The Lowdown on Hydrolyzed Collagen
For example, I’ve had an increasing number of emails from people who have attempted to make homemade jello, mousse or similar recipes and inadvertently used hydrolyzed collagen instead of gelatin.
As a result, the recipe ended up being a total fail because hydrolyzed gelatin does not congeal liquids at all. This compares with a single tablespoon of gelatin which is enough to firmly set 2 cups of liquid.
This mistake is very easy to make because gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen look and taste almost exactly the same. This is due to a very similar amino acid profile.
Part of the confusion is a simple case of semantics. Let’s clear that up first.
The Many Names of Hydrolyzed Collagen
The names used to refer to hydrolyzed collagen are many. So that you don’t ever confuse it with its similar cousin, gelatin (aka collagen protein), and mess up a recipe (real food ingredients are expensive!), be sure to make a mental note of these commonly used aliases:
Common Names for Hydrolyzed Collagen
- Collagen hydrolysate
- Hydrolyzed gelatin
- Hydrolyzed gelatine (UK and Australia)
- Hydrolyzed gelatin(e) collagen
- Collagen peptides
- Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein
- Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides
Have you come across other nicknames for hydrolyzed collagen? If so, please let us know in the comments section.
What Exactly -IS- Hydrolyzed Collagen?
The benefits of gelatin as a traditional food are many. To start with, it has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities (vetted sources). It does an amazing job of helping to fill in the missing amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in the diet. This is especially important if you don’t include much (or any) bone broth in your diet, are vegetarian, or have a lifestyle which makes it difficult to eat a balanced, ancestral diet that makes a point of prioritizing “nose to tail” eating (using the whole animal for food and not just the muscle meat) like traditional cultures frugally practiced out of necessity.
Gelatin has a unique amino acid profile, primarily consisting of glycine, glutamic acid, proline, and alanine. It is derived from the connective tissues of animals, either cattle, pigs or fish. In bovine gelatin, the collagen comes from the tissue just underneath the hair found on the hide of the animal.
Although the amino acids in gelatin are non-essential (meaning your body is able to make them), many nutritionally deficient and overly stressed people are not able to manufacture them in the amounts demanded by the body for optimal health. The liver needs an abundance of these amino acids to keep functioning at a high level, particularly to fuel detoxification which has the benefit of reducing inflammation.
As a food, hydrolyzed collagen is very similar to gelatin, but there are critical differences.
This is because the manufacturing of hydrolyzed collagen is more intensive than the processing of gelatin. Hydrolyzed collagen manufacturing breaks up the amino acid chains (protein) into smaller units than the processing of gelatin.
Thus, while the amino acid profiles and health benefits between hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are similar, the chemical properties such as the ability to set liquid, are quite different. In addition, the digestibility of hydrolyzed collagen appears to be superior for some people due to the less complex structure.
Hydrolyzed Collagen in the Research
Consumer interest in hydrolyzed collagen has exploded in recent years due to a growing body of research that suggests it has powerful anti-aging properties for skin, bone, and joints.
It is well known that collagen is an important building block for the body’s connective tissues, helping them maintain strength and elasticity (1).
The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry built upon this foundational research showing that when a person orally consumes collagen hydrolysates, blood levels of the peptide form significantly increased and reached maximum levels after 1-2 hours. After that, blood levels decreased to half of the maximum level 4 hours after ingestion (2).
Does this increase in blood levels of collagen peptides actually benefit connective tissues, however? Again, research suggests this is so. The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology published a study where researchers demonstrated that the ingestion of collagen peptides beneficially affects the size and composition of collagen fibrils in the Achilles tendon thus potentially improving its mechanical properties (3).
What about for bone health? Animal studies on collagen peptides suggest that oral consumption of hydrolyzed collagen may benefit bone health in both males and females even in a calcium deficient state (4).
Another clinical study published in the periodical Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism examined ingestion of 10 grams of collagen peptides per day for a period of 30-90 days. A positive effect on knee joint comfort was noted and the effect was even more pronounced in patients suffering more severe symptoms (5).
The most compelling research of all?
The journal Skin Pharmacology and and Physiology published a “gold standard”, double blind, placebo controlled study in 2014 which demonstrated a causal relationship between a 12-week daily regimen of orally consumed hydrolyzed collagen and significantly improved skin elasticity, structure, and moisture (6).
This study gives concrete evidence as to the likely reason why ancestral peoples maintained such a youthful countenance into middle and old age. It wasn’t just less stress and lots of fat soluble vitamins (especially vitamin K2) although this certainly helped. It was also at least partially due to the collagen in their diet from the traditional practice of nose to tail eating. This has been de-prioritized in the modern diet as the popularity of processed foods and a disposable, throw away mentality steadily advanced since World War II.
Which Type of Hydrolyzed Collagen is Best?
There are two different types of hydrolyzed collagen currently on the market.
One type is derived from pasture-raised beef and the other from sustainable, wild caught marine sources verified to be GMO free.
I have tried both types of hydrolyzed collagen and can honestly say that I have a hard time telling the difference between them except for the slightly off white color of the pasture raised peptides, which you can see in the picture above.
Quality Collagen is Tested for Purity
Both the marine collagen and pasture-raised collagen peptides blend nicely in hot or cold foods like a smoothie, have a similar nutritional profile and digest very well. If you are traveling, collagen capsules or single serving stick packs are a very convenient alternative. Please note that the brands I suggest are tested for purity to ensure no toxic residues are present.
Ultimately, the brand you choose to use in your home can be based on budget and food philosophy. If you are vegetarian, for example, you will likely prefer a marine sourced collagen peptide. This stuff is amazing … it has no fish smell. Even my daughter who is very averse to anything fishy tasting or smelling couldn’t tell the difference when I stirred some into a glass of fresh OJ.
As for me, I have both types of collagen hydrolysate in my pantry and rotate them.
Well, I don’t eat beef or fish 7 nights a week, and I would guess that your family probably doesn’t either. So why not use both of the available types of collagen peptides too if they are available?
Of course, I have no scientific basis for this personalized approach. It’s just what I do in my home, and I share that with you for what it’s worth.
The point is, hydrolyzed collagen is a beneficial food to health and incorporating it into your diet is helpful and supported by scientific research.
*As with anything, remember not to get too carried away with hydrolyzed collagen if you choose to use it in your diet. It’s not a silver bullet for everything that ails you! Go slow when introducing your body to this wonderful food. Like with probiotics, kefir, kombucha and other traditional foods you may not be used to, adding too much too quickly can cause digestive issues like bloating or stomach ache.
If you’ve already tried hydrolyzed collagen, which type do you prefer, pasture-raised or marine? Can you tell a difference and how do you use it?
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.