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Ranking the best collagen peptide supplements of 2020

Ranking the best collagen peptide supplements of 2020
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Collagen peptides are the broken-down form of collagen, a protein that is the fundamental building block for everything from from skin to tendons to cartilage. It’s found in several beauty products as well as many joint supplements.

Collagen peptide supplements are useful for improving skin health and reducing joint pain. Collagen peptides come from processed animal bones, tendons, or fish scales, and are hydrolyzed (broken down) in a way that makes them easier for your body to digest.

They are also a good source of protein and BCAAs, so thanks to their broad range of benefits, they are becoming an increasingly popular supplement.

Want the best source of collagen peptides for improved skin and joint health? We’ve ranked the ten best collagen peptide supplements on the market according to quality.

Rankings

1. Transparent Labs Collagen Hydrolysate

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Taking collagen can improve the appearance of skin and muscle recovery, but it matters how much you’re getting.

That is why we like Collagen Hydrolysate by Transparent Labs. It supplies 11 grams of collagen per scoop, yielding 10 grams of quality protein content. That type of quantity can’t be matched by a handful of pills.

Collagen Hydrolysate is also a breeze to take. Its flavored with natural cocoa and tastes delicious in both water and milk-type drinks.

Take Collagen Hydrolysate consistently once a day to reap all the benefits, like more youthful appearing skin, stronger joints, and faster healing muscles.

2. Team Keto Collagen Peptides

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Collagen protein is extremely popular in the ketogenic community due to its naturally low sugar content.

Team Keto focus on this characteristic, and bring forward their own grass-fed collagen peptides with a hefty 10 grams of collagen per scoop.

Team Keto’s collagen Peptides are flavored and sweetened 100% naturally. But what makes Team Keto extra special are their flavors.

Collagen Peptides is available in: chocolate, salted caramel, strawberry’s n’cream and unflavored. With so many great tasting flavors, there’s no way you can go wrong.

3. Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen

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Ancient Nutrition has a great solution for people who can’t stand the taste of standard hydrolyzed collagen peptides—this supplement delivers them in a pill.

The multi collagen blend also includes a wider range of collagen types than you’d encounter in a normal collagen supplement, thanks to the broad range of sources (eggs, fish, and plant sources).

If you want a broad range of benefits from a collagen supplement, this should be a supplement you consider.

4. Dr. Axe Multi Collagen

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Dr. Axe is one of the biggest proponents of the skin and joint benefits of collagen protein, and his company makes one of the best collagen supplements out there.

It goes the extra mile, using four different sources of collagen to deliver a wider range of collagen types than you’d find in a single-source collagen.

This means you’re more likely to reap the wide-ranging benefits that these different collagens support, like better skin, stronger hair, healthier gut bacteria, and improved joint health.

5. Zhou Collagen Peptides

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Zhou Collagen Peptides is one of the few collagen peptide supplements that goes out of its way to ensure purity and quality by having a third-party lab test its collagen for purity and amino acid content.

This means you don’t have to worry about the presence of things like toxic heavy metals, which some nutritionists have expressed concern over. Heavy metals can accumulate in animal bones, so there is worry—mostly theoretical—that some of this may end up in collagen peptides. Not a concern with Zhou.

It’s definitely the best unflavored powder-based collagen peptide supplement that comes from a single source.

6. Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Collagen

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Ancient Nutrition is the solution you’re looking for if you want the ultra-pure and complete protein content of bone broth as well as the skin and joint benefits of collagen peptides.

This supplement contains both; the bone broth is derived from chicken, beef, and turkey bones, while the collagen is derived from eggshell membranes.

It’s flavored with cocoa powder, stevia, and monk fruit, so it tastes good without adding any sugar or artificial sweeteners. Its taste and protein content make it a high-quality and versatile choice.

7. Sports Research Collagen Peptides

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Sports Research makes a collagen peptide powder that uses grass-fed and pasture-raised cows as the source of its collagen.

The blend contains type I and III collagen, and is not flavored or blended with any other ingredients, making it a great choice if you want a beef-derived collagen peptide supplement.

8. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

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Vital Proteins derives their collagen peptides from the hides of grass-fed and pasture-raised cows, and provides it in an unadulterated and unflavored powder form.

It’s a solid source of collagen peptides, though the taste is fairly bland. We don’t quite understand how collagen from different sources (bones, hide, eggshells, fish scales) interacts with your body, so it’s difficult to say whether the fact that this collagen comes from hides versus bone has any impact on how it affects your body.

9. Mav Nutrition Collagen Peptides

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Mav Nutrition makes a single-source collagen peptide supplement in powder form with no flavoring. It uses pasture-raised and grass-fed cow hide as the source for its protein, which is pretty standard among collagen peptide sources.

10. Zammex Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides

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Derived from grass-fed and pasture raised cows, Zammex has a solid collagen peptide supplement. Like many other competitors, it’s an unflavored powder-form supplement, which means it’s very pure but tastes pretty unremarkable.

The manufacturer is not as well-known as some of the other collagen peptide supplement makers, which docks it a few places in the rankings, but it’s still not a bad pick.

11. Further Food Collagen Peptides

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Further Food makes a powder-based, unflavored collagen peptide supplement. It’s pretty standard in most regards, though the company is not clear on exactly how and from where they derive their collagen peptides. 

If you want technical details on the animal and animal part from which this collagen peptide supplement comes from, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

12. Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate

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Great Lakes makes a pretty basic collagen supplement, but it’s unclear where this collagen is sourced from.

That makes it a poor choice for people looking to optimize their collagen source, or at least be consistent when trying different supplements.

Who should buy collagen peptides?

Collagen peptides are a broken down and highly digestible form of the amino acid chains that make up cartilage, bones, tendons, and other connective tissue in your body. If you want to improve the health and elasticity of your skin, reduce joint pain from different types of arthritis, or treat sports injuries, collagen peptides is a great supplement.

Simply by being a highly concentrated source of protein without much in the way of carbs and sugar, collagen peptides are a popular form of low-carb protein powder, and thanks to this fact they find heavy use among people on the keto diet.

However, there’s far more to collagen peptides than just being a good source of protein. Collagen itself is a building block for some of the most important structures in your musculoskeletal system, like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage in your joints.

Collagen’s integral role in your connective tissue has motivated a lot of research into using supplemental collagen peptides to improve symptoms of diseases that affect connective tissue, like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint injuries in sport.

Research supports the idea that collagen peptides can reduce pain from all of these conditions, and as a result you’ll find collagen peptides in many popular joint supplements. But it’s not just connective tissue inside your body that’s dependent on collagen: even skin is made of collagen, and research also supports using collagen peptides to restore youth and elasticity to your skin.

Since it’s so simple, so safe, and so easy to use, collagen peptides make a great addition to your routine, whether you’re looking for the excellent macronutrient content or the joint, cartilage, and skin benefits. 

How we ranked

Collagen peptides are a pretty broad category of supplement, because there are several potential sources of raw collagen, several types of collagen that can be contained within each source, and different methods of delivering the supplement (i.e. powder versus capsules) and potential strategies for adding flavor, if desired.

We started by evaluating collagen peptide products based on their prime ingredients. We only focused on pure collagen peptide products; combined keto-friendly protein powders that used other sources of protein as well were eliminated.

So too were multi-ingredient joint supplements with other ingredients like glucosamine or MSM. It’s not that these are bad products—many of them are great—but if you are looking for a multi-ingredient product for joint pain, you should check out our joint supplement rankings instead. 

Once we’d narrowed the field to only products whose sole active ingredient was collagen peptides, we looked at the source of the collagen itself. Our ideal sources were grass-fed cows (hide or bone), eggshells, or fish scales.

There isn’t a whole lot of research on whether any of these sources are superior, but having a specified source (or multiple specified sources) was a strong point for collagen peptide supplements in our rankings: a clean and well-specified source means that the product is far more likely to be pure.

Similarly, we preferred collagen peptide supplements that had multiple types of collagen peptides, as opposed to just one (or no specific details on the types of peptides included). While it’s not clear whether having more types of peptides is necessarily superior, it doesn’t hurt to have more variety. 

When it came to method of delivery, our research team tended to prefer powder-form versus capsule based collagen peptide supplements.

That was because powder form supplements offered far more versatility, both in terms of dosage and in terms of usage. If you are taking several other supplements as a part of your health routine, the last thing you want is more pills.

And if you can mix a powder into a protein shake or smoothie, all the better. We did include a few of the purest and best-designed capsule-based collagen peptide supplements for people who prefer capsules, but the top places in our rankings were all taken by powder-form collagen peptides. 

Finally, for the powder form supplements, we also considered the matter of flavoring. Collagen by itself is not the tastiest thing around—it doesn’t taste bad, per se, just very bland (not unlike unflavored Jello).

To this end, we also rewarded some points in our rankings to products that were able to add some mild flavoring to the collagen peptides without upping the carbohydrate content or relying on synthetic flavoring additives. This meant using compounds like natural cocoa powder or stevia for natural calorie-free flavoring.

We sorted the remaining products based on a weighted combination of their collagen sourcing, types of collagen, method of delivery, and supplement design. This left us with our final list of the best options out there for collagen peptide supplements.

Benefits

Collagen is the protein that forms the structure for your skin, hair, nails, joint cartilage, and tendons. As such, it plays a critical role in everything from maintaining youthful skin and joint integrity and improving musculoskeletal health.

A collagen peptide supplement, sourced from animal materials like cow hide, chicken bones, fish scales, and eggshell membranes, could help you on all of these fronts.

Collagen peptides can improve your skin health. A scientific study published in 2014 by researchers in Germany investigated the effects of a collagen peptide supplement on skin health in elderly women who took a collagen peptide supplement or a placebo for the eight-week study (1).

The researchers found that skin elasticity improved in the women taking the collagen peptides, and there was some additional evidence that the supplement helped with skin hydration too.

These results make sense, given that collagen is what gives skin its stretchy, elastic properties. Many wrinkle creams use formulations that are intended to regenerate collagen in your skin, and this study suggests that ingesting it directly may help as well.

Additional research in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that a collagen peptide supplement aids skin by reducing some of the changes seen with aging (2).

This study used rats as an animal model, and demonstrated that increasing collagen intake over the course of four weeks led to an increased synthesis of new collagen in the skin, as well as a decrease in a different protein associated with skin aging.

While more research is needed to see if these results apply to humans, too, it’s a promising start.

Collagen peptides may be a useful treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the prestigious journal Science in 1993 first outlined the potential for collagen peptides when it comes to treating inflammatory joint pain (3).

The study examined the effects of a chicken-derived collagen supplement in 60 people with severe rheumatoid arthritis.

The authors observed a significant decrease in swollen and tender joints, and four people who received the collagen supplement went into complete remission.

Interestingly, even though joint cartilage is made largely of collagen, the biological rationale for why collagen peptides help with joint pain isn’t as straightforward as replacing old and damaged collagen with new material from the supplement.

Instead, at least in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the most likely explanation is the mediation of the immune system’s response to collagen.

Ingesting collagen of the same type as that in your joints forces your immune system to become more tolerant to these proteins, thereby reducing the amount of inflammation that occurs in the joint.

Osteoarthritis can also be treated by collagen peptides. This was the conclusion of a clinical trial published in 2009 in the International Journal of Medical Sciences (4).

The trial compared a collagen supplement to a glucosamine supplement among patients with osteoarthritis. The results showed that a greater proportion of people who received the collagen peptide supplement improved their quality of life, leading the authors to recommend it as a potential treatment for osteoarthritis.

A review article published by researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine analyzed some of the emerging research on using collagen peptides to treat osteoarthritis (5).

The authors cited numerous studies which identified benefits to using collagen peptides, including decreased osteoarthritis pain and increased quality of life. Though they noted that large clinical trials are still lacking, the evidence is promising.

Ingesting collagen peptides also appears to increase your body’s rate of synthesis of collagen, according to a 2014 article in the journal Food Chemistry (6).

In this study, the authors demonstrated that ingesting a dose of collagen led to an increase in the levels of hydroxyproline in the blood, which is an important building block for the collagen that makes up your joint surfaces.

It may be this upregulation that is responsible for the regenerative and pain-relieving properties of collagen peptide supplements.

Collagen peptides can help athletes with joint pain. A clinical trial on varsity athletes at Penn State University investigated the use of a collagen peptide supplement over the course of 6 months (7).

Athletes with joint pain were randomly assigned to either a placebo group or a collagen peptide supplement group. The athletes were evaluated by a physician at the end of the study and also filled out a survey describing their joint pain.

The researchers found that the collagen peptide supplement was effective at decreasing a number of measures of joint pain.

When they restricted their analysis to athletes with knee pain, the collagen peptide supplement appeared particularly effective.

These findings are especially encouraging because they suggest that collagen protein might actually be able to slow down or prevent arthritis and other types of joint damage in the first place, instead of just being used as a treatment.

Side effects

So far, there have been no significant side effects reported in the clinical trials of collagen peptides. A few patients suffered headaches and constipation in one trial, but the overall rate of side effects was not different from the glucosamine supplement that was used as a control in this study (8).

Overall, collagen peptides appear to be very safe, which is logical given that they are derived from foods not typically associated with any acute health risks—chicken, fish, eggs, etc.

Hypothetically, there is some chance that collagen peptide products made from eggshells or fish scales could contain trace amounts of some of the proteins that cause allergic reactions in people who have severe fish or egg allergies.

If you have one of these allergies, you may want to use a single-source collagen peptide supplement that comes only from bovine (cow) products. 

Recommended dose

The optimal dose of collagen peptides appears to differ based on the purpose you are using it for. To improve your skin health, and that of other connective tissue on your body like hair and nails, most studies use doses of 2.5 to 5 grams per day of collagen hydrolysate.

In contrast, doses are often higher when collagen peptides are used for treating joint pain, and especially arthritis. Doses more along the lines of 12 grams per day appear more appropriate, based on what clinical trials have used thus far.

Some studies have people split the dosage into two equal amounts, taken in the morning and the evening, though it’s not clear if this approach is superior.

FAQ

Q: What are collagen peptides?

A: A peptide is a short chain of amino acids that are chained together. Collagen is a fibrous molecule that’s made up of collagen peptides linked together—these strands make up your tendons, ligaments, skin, and cartilage.

Consuming supplemental collagen peptides appears to give your body the building blocks it needs to support healthy connective tissue; hence the utility of collagen peptides. The fact that collagen is used in such a wide range of places in your body (both your skin and your joints rely on it!) means that collagen peptides are an incredibly versatile supplement. 

Q: What is the difference between hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, and collagen protein? 

A: In terms of their role as a supplement, these three terms are all the same thing. Inside your body, collagen is made up of linked amino acids (called peptides) that are chained together to form long, fibrous, and strong strands of collagen.

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t absorb these long-chain collagen molecules very well—they need to be broken down first. Supplement manufacturers do so via a process called hydrolysis. By breaking down collagen into smaller chains of amino acids, these new molecules—collagen peptides—are easily absorbed by your body.

Since amino acids are also proteins, you can see where all three of these names come from, and why they’re all talking about the same exact thing. 

Q: Are collagen peptides good for aging? 

A: Collagen peptides are a good supplement to target two specific problems that are caused by aging: loss of skin elasticity and joint pain caused by arthritis. There’s good scientific research that supports using a collagen peptide supplement to increase skin hydration and boost collagen synthesis in your skin (9).

That’s good news, because hydrated skin that has more collagen is more elastic and less likely to sag and wrinkle. Because collagen is the primary structural component of your joint cartilage, collagen peptides may also be useful if you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Again, research indicates that collagen peptides can decrease pain and increase quality of life among people with inflammatory joint pain, which becomes quite common as you get older. 

Q: Are collagen peptides vegan? 

A: Unfortunately, collagen peptides are not vegan. Collagen is found primarily in animals: plants don’t have tendons, joints, or ligaments.

Some research is ongoing to develop plant based amino acid chains that are similar to those from animal collagen, but these plant based collagen analogues have not been tested in clinical trials the way animal collagen products have.

On the bright side, collagen peptides are made from animal products that would otherwise be discarded—bones, hide, fish scales, eggshells, and so on. 

Q: Are collagen peptides healthy? 

A: Yes, beyond their use as a supplement for your skin and your joints, collagen peptides are a great source of protein. Since collagen is pretty much pure amino acids, collagen peptides are one of the most concentrated sources of supplemental protein that you can find. It’s great if you are on the keto diet, or any low carb diet, because a serving of collagen peptide protein powder has zero grams of carbohydrates in it.

The only people who should avoid collagen peptides for health reasons are people who have severe fish or egg allergies—since many collagen peptide products use eggshells or fish scales as the source for collagen, it’s hypothetically possible that some trace compounds that would cause an allergic reaction may be present in the supplement.

Q: Can collagen peptides help you lose weight? 

A: Collagen peptides can be a useful part of a weight loss program, since they’re a great source of protein that does not provide any additional carbohydrates.

Increasing your protein intake has been shown to be a successful strategy for weight loss, probably because protein has a thermogenic and appetite suppressant effect.

While whey protein is generally the most popular protein for weight loss, collagen peptides are a favorite among people on paleo, low-carb, or ketogenic diets. 

Q: What are collagen peptides made of? 

A: Collagen peptides are a broken down form of collagen, which is a connective tissue found in animal bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

Chemically speaking, collagen peptides are chains of amino acids, which are released from collagen when they are hydrolyzed (i.e. broken down into smaller pieces).

Collagen peptides are much more readily absorbed by your body than raw collagen, and mix up much better in water as well. 

Q: How is a collagen peptide supplement made? 

A: Collagen peptide supplements are made by first extracting collagen from animal byproducts like bone, hide, tendons, eggshells, or fish scales via boiling.

Once raw collagen has been boiled out, it needs to be broken down into smaller pieces by a chemical process called hydrolysis to facilitate absorption in your body. After collagen has been hydrolyzed, it becomes a mixture of collagen peptides (also known as collagen protein or hydrolyzed collagen) and is ready for use as a supplement. 

Q: What is the best source of collagen? 

A: There are a variety of potential sources of collagen, ranging from cow bones and cow hide to eggshells and scales from various kinds of fish.

Pretty much any type of connective tissue from an animal can be used as a source of collagen peptides, but the ones listed above are convenient both because they have a concentrated source of collagen, and because they are widely available.

No research has yet come to conclusive answers on whether collagen peptides from bovine, fish, or egg sources performs any better inside your body, and likewise, we have very little understanding of how the different types of collagen peptides each affect your body. What we do know is that naturally occurring mixtures of collagen peptides do appear to be helpful for skin health, joint pain, and sports injuries. 

Q: What do collagen peptides do? 

A: Collagen peptides can be used by your body to synthesize new collagen, which is the building block of pretty much all of the connective tissue in your body, from your skin to your joint cartilage and tendons.

The broad uses of collagen inside your body explain why collagen peptides appear to have such a wide range of potential applications, and results from research provides evidence that taking a collagen peptide supplement does in fact increase your body’s synthesis of new collagen in your body. 

Q: What is the difference between collagen and collagen peptides? 

A: Collagen is the raw connective tissue that makes up most of the structural components of tendons, ligaments, skin, and cartilage.

Collagen peptides are small bits of the chains of amino acids that make up collagen. Collagen peptides are used in supplemental form because they are easily absorbed by your body, and are produced industrially by hydrolyzing (breaking down) raw collagen from animal sources.

Once collagen peptides are inside your body, evidence suggests that your body can use it to synthesize new collagen to improve the health of your skin and decrease pain and irritation in your joints. 

Related articles

Recap

Collagen peptides show promise as a way to increase the elasticity and youth of your skin, and there is strong evidence supporting its use as a treatment for joint pain.

The appropriate dose appears to be dictated by whether you want to use collagen peptides for cosmetic or injury-related purposes.

Whether you are an athlete with activity-related knee pain, are suffering from osteoarthritis, or even rheumatoid arthritis, there is reason to believe that the proteins in a collagen peptide supplement is a safe and effective way to substantially improve your symptoms.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 collagen peptide recommendation, click here.





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