often hear people complaining about.
2. Skin is mostly related to wrinkles. And so per the research, collagen can help with hydration and elasticity.
It's estimated that as adults, we lose about 1% of the collagen in our bodies every year. And supplementation with collagen peptides, could improve wrinkles by about 10 to 20%.
Women tend to have lower amounts of collagen naturally, so women might notice more benefits by taking supplemental collagen or focusing on food sources rich in collagen, which we'll get to.
3. Interestingly, collagen might have more benefits on skin that's had a lot of UV sunlight exposure, and that's because that UV light from the sun can activate enzymes that can break down the collagen in the skin quicker.
And that's why you might hear people recommending you wear skin blocks so you don't get wrinkles. That would be the scientific reason for it.
And so I just want to add my 2 cents here because, in the culture of the United States, we see wrinkles as such a bad thing, right? And people are getting Botox even in their twenties, but why do we have to perceive it that way?
Other cultures, really celebrate aging and how the body changes with aging. And certainly, if somebody is getting a lot of wrinkles too early or symptoms, we could consider that information and maybe the collagen production is getting used up too fast, maybe a lot of sun exposure, that might lead to joint issues down the road.
And that's where we would want to try to prevent some of those issues.
But just for cosmetic reasons maybe we can try to change our perspective as a society too, and, just embrace this aging process as well and try to let go of the stress that, we have to look a certain way.
Lastly there's also some research showing promise with help with healing burns, healing pressure ulcers, and maybe improving some cognitive improvement, but we need more research in some of those other areas.
So right now the research mostly shows benefit for skin health, hair, and osteoarthritis.
How Much Collagen Should You Take Per Day?
And so let's talk about how much you need to take for how long to start to show some benefits.
For skin health, you want to take it for at least a month. And it might take up to six months to notice benefits.
For joint health and joint pain, you'll want to try it for at least three months, probably up until six months before you stop.
So if you have osteoarthritis, give it at least half a year to see if you're noticing benefits.
And the research does show that you just need between about one to nine grams a day to get the benefit.
And these are some more myths that I see floating around where you need at least seven grams or whatever, but one of the most well-researched types of collagen peptides, the research shows for that one versus all that 2.5 grams a day is effective.
Types of Collagen Peptides
There are mostly three main types. You're going to hear about type I, type II, and type III.
Type I and Type III are mostly helpful for the skin. The most well-researched form or I guess a brand of this is Verisol. And I want to share the research stats with you here. And that's from pigs.
Type I - 2.5 grams a day was found to help with eye wrinkle reduction by 7.2% after four weeks and 20.1% at eight weeks. And after it stopped, it stayed decreased by about 11.5% more than the placebo.
Type II for joints.
And then I want to mention the vegetarian and vegan forms. So that vegetarian one, I briefly mentioned from the eggshells. It doesn't show to be super promising to tell you the truth. There might be a modest improvement in hair and like really modest in joint health.
But if you want to get the benefits from collagen peptides, you're going to have to, and want to use the animal forms and then vegan, there's no such thing.
If you see someone talking about any potential benefit to a vegan collagen supplement, it's likely due to the other nutrients in the supplement like the Vitamin C, that can indeed support your body's production of collagen if you are deficient.
Collagen: Capsules vs. liquid vs. topical cream vs. powder
And so let's dive into the different forms like the cream, whether is it worth the high price tag, liquid versus powder, which we kind of touched on already, and capsule.
Collagen powdered vs. Collagen capsules
So basically the powdered and the capsules are similar.
It's just the capsules have a smaller amount, and you will have to take more capsules to get the same amount as you could get in one scoop of powder.
You might just have a few grams, but that might be enough, right?
A main reason to take the capsule instead of the powder would be for convenience. Such as with traveling.
But the powder has almost no taste, and you can mix it into a variety of beverages, making it really easy and convenient.
There's some information online saying the liquid collagen is better - that it gets better absorbed. And then the analytical brain says, yeah, that makes sense. Right? It's liquid, not powder. That would be better absorbed?...
Well I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter.
If you can't absorb the powder, then there's something really serious going wrong with your gut, because collagen is proteins already very broken down, and you should have no issues absorbing any of these forms.
So the liquid is not going to be better absorbed.
And then the creams are all marketing.
Like they might have research saying, "Hey, look, this collagen cream helps improve wrinkles" and they might not be lying, but usually this is because of the other ingredients, and not the collagen.
Collagen can not get absorbed through the skin.
But those products might still give you benefits because they have things like vitamin A, vitamin C, glycolic acid and all of that helps to create collagen in the skin, and then also can just help to protect the skin in other ways.
So if you want to notice the most benefit with your skin health, then you're going to want to just take some sort of supplemental or food-based collagen powder.
Is Collagen Safe To Take?
So that comes to the question, are the supplements safe?
Yes, they're pretty safe.
They're probably some of the safest supplements on the market.
Research shows up to about 10 grams daily use for five months is safe. And it's just to this amount, because we don't have that goes beyond that.
Some of the reported adverse effects include nausea or diarrhea or headaches, but it's pretty rare.
However, as you know, if you have a fish allergy, be super careful about buying a fish collagen product. Avoid it.
So with any allergies - avoid what you have an allergen to, which you already know.
And then the other safety concern is for all supplements, which is a potential for contamination and adulteration.
Adulteration just means that a product says this is what's in it, but they maybe use a different ingredient as a filler to save money or similar. What is on the label is different than what is in the product, and often it is intentional.
And so some third-party companies will test supplements that are on the shelves and look to see if there's heavy metal contamination, what's in there is actually what the label says, and a kind of price for value and things.
So with collagen supplements, one of them, was found to have high cadmium, which is a heavy metal and it was likely due to the cocoa in that product because cocoa is notorious for having high cadmium.
But a lot of the other products were reviewed and they didn't have heavy metal contamination concerns. So that's good.
And then somebody asked me about fish versus cow versus pig.
Is there a better one to choose between those?
No, not really.
To get really down to that, we'd have to do some investigative journalism and see exactly where are they getting the sources from down to when it gets onto the shelf.
I would personally probably steer more away from fish, just because of the issue of fish farming and fungal issues in the fish population. So for me, it just doesn't feel ethical. Further, the oceans are being overfished, so I try to only eat fish when I know where it is coming from.
And when fish are being sold, they're usually being sold with the skin on. So then I start to worry are they doing farming, or fishing just to use the skin to get the collagen out of it?
So for me, I would opt for a larger animal where the hide might get thrown away anyway, because then at least we're using that whole animal and that hide again, which is being boiled down and that's, what's creating the collagen peptides.
I'm going to share a couple of companies that use grass-fed pasture-raised cow hides for their product, which is what I would personally choose.
How can you find quality collagen products?
So it's really about trusting the company and then using some of these third-party testing sites to make sure that this company is staying up to the standards that they're saying that they are, and I have names that I want to give you.
1. Verisol is a collagen peptide that has a lot of great research on it.
2. Multi Collagen and Collagen Renew are products that we like to use at our clinic. This one has a blend of different types of collagens. So it's good for the skin and joints.
And then there are two other companies that I respect when it comes to collagen. And these are the ones that are getting it from grass-fed pastured cows, so bovine.
1. Great Lakes Collagen
2. Vital Proteins
I know there's a lot of concern about environmental issues with meat, but just know if a farm is raising and rotating and is set up in the right way, it can help to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and a part of that whole farm set up.
They need animals to make it function properly. So certainly a lot of people are buying meat from factory farming and we are eating way too much from that side of it.
But just know you're supporting some of these farms that are like Polyface farms. You can look that up if you want to learn more, and this type of farming can help with environmental concerns.
All right. And last but not least, this is probably my favorite part of the whole topic.
How do you get Collagen from food?
Because nobody's even talking about that, right?
You can get collagen from food, like really pretty easy, and it's just in the skin of animals, right?
So if you're eating a chicken instead of buying just chicken breasts, because you maybe think white meat is healthier, then I would encourage you to instead buy animals from a quality source (grass-fed, from local farmers if possible), and eat all parts including the collagen-rich skin! You are going to get more nutrients this way, and it's healthier for you too.
To get this collagen, you must eat the skin because that's where the collagen is!
Or, if somebody knows how to prepare or if you are up for preparing chicken feet, they have a high amount of collagen in them as well.
So you could throw a chicken foot or make broth with chicken feet, and then use that in your soups and meals. Just two chicken feet have about 10 grams of collagen! That's the high end of the recommendation for what you need for health benefits. You might just need about 2.5 grams a day to get these benefits.
And fish, when you're eating fish, eat it with the skin on - eat that skin - and get the collagen from the skin.
So it's just kind of changing our mind around about whole animal eating and you're going to get what you need.
Our sister company Oswald Digestive Clinic made a video below, in case you'd like a review of everything discussed above: