If you have dipped your toe into the wonderful world of the collagen supplement, you’ll know that there are not only an endless range of brands to choose from, but also that collagen powder appears to come in a number of forms – collagen protein, hydrolysed collagen (or hydrolyzed), collagen peptides and hydrolyzed collagen peptides are all common.
So what is the difference between these products?
What is Collagen?
Simply put, collagen is a protein and our bodies are full of it.
It is formed of complex long-chain amino acids (mainly proline, hydroxyproline and glycine) which are twisted into a strong triple helix. It is the foundation of our skin, bones, intestinal lining, connective tissue and various other vital parts of us.
If we have the correct nutrients in our diets, our bodies make their own collagen. However, as we advance into old age, our collagen production slows. This can result in a number of changes, such as sore muscles and aching joints, along with many of the visible signs of ageing that so many of us find challenging like tissuey, wrinkled skin.
The health and beauty industries are becoming increasingly interested in collagen – from collagen powder or tablets, to collagen serums and even collagen injections – both for its possible health benefits and the role it may play in arresting the ageing process.
If you’d like to know more about collagen in general, please see our article Collagen Explained.
What are Collagen Peptides?
As I said above, collagen is made up of long-chain amino acids.
Collagen peptides are collagen’s long-chain amino acids broken down into shorter chains. In fact, collagen peptides can contain anywhere from 2 to 100 amino acids, rather than the 1000s that may be present in regular collagen.
For price and information on a popular bovine collagen peptides protein powder, see here.
Why Make Collagen Peptides?
The theory is that they are easier for our bodies to absorb.
At their most basic, collagen peptides are long-chain collagen molecules broken up to a size where our bodies can digest them and absorb them into our bloodstream. From there, they can be ferried around our bodies to the skin, muscles and so on that need them.
For price and information on a well-reviewed plant peptides powder, see here.
Collagen, Gelatin and Collagen Peptides
Let’s go back a step for a minute. Collagen protein is more or less the same as gelatin.
If you take a kilo of beef bones and offcuts (and a few additional flavourings) and simmer them in water for hours you will go past making a simple beef stock and will instead end up in the supposedly magical world of the bone broth.
Followers of the Paleo diet swear by the health benefits of bone broth and it’s all because the slow cooking process extracts the collagen from the bones in the form of gelatin – which is basically collagen.
Gelatin can be dried and turned into a powder – you can buy a variation of it in tubs in supermarkets for thickening soups and desserts etc. However, collagen powder made in this way has 2 major drawbacks:
- It’s hard to digest.
- It gels together to become thick and gluey.
And this is where collagen peptides come into their own over straight gelatin, collagen powder.
The shorter-chain amino acids in collagen peptides are not only easier for our bodies to digest, but they have the advantage of being cold-water soluble. In other words, they don’t form an unappealing, gloopy gel when added to liquids.
This means that collagen powder in the form of collagen peptides can be mixed into a protein shake, a cup of coffee, or even blended into the flour component of a muffin or cookie without effecting their texture or nutrient content.
And fortunately, a large number of collagen peptide supplements are flavourless. This means that:
- The collagen powder doesn’t taste of cow hide or fish scales – thank goodness!
- The collagen supplement can be absorbed into other food stuffs and drinks without effecting their natural flavour.
For price and information on a highly-rated marine collagen powder, see here.
Standard long-chain collagen protein is broken down into shorter collagen peptides using a process called hydrolysis.
So what this means is that hydrolysed collagen powder is collagen peptides by a different name.
Other common names used are to describe the same product include hydrolysed collagen or hydrolysed peptides. Then there is also the Americanised spelling, depending on where the supplement is manufactured and marketed – hydrolyzed collagen, hydrolyzed peptides and hydrolyzed collagen powder.
For a more scientific analysis of collagen peptides and hydrolysed collagen, see here.
It’s worth noting that if we go back to gelatin and our bone broth, the process of cooking the beef offcuts to extract the gelatin from them is in fact partial hydrolysis – and that’s why you get the gel.
For price and information on a best-selling hydrolyzed collagen peptides protein powder, see here.
Collagen Protein Powder
If you see a supplement labelled simply collagen protein or collagen powder, read the packaging carefully, but the chances are that it’s still a hydrolysed collagen peptide by yet another name.
Many collagen powders state somewhere on the tub which type of collagen they contain. This can be important, depending on your motivation for taking the supplement. If you’d like to know more about the types of collagen, see here.
And finally, true collagen powder is paleo and keto diet friendly as well as being gluten free and diary free.
For price and information on a multi collagen protein, see here.