What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body; it is found in your bones, skin, muscles and tendons. It's also involved in essential processes like helping your blood to clot, helping wounds to heal and protecting the nervous system.


There are five different types of collagen in the body:

  • Type 1 – is the most abundant and makes up about 90% of the body’s total collagen. This type provides structure to the body including the skin, connective tissue, tendons, teeth and bones
  • Type 2 – is found in the cartilage around joints
  • Type 3 – is structural and supports the muscles, organs and arteries
  • Type 4 – sits in the layers and membrane of your skin
  • Type 5 – is found in hair and also the placenta in pregnancy

Your body effectively makes collagen from two different amino acids, glycine and proline. It's important your diet contains adequate levels of protein to get both these and other amino acids that are needed to make collagen. As we age, the amount of collagen in our body decreases so it is important to maintain your intake of protein from foods like meat, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, dairy products including milk and yogurt, eggs, legumes and tofu.

Discover how to eat your way to fabulous skin, read our review of the best collagen supplements and check out our recipe for a delicious bone broth.

Chicken Ramen

Which foods contain collagen?

Collagen is found in foods of animal origin, and is concentrated in the skin and joints. This means it's present in recipes that use the bones, carcass, ligaments and skin of fish, shellfish, poultry, beef, lamb etc.

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Foods that contain gelatine are a good source of collagen, because gelatine is essentially cooked collagen. In theory, bone broth is a source of collagen as it contains gelatine; studies suggest its consumption does increase amino acid levels, although consuming it may not result in increased collagen levels, when compared to taking a supplement.

What about collagen supplements?

There are a few different types of collagen supplements available: animal (which is normally bovine-sourced) and marine (from fish) as well as some vegan products. Vegan products provide the precursors of collagen, because naturally occurring collagen is only derived from animal sources.

You can buy collagen as a powder, which may be added to smoothies or your morning coffee, or in capsule form depending on your preference. You may also see descriptions on the label such as ‘hydrolysed collagen’ or ‘collagen peptides’ – these are effectively the same thing and have been broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed peptide particles.

How much collagen in a day?

The amount of collagen needed each day depends on the type of collagen, the form of it you are taking and your reason for supplementing.

A recent study suggested hydrolysed collagen at doses of 2.5g to 15g per day is safe and effective. The smaller dose of 2.5g may benefit joint pain, skin health and hydration, while 5g per day has been shown to be beneficial for bone health; larger dosages of 15g have been used to improve body composition and improve muscle mass.

Beef broth

Benefits of collagen supplements

1. May improve skin health

One of the main reasons for supplementing collagen is its role in maintaining our skin's integrity, elasticity and hydration, offering the potential therefore to help slow down the skin’s natural ageing process.

One study on 72 women aged 35 years and older saw significant improvement in skin hydration, elasticity, roughness and density after taking collagen peptides, together with vitamin C and zinc, after 12 weeks compared to a placebo group.

2. May help relieve joint pain

Collagen is naturally found in bones as well as cartilage and muscles surrounding our joints, so it makes sense that taking collagen supplements may help with joint pain and age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis.

One interesting randomised, double-blind trial gave patients with osteoarthritis 2g of collagen or a placebo every day for 70 days, and found those taking the collagen had a significant reduction in pain combined with an improvement in physical activities compared to those in the placebo group.

3. May help protect bone density

Collagen makes up the majority of our bones, but as we age, we naturally begin to lose this bone density and can see an increased risk of conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may conserve bone mass and offer osteoprotective properties.

4. May help support a healthy heart

Supplementing collagen appears to help reduce systolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and reduce fat mass, all of which benefit cardiovascular health. Collagen does play a role in maintaining the structural integrity of our organs and arteries, including the heart, although more research is needed.

5. May help support muscle mass

Muscle mass declines with age but by combining collagen supplementation with resistance exercise, skeletal muscle strength and body composition appears to be improved. Implementing this combined strategy may be of particular benefit for certain groups such as elderly people with sarcopenia (a condition where there is a loss of muscle mass and strength) and post-menopausal women.

Collagen-supporting recipes

Slow cooker bone broth
Ramen with chicken bone broth, pork shoulder, soft boiled egg & greens
Chicken noodle soup
Beef pho
Broth recipes

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This article was reviewed on 12 February 2024 by Kerry Torrens.Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk. All health content on goodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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