Not all collagens are the same; they fall into multiple categories. By different types of collagen, we’re not talking about collagen according to source (e.g. from beef, from fish, from supplement). We’re talking about collagen according to their molecular makeup, in which case the different collagens are simply described as Type I (one), Type II (two), etc.
Once you have a baseline understanding of the differences, you’ll know exactly what to look for in a collagen supplement (such as collagen powder) or collagen-rich food source.
How Many Collagen Types are There?
Collagen types are numerous. There is actually a total of about 16 known collagen varieties, but about 90% of the collagen in the body consist of Type I, II, and III. Humans only have Types I, II, III, V, and X. Type I makes up around 80%, so we’re naturally going to give it the most attention. All the others are found in different species throughout the animal kingdom and are not relevant to this post.
Type I Collagen
Most collagen types you find in stores in supplement form are Type I collagen. This is the protein that makes up our skin, bones, teeth, joints, ligaments, tendons, and scar tissue. Collagen Type I is typical in anti-aging and wrinkle-prevention creams. This is because the protein promotes the elasticity of the skin and minimizes skin lines and other features associated with old age. Aesthetics aside, this collagen also makes up the lining of your gastrointestinal tracts, so it’s a crucial protein from a gut health standpoint.
The science behind collagen Type I is also very strong. One study showed that subjects that took a Type I hydrolyzed collagen supplement over a 60-day period saw a remarkable improvement in skin moisture and skin firmness. It’s believed that collagen helps promote the release of sebum, the body’s natural production of oil to prevent dry skin.
Collagen Type I is partly made up of the amino acid glycine. Studies have found that glycine has properties beneficial for your digestive system. For one, it prevents stomach ulcers by minimizing harmful gastric juices in the stomach lining.
In essence, collagen keeps your intestines from becoming too acidic. This makes collagen supplementation especially beneficial for those who regularly suffer from heartburn, bloating, or upset stomach. In this instance, we recommend collagen-rich foods along with foods high in probiotics.
Like collagen, probiotics are also readily available in supplement form. Floracil50 is one example that provides a natural source of beneficial probiotic strains.
Type II Collagen
Other types of collagen supplements you can expect to find at your local Walgreens include Type II. This collagen is found mainly in cartilage. As such, this protein is crucial for joint support and health. Are you experiencing knee or elbow pain? You are likely Type II collagen-deficient, which occurs naturally as you get older.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition revealed that supplementation with a collagen Type II reduced knee pain in otherwise healthy subjects. This suggests that collagen may be a useful supplement for athletes with recurring joint injury. Cartilage loss, by the way, is a common issue for avid runners, hence why knee discomfort and knee knocking are typical ailments.
Type III Collagen
You don’t hear a whole lot about type III collagen. This is because it shares many of the same characteristics and benefits as type I. In fact, type I and III collagens are often lumped together. If you shop for a type I, you’ll often find collagen products listed as both type I and type III. We’re not even sure if collagen type III exists as a standalone supplement. Nevertheless, this type is mostly found in the skin, connective tissues, vascular system, and lungs.
Studies in collagen type III aren’t as numerous as type I. One research, though, did find that this variant is crucial for cardiovascular development and the production of type I collagen fibers.
Type V Collagen
From type V and onward, you just don’t hear a whole lot of. You’ll usually only see type V in supplements as part of a complete collagen product. Being less common and less abundant, though, does not make it less important. A research paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry indicated that type V is pivotal for overall collagen fibril assembly. In layman’s terms, that means it’s important in the production of other collagens.
For women, type V collagen has even more of a significant role as the protein contributes to the healthy development of the placenta. This makes it pivotal for pregnant women.
Type X Collagen
Last but not least, we have type X collagen. This plays a significant role in bone health. It’s needed for bone and cartilage healing after an injury. This includes the joints, so it has a similar function as type II collagen. Studies have shown that type X is needed for normal ossification (bone tissue formation).
What About Pro-Collagen?
Collagen types also include pro-collagen, which may be available as a supplement or topical cream. What exactly is this? Many scientific literatures describe pro-collagen as “the precursor to collagen.” It’s basically what collagen is before being formed by fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) to become fully fledged collagens.
Taken as a supplement, pro-collagen has many of the same benefits as the different collagen types. This includes improving joint mobility, skin elasticity, muscle tissue recovery, and promoting cartilage regrowth.
All the independent studies on collagen speak for themselves. So, how do you get more of this invaluable protein in your diet?
Bone broth is a good, inexpensive, and easily available source. You can buy pre-packaged broth in the stores or simmer your own using the bones from beef or poultry. See our past post on how to make bone broth from scratch.
Spinach is another good source. While the vegetable doesn’t contain collagen, the antioxidant it contains do protect the existing collagen in your body by fighting off harmful free radicals. The same goes for various berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
If you’re not a fan of any of these foods, then you can always opt to take a collagen supplement. Be sure, though, to read the label to know if it’s a type I, type II, etc.
Try Total Collagen for the complete spectrum of the most bio-available collagens.