What is Hydrolyzed Collagen?
You may have heard about this craze in health supplements touted for its benefits for hair, skin, joints, digestive health, eyes, and even weight: Collagen Peptides a.k.a Hydrolyzed Collagen.
It’s my favorite dietary supplement and I have convinced my husband, my mom, my extended family, and many of my friends to start adding it to their morning coffee and smoothies.
But what IS it?
Let’s start by talking about what Collagen is and what that means for us.
What is Collagen
Collagen isn’t one uniform substance, it is a family of proteins. These proteins are abundant in the human body and in all other vertebrate animals. Our skin, ligaments, bones, muscles, and tendons are comprised of up to 1/3rd collagen. It is also found in our corneas, the lining of our gut, the dentin in our teeth, and our intervertebral discs.
Collagen consists of amino acids wound tightly together to form fibrils. These fibrils make up fibrous tissues such as our muscles and skin, and additional mineralization is responsible for more rigid tissues such as bone.
Since our bodies continually produce these proteins to build, strengthen, and repair our tissues they play an important role in health and healing. As we get older our ability to produce collagen slows down. The slowing down of natural collagen production causes wrinkles, age spots, graying hair, joint ache, digestive difficulties, dental problems, and parts of us “sagging” or “drooping.”
You may have heard of the different “types” of collagen, such as type I, II, and II. Type I collagen is found in skin, bone, and tendons. It is the most abundant form of collagen in your body. Type II collagen is pretty much limited to cartilage tissue. Type III collagen is found everywhere type I collagen is found but in lesser amounts, and is strongly dependent on age. There are ~27 different types of collagen but the rest of them are present in very low amounts in different organs.
Unfortunately, we’re not very good at absorbing collagen by eating meat. For nutritional purposes collagen is often broken down into gelatin, this is why “bone broth” is a popular health trend. However, we still don’t absorb most of the collagen in gelatin.
For a long time, it was believed that we could not counteract age-related decreases in collagen production with supplementation. Recently we began to learn differently. Thank goodness!
What is “Hydrolyzed” Collagen?
Simply put, Hydrolyzed Collagen is collagen that has been extracted from animal tissue and treated with a special process called “hydrolysis” that makes it more available for absorption by the human digestive system. Collagen hydrolysate can be sourced from pigs, cows, fish, and chicken but the most popular type on the market is bovine.
Hydrolysis works by breaking down the molecular bonds between individual collagen strands, which decreases the size/mass of individual collagen molecules. Hydrolysis can be accomplished two ways, enzymatic hydrolysis and chemical hydrolysis. Enzymatic hydrolysis, using a protease enzyme, is the preferred method because it is easier to control.
After this process, the collagen will dissolve in cold water and will not “gel” anymore. It is also called collagen hydrolysate, collagen peptides, hydrolysed gelatine or gelatin hydrolysate.
Hydrolyzed collagen is not completely flavorless or odorless, it has a light neutral flavor that can be easily masked. It is safe for human consumption, and it has a myriad of proven health benefits.
Personally I intend to take it every day, forever. My current favorite brand is the one recommended by my personal hero, Dr. Rhonda Patrick Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate: