Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body and a key structural component of connective tissues such as muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and ligaments and tendons. Our body produces less and less as we get older, the collagen formation in our skin decreases by around 1% each year after the age of 20 and breakdown significantly increases from the age of 40. Lower levels of collagen in the body leads to negative effects such as wrinkly, less elasticated skin and weaker tendons.
There are no plant sources of collagen, it can only be extracted from the connective tissues of animals. However, the molecules found in animal tissues are too large to be digested and absorbed by the human body so need to be broken down (by hydrolysation process) into gelatine or collagen peptides.
Gelatin = Partially Hydrolysed Collagen
The collagen is broken down to amino acid strands, making it easier to digest and more bioavailable, for example in bone broth. The more gelatine in your broth, the more jelly-like the broth is when cooled. Broth that stays watery when cool doesn’t have much gelatine in it.
Collagen Peptides = Completely Hydrolysed Collagen
The amino acid strands are hydrolysed even further and broken into individual collagen peptides, which is what you find in supplements. In this form, the collagen is easy to digest and highly bioavailable. Unlike gelatine, collagen peptides do not gel and can be dissolved in both warm and cold water. Studies have shown that more than 90% of collagen peptides are digested and available in the blood stream within one hour. The collagen peptides are then transported into the target tissues, e.g. skin, bones and cartilage, where they act as building blocks for local cells and help boost the production of new collagen fibres. This, of course depends on your digestion and some other contributing factors.