Searching for the optimal collagen-based product or supplement is not always easy. There are creams, serums, tablets, gummies, capsules, powders, and bars with different serving sizes and in various forms that make it difficult to know which one to choose. During the selection process, it is important to remember that the form of collagen and the serving size you consume influences absorption, the onset of benefits (e.g., speed), and the impact of supplement use (efficiency).
The Many Forms of Collagen
Collagen supplements may contain gelatin, collagen, or collagen peptides. One of the main differences between collagen and collagen peptides is the size of the particles. Collagen peptides—also referred to as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate—are generally recommended when someone is interested in taking a collagen supplement . This is because hydrolyzed collagen is broken down into peptides (small amino acid chains) that are more bioavailable than gelatin or collagen that is in its native, pure form [1-3].
Particles that are readily bioavailable are easily digested and absorbed. Hydrolyzed collagen contains shorter chains of amino acids (peptides) than gelatin or collagen, which makes the size of the peptides ideal for smooth digestion followed by absorption—leading to the transfer of amino acids into the bloodstream . The peptides in hydrolyzed collagen typically consist of oligopeptides (2- to 20-amino acid chains), dipeptides (2-amino acid chains), or tripeptides (3-amino acid chains). Amino acids are building blocks for bioactive proteins that influence numerous processes.
According to research, the enhanced bioavailability of the peptides in hydrolyzed collagen—in combination with digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—makes this form of collagen more efficient at promoting benefits than other collagen-based supplements [1, 4, 5]. Clinical studies specifically show that natural digestive enzymes support the thorough breakdown of peptides in hydrolyzed collagen . This process heightens the concentration of amino acids that are absorbed by the intestinal wall and then transported all over the body through the blood.
The Differences in Serving Sizes
It takes about 1-4 hours for absorbed collagen peptides and single amino acids to reach the bloodstream . After about 12 hours, these particles can often be detected in connective tissue, where they reinforce protein production . Most people would assume that the more hydrolyzed collagen you consume, the more will reach the bloodstream— according to research, this is the case.
Studies repeatedly show that hydrolyzed collagen servings of 2.5-5 grams begin to afford benefits in about 3 or more months, while servings of 10 grams or more may lead to noticeable benefits for some people around 4 weeks (1 month) [8,9,10,11,12]. This indicates that larger amounts reach the bloodstream and connective tissue faster than smaller amounts of hydrolyzed collagen. The impact of taking at least 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen is also more pronounced than that of 2.5- to 5-gram servings .
For example, taking servings of 2.5 grams or 5 grams to boost skin health generally demonstrates mild to moderate skin enhancements around 8 weeks (2 months), followed by more noticeable benefits that start around 12 weeks (3 months) [10, 11]. Similar research shows that taking about 10 grams for the same amount of time usually leads to marked skin enhancement that persists even if supplementation is briefly discontinued [11, 12]. Servings of 10 grams or more also boost the production of collagen in the body, while this process is not consistently observed with lower servings .
The benefits become even more pronounced when 15 to 20 grams of hydrolyzed collagen are consumed, particularly for digestive, joint, and muscle health [13-15]. The impact of supplementation is also typically experienced sooner when people take larger servings. For example, several individuals who consumed 20 grams of hydrolyzed collagen (10 grams twice daily) for digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or stomach upset experienced fewer problems after 2 to 6 weeks of supplementation .
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- Gomes-Guillen MC, Gimenez B, Lopez-Caballero ME, et al. Functional and bioactive properties of collagen and gelatin from alternative sources: A review. Food Hydrocolloids. 2011;25(8):1813-1827.
- Sibilla S, Godfrey M, Brewer S, et al. An overview of the beneficial effects of hydrolysed collagen as a neutraceutical on skin properties: Scientific background and clinical studies. Open Neutraceutical J. 2015;8:29-42.
- Liu D, Nikoo M, Boran G, et al. Collagen and gelatin. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2015;6:527-557.
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- Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, et al. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
- Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, et al. Oral collagen supplementation: A systematic review of dermatological applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019;18(1):9-16.
- Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015;14(4):291-301.
- Abrahams M, O'Grady R, Prawitt J. Effect of a daily collagen peptide supplement on digestive symptoms in healthy women: 2-Phase mixed methods study. JMIR Form Res. 2022;6(5):e36339
- Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, et al. 24-week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008;24(5):1485-1496.
- Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, et al. Specific collagen peptides in combination with resistance training improve body composition and regional muscle strength in premenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):892.