When people think of the word collagen, they typically associate the word with “gelatin,” (cooked collagen) notoriously known as a wonder food with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities, almost like a cushion. However, when it comes to health and collagen supplementation, collagen produces both collagen proteins (gelatin) and collagen peptides, also known as collagen hydrolysate. Both are slightly different. Commercially, collagen supplements have been around since the early 1920s. Back then, these supplements were mainly promoted for improving hair, skin, and nails for women. Today, collagen supplements are consumed by men and women, and we know that in addition to improving the health and appearance of your skin, hair, and nails, it can also be used to improve and revitalize bone and joint health. But what are the differences between collagen protein and pure collagen peptides?
For starters, Collagen Hydrolysate (collagen peptides) are fragments of proteins. They are said to have the same or similar amino acid content as that found in collagen proteins. Peptides, however, are more refined and easily dissolve in almost all liquids, even cold ones. They are also completely flavorless and easily digested with no extra additives. You can mix them easily into juice, smoothies, water, or whichever you prefer without altering the flavor and without adding a lot of extra calories. When it comes to the source, both come from the bones, skin, and scales of animals.
Collagen protein is what people typically associate with “gelatin,” or “jelly.” Collagen proteins are considered a little heavier and generally do not easily dissolve in water or juices. These proteins are better served in soups, stews, or in a healthy snack or dessert. It is said to offer the same amino acids as collagen peptides (usually in higher quantity), but the warmer temperature is needed to help dissolve the proteins into your drink or recipe. Regardless, these proteins are still an easy and smart way to get these important amino acids and get a fabulous protein boost to boot.
Why are amino acids important when it comes to proteins? It turns out that they are the building blocks that make up all proteins, including collagen. A lot of amino acids that our bodies can’t make, we have to try and outsource them through food and dietary supplementation. Collagen is extremely abundant in the human body. Not only do we have collagen in our skin, hair, and nails, but it is also found in bodily organs, joints, and throughout the musculoskeletal system.
Collagen is a protein in itself and is comprised of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline (which makes collagen especially unique because it is high in hydroxyproline), and arginine, which are those vital amino-acids that if supplemented, can actually benefit the entire body. What’s more is that Gelatin and collagen supplements play an important health recovery role in the Paleo Diet, GAPS Diet or and even a Carbohydrate-based diet.
When making the decision as to which one is best for you, it is important to note that collagen protein must be taken in moderation. On the plus side, the gelatin in collagen protein can make you feel fuller longer, which can be critical if you’re on keto, paleo, or another low carb diet. However, in large amounts, it can cause indigestion, upset stomach, gas, and a plethora of other undesirable and uncomfortable side effects.
But what about hydrolyzed collagen? It turns out when the collagen triple helix strands are broken down to the point of being pulled apart into individual strands, you are left with partially hydrolyzed collagen in the form of gelatin. This is actually the same as the gelatin that forms on top of a bone broth. Because it has been broken down, the gelatin is much more easily absorbed by the body than normal collagen protein. This is can be preferable if you’re on a restrictive diet and are consuming collagen products multiple times per day. In fact, although the main benefits are improvements in joint function, skin, hair, and nails… studies are now showing that gelatin (hydrolyzed collagen) can benefit those who have appetite issues and can’t shut off their hunger. The long chains of amino acids in gelatin help normalize gut hormones, plus they can help heal a leaky gut and ailing GI tract.
When those individual strands of protein are broken down one step further, you are left with what we refer to as called ‘peptides’. These are essentially ‘pre-digested’ collagen. Unlike gelatin, hydrolyzed collagen powder usually dissolves relatively easy in cool water without congealing.
As far as absorption goes, because collagen peptides are already ‘digested,’ the body will just absorb them very quickly. This makes them effective, but not for controlling hunger. When it comes to hydrolyzed collagen, more than 90% is usually absorbed within six hours of ingestion. Collagen protein, on the other hand, can take even longer, which is why it can cause digestion problems if taken frequently.