Everything You Need To Know About Collagen
As the largest producer and seller of collagen in the Baltics, we frequently receive questions from our customers that are based on nothing more than myths and false information. In this article, we explain what collagen is, examine 9 of the most common myths around it, and present a research-based guide to choosing collagen products and assessing their quality (with references to studies at the end of the page).
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most important protein in the human body, accounting for 25–35% of all protein in the body. Collagen is highly concentrated in the skin, nails, cartilage, blood vessel walls, bones, gums, etc. While in our younger years, the body is able to produce all of the collagen we need, from around 25 years of age, the body’s collagen production capacity decreases on average by 1.5% each year. Due to this, it is advisable to take collagen supplements daily from around the age of 25–30.
This decrease in collagen production in the body usually manifests itself in the appearance of your first wrinkles or joint pain. Of course, collagen deficiency is rarely the sole cause of any one problem, which is why you should not expect collagen supplements to be the answer to all of your problems. However, collagen still plays a major role in the health of the skin, hair, and joints.
Structure and types of collagen in different stages
Raw materials include 28 different types of collagen sources, but the differences are only actually relevant in the raw material stage. Yet information about collagen source types has come to the attention of many consumers, because numerous manufacturers depict their collagen as type I, II, or III in ads and on packaging. Below, we explain in more detail why these types do not actually make any difference.
In the first production step, the bonds in the structure of the raw material are separated, i.e. the material is gelatinised. However, the produced gelatin is not too useful. Yet, as its particles are still rather large (approx. 100,000 Da), the human body is unable to absorb more than around 10% of it.
The second production step consists of hydrolysis, which yields small bioactive collagen peptides, otherwise known as hydrolysed collagen. This brings the particle size down to approximately 3,000 Da, which is sufficient for the body to be able to absorb around 90–95% of it. Starting from here, the type of the raw material used to produce the hydrolysed collagen no longer makes a difference. Thus, the differences between collagen types only matter in the raw material stage, where the body cannot yet actually absorb it .
Upon consumption, new collagen structures are formed in the body from the collagen peptides. This results in greater skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles, stronger nails and hair, increased joint mobility, and reduced joint pain due to collagen deficiency.
Collagen production methods, purity, and quality
Collagen production using acids and other chemicals
This is the most common method of collagen production. The animal raw materials used in the process include, among other things, animal skin with hair, which need to be treated with acids. Marine collagen, meanwhile, is produced from the scales, bones, and fins of fish. To clean the raw material, it is first pre-treated with acids and other chemicals, which also involves the risk of impurities. This is a slightly less costly method of production, but it also yields a less pure product of, normally, 80–90% collagen (protein) and 10–20% impurities. The vast majority of collagen products sold in the Baltics are manufactured by acid and chemical treatment, which, by the way, is not indicated on the packaging!
Chemical-free collagen production
This process is less common, a little more expensive, and uses fresh animal raw materials, i.e. animal bones and connective tissue. It is a purely enzymatic natural process, which utilises heat and pressure. Innovative technologies make it possible to obtain extremely pure collagen (with nearly 100% protein content) using this method. Hydrolysis brings the particle size of this collagen down to as little as 3,000 Da, where the body is able to absorb around 90–95% of the product. ICONFIT collagen is also produced using this chemical-free method to ensure the highest level of purity!
Purity and quality
Purity can sometimes be determined from the packaging of the product, if the collagen content is listed. Note, however, that if the packaging promises you 100% collagen, but the protein content of the product is around 80–90%; that means that it also contains 10–20% impurities, which is indicative of chemically treated collagen. Of course, this is usually left unstated on the packaging, although the product is still likely to be advertised as pure collagen. Not only that, but some products on the market actually have no information about the nutrient content on the packaging, and the information is actively concealed. If you have already used a collagen supplement, you may want to ask the vendor about the production process and the protein content.
Why should you take collagen supplements?
Age, intense physical activity, as well as being overweight, all contribute to the decrease of collagen levels in the body, which can cause joint pain (arthrosis), brittle bones (osteopenia and osteoporosis), and skin aging. This also increases your risk of injuries. Studies have shown that collagen supplements have beneficial effects on joints and cartilage: in one study, cartilage thickness increased by 14% in athletes who consumed 10 g of collagen per day. Meanwhile, in athletes in the control group, who received no collagen, but performed the same level of physical activity, cartilage thickness actually decreased.
Collagen is also beneficial if you are suffering from osteoarthritis. It helps improve joint mobility and flexibility, as well as reduce joint pain, and increases bone density. This is particularly important for older people as well as athletes in preventing potential bone fractures. Studies have even shown that taking 10 g of collagen daily is significantly more beneficial than a daily intake of 1.5 g of glucosamine.
Collagen for hair, skin, and nails Studies have shown that collagen consumption stimulates skin regeneration and reduces signs of aging (e.g., wrinkles). It significantly increases the concentration of fibroblasts as well as the diameter and density of collagen fibres in the skin. And it even helps the body to recover from skin damage caused by exposure to sunlight. In young people, collagen levels in the body start to drop at around 25 years of age. At first, the changes may not be very noticeable, but consistently taking collagen supplements keeps the skin younger for significantly longer.
How much collagen should you take daily?
Studies have shown that 10 g of collagen per day yields the best results. As such, we recommend adding 10 g of collagen to your diet every day to benefit from its wonderful properties. The easiest and most affordable way to get your daily 10 g of collagen is to consume powdered collagen products, which you can mix at home into a glass of water or other drinks, smoothies, or food.
While collagen is also sold in liquid form as ready-made drinks, the price per portion of these is several times higher: some 10-day programme sets, for example, can cost nearly €100. Ten days’ worth of powdered collagen, meanwhile, usually only costs about 3 to 6 euros. Other collagen products on the market include collagen capsules, tablets, and gumdrops, which should be avoided, because they only contain a very small amount of collagen. The average capsule, for instance, holds only 0.5 g, which means that to get your daily 10 g of collagen you would have to take 20 such capsules a day.
Finally, collagen is also great for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Doctors actually often recommend you take extra collagen during these periods.
9 myths about collagen
MYTH 1: Collagen comes in types I, II, or III. Different types are needed for the skin and joints."
The truth: Although collagen is produced from different types of raw materials, after the material undergoes hydrolysis during the production process, the source of the collagen no longer matters. Hydrolysis breaks the collagen particles down to a small enough size for the body to be able to absorb more than 90% of them. Regardless of the source of the collagen or what part of the animal it is derived from, collagen always consists of 18 amino acids in effectually equal proportions and has the same fibrous triple-helix structure. It has not been proven that collagen peptides from different sources act differently in the body in any way. This myth is used by many businesses as a marketing ploy, where they list a specific type on the packaging. As a result, many consumers have come to falsely believe that they need one or another type of collagen. The truth, however, is that hydrolysed collagen has no types.
MYTH 2: Marine collagen is better than animal collagen.
The truth: There is no difference in effect between marine, bovine, porcine, or other kinds of hydrolysed collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein found in all animals and fish. As mentioned in the section on the myth about different collagen types, collagen always consists of 18 amino acids in practically equal proportions and has the exact same fibrous triple-helix structure. Studies have shown that after taking and digesting collagen, these amino acids enter the bloodstream and are distributed to the tissues of the body, where their beneficial properties are applied. The only difference is that marine collagen – which is derived from fish – is an allergen that is not suitable for those suffering from fish allergies. Thus, marine collagen is essentially a marketing ploy to sell a higher-priced product.
MYTH 3: Plant-based collagen is better than animal collagen.
The truth: There is no such thing as plant-based collagen! As plants do not contain any collagen, collagen cannot be produced from plants. Offering plant-based collagen is a misappropriation of the word ‘collagen’, as what is actually offered is a plant-derived mixture that is supposed to promote collagen production in the body. Whether and to what extent it actually does that is anyone’s guess. Such products are created in an attempt to mislead vegetarians and vegans into buying products where the efficacy has not been fully proven.
MYTH 4: Collagen should not be mixed into coffee because the heat will ruin its effectiveness.
The truth: Collagen can even be heated to as high as +200 °C without any problems, as its production process also involves high heat. Thus, there is no risk whatsoever that a cup of coffee below 100 °C could ever damage your collagen supplements. So feel free to mix them into foods and drinks, whether hot or cold.
MYTH 5: Collagen should not be put in a blender, because blending it will break down the collagen peptides and ruin their effectiveness.
The truth: The truth is sometimes even the opposite, because when put in a blender, collagen is often mixed with a berry mixture that is rich in vitamin C, which actually boosts the absorption of collagen in the body. In any case, however, hydrolysed collagen particles are small enough that a blender could never damage them.
MYTH 6: When taking collagen, you should follow a 1–2 month long programme
The truth: The body needs and produces collagen constantly, and this myth has been created by companies looking to market expensive products. It is recommended to consume 10 g of collagen daily starting as early as the age of 25–30 and no later than at 40. The first positive effects usually appear within 3–6 weeks, but this varies from person to person. Still, taking extra collagen has considerable long-term benefits, including making you look and feel younger and keeping your joints healthy.
MYTH 7: Grass-fed bovine collagen is the best and cleanest animal collagen.
The truth: Grass-fed bovine collagen does not differ in any way from other kinds of animal collagen products in terms of the effects. When it comes to collagen, the greatest difference comes from the production process. Thus we always recommend finding out whether the offered grass-fed collagen is also produced without chemicals. There is a lot of collagen on the market that is labelled as grass-fed, which is advertised as the cleanest raw material, but where the collagen is still produced using chemicals – a fact that you are unlikely to find indicated on the packaging. This chemically treated collagen contains 10–20% impurities (protein content 80–90%), yet is often advertised as pure.
MYTH 8: Collagen is absorbed well when applied to the skin in the form of a cream
The truth: Collagen particles are too large to be absorbed through the skin. Collagen creams leave a protective layer on the skin, which reduces the release of water through the skin (i.e. drying of the skin), but this does not actually have anything to do with the absorption of collagen. Consequently, it is recommended to take hydrolysed collagen orally, where the absorption rate is 90–95%.
MYTH 9: Liquid collagen products are more effective.
The truth: There is no difference in effect between liquid collagen products and powdered collagen products. After all, powdered collagen is also mixed with water or another liquid or food prior to consumption, yielding nothing other than collagen in liquid form. The only difference between these two kinds of collagen products is the price: liquid collagen products are sometimes priced as much as 10–30 times higher.
How and where can you buy collagen?
Various collagen products are sold in almost all food supplement stores as well as a number of retail stores and supermarkets. However, our ICONFIT collagen products are among the few that are produced without chemicals to achieve the highest purity. That is also why they have become the best-selling products in the Baltics. ICONFIT collagen products include unflavoured collagen as well as MSM Collagen with Vitamin C. For smoothies, try our delicious Collagen Superfoods with mixed freeze-dried berries and natural inulin. Place an order directly through on this website and your goods will be delivered in as little as 1–3 business days. Orders worth €29/€49 are eligible for free delivery!
Why are ICONFIT collagen products with so attractive pricing?
Despite the fact that we only use collagen of the highest quality and purity, produced without chemicals, we are still able to offer our products at a lower price. ICONFIT’s aim is not to sell small quantities at a high price, but large quantities at a lower price. We acquire our main raw materials from fully loaded trucks, utilise a fully automatic production line (with an output of 700 containers per hour), and have built the entire process on efficiency. Being a local producer enables us to offer our products directly to customers at the best prices and makes it very difficult for importers of collagen products produced abroad to compete with us.
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Tendons and ligaments
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Absorption of collagen
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- Jendricke, P. et al. “Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial”. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 20;11(4).
- Oertzen-Hagemann, V. et al. “Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men”. Nutrients. 2019 May 14;11(5).
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Reviews of benefits
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- Paul, C. et al. “Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance”. Nutrients. 2019 May 15;11(5).
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Bone loss and osteoporosis
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- Daneault, A., et al. “Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bone metabolism” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2017, 57:9, 1922-1937
- König D., Oesser S., Scharla S., Zdzieblik D., Gollhofer A. “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study” Nutrients 2018, 10, 97
- Porfírio E, Fanaro GB. “Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review” Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia 2016, 19: 153-164