Collagen 101

In Dr. Karen M. Pendleton, Health and Beauty by Lola Magazine

Roughly 3 to 4 years ago, I was approached by a fellow leader in a women’s professional business group, to get my opinion on a clean label company and its “hero” product line of collagen supplements.

As a Lifestyle Medicine physician, before introducing products and services into our practice, I dedicate myself to the process of vetting. My due diligence is important because I want to make sure that the recommended product(s) / service(s) are safe and effective. At this time, given the extreme popularity of collagen, I want to share some unbiased, evidence-based knowledge about collagen. Hence, the A. P. (Advanced Placement) version of Collagen 101…

What is collagen and why is it important?

Collagen is a protein and is the most abundant protein in the body. It accounts for about one-third of the body’s protein composition, thus providing structure and support. As a protein, collagen is one of the major building blocks of skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. In addition, it is also found in many other body parts, including eyes, teeth, gut and blood vessels. Depending upon the degree of mineralization, collagen tissues may be rigid (bone) or compliant (tendon) or have a gradient from rigid to compliant (cartilage).

Collagen has many uses, from food to medication to manufacturing. Historically, collagen was used to create glue. In this day and age, it’s still used to create strings for musical instruments. In the food industry, collagen can be heated to create gelatin and used to make casings for sausages (boudin in our state). Collagen has many medical and aesthetic uses, including the treatment of complications of the bones and skin (severe burns), and as a filler in dermatology and plastic surgery.

Are there different types of collagen?

As of 2011, 28 types of collagen have been identified, described and classified into several groups according to the structure they form. The number of types shows collagen’s diverse functionality. Of the 28 known types of collagen only seven types are important to human health (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and X).

Let’s take a deep dive into the seven main types of collagen and their roles in your body:

Type 1 This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to organs, bones, fibrous cartilage, connective tissues, tendons, teeth, blood vessels, and skin.

Type II – This type is made of more loosely packed fibers. This is the type found in elastic cartilage, and speaks to joint health. Of all the collagen supplements, Type II has been shown to survive the digestive system intact more often than the other types of collagen taken orally. This is an extremely valuable distinction and benefit!!!

Type III – This type is considered reticulate, i.e., resembling a net or network, and is commonly found alongside Type I. It supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.

Type IV – This type is a major component of the basement membrane that underlies epithelial (surface) and endothelial (lining) cells. It functions as a barrier between tissue compartments, helps with filtration (kidneys) and is found in the layers of your skin.

Type V – This type is a form of fibrillar (threadlike fibers or filaments) collagen found within the dermal/epidermal junction (skin), placental tissues, as well as in association with tissues containing Type 1 collagen.

Type VI – This type is a unique beaded filament collagen, and is found in the interface between the basement membrane and interstitial matrix (being between things), such as cartilage, skin, blood vessels (intima), eye (cornea, ciliary body and iris), uterus and placenta. Additionally, Type VI collagen is both a structural and a signaling protein. As a signaling protein, Type VI collagen may act as an early sensor of the injury/repair response, associated with Metabolic Syndrome, and prevent cell apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Type X – This type, first reported in 1983, is a short-chain fibrillar-type collagen. Type X collagen has proposed functions that include supporting the formation of bone and participating in the mineralization process, i.e., facilitating calcification.

Can collagen be vegan?

First and foremost, all collagen is sourced from the animal kingdom. Recently, there are a few companies that are producing collagen by using genetically modified (GMO) yeast and bacteria. Should we call this collagen “Franken-Collagen”?

What are the benefIts of using collagen supplements?

As you age, your body produces less and lower quality collagen. Starting in your late 20’s to early 30’s and accelerating around age 50 (As of this writing, I’m 63), you experience a natural decline in the quality and quantity of connective tissues. As stated earlier, all of your tissues depend on healthy collagen production to maintain strength, function, and elasticity.

One of the visible signs of collagen loss is in your skin, which becomes less firm and supple. Cartilage also weakens with age, and this can lead to joint issues. If you’re not making enough collagen, every tissue in your body could be compromised Deciding on an appropriate collagen supplement is crucial. First of all, not all collagen supplements are created equal. Most collagen supplements come from five types. Each collagen type reacts differently within the human body. FYI: There aren’t many studies on collagen supplements. However, there are several human studies from Modere’s Liquid Biocell Collagen Sciences.

Here is a short list of the benefIts of collagen/collagen supplements:

Can Improve Skin Health (elasticity and hydration)

Supports Joint Health (protective and pain relief)

Can Increase Muscle Mass and Strength (in combination with fitness training)

Could Prevent Bone Loss (osteoporosis)

Promotes Heart Health (keeping arteries structurally sound)

Health of Hair and Nails (an extension of skin health)

Promotes Gut Health (addresses leaky gut syndrome)

Brain Health (again, keeping blood vessels structurally sound)

How to Choose The Right Collagen Brand

First, consider those types of collagen that are important to human health (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and X). Make sure the collagen is from non-GMO, grass fed, hormone free, and cruelty free sources, along with being free of gluten, soy, shellfish, fish, egg, milk, peanuts and sugar. In order for the collagen to be absorbed, it must be hydrolyzed. Hydrolyzed collagens have already been partially broken down for easier and faster absorption. Many collagen supplements on the market can’t increase collagen production, lack human clinical studies, do not contain beneficial ingredient quantities, or make misleading claims. Not swayed by expensive marketing, I have done my research and discovered the only collagen that I choose to take, along with my loved ones.

It is a patented liquid matrix (all together) of naturally occurring Hydrolyzed Collagen Type 2, Chondroitin Sulfate (shock-absorbing), and Hyaluronic Acid (lubrication/moisture),

backed by multiple human clinical studies and an extensive body of research, developed by a clean-label company that is dedicated to Biocell Collagen Sciences. During my years of using Modere’s Liquid Biocell Collagen, I have appreciated the maintenance of the health of my joints, given 24 years of running. And, as many have complimented me, my skin is beautiful. Thanks, y’all. In light of the fact that Modere’s collagen is in an absorbable matrix, there is a topical skincare line, CellProof. I use that too.

How can I increase collagen naturally?

Recall that all collagen starts off as procollagen. Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids — glycine and proline in the presence of vitamin C. Thus, in addition to eating high quality protein, these are the nutrients needed to help your body increase collagen production:

Vitamin C – Large amounts are found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries.

Proline – Large amounts are found in asparagus, cabbage, mushrooms, egg whites, wheat germ, and dairy products (inflammatory, thus not my favorite)

Glycine – Large amounts are found in various protein-containing foods, including bone broths, animal skins (chicken and pork), and gelatin.

Copper – Large amounts are found in lentils, shellfish (oysters and lobster), organ meats (liver), nuts and seeds (cashews and sesame seeds), cocoa powder (dark chocolate), and shiitake mushrooms.

Besides better nutrition and quality supplementation, how else can I protect my collagen levels?

You should try and avoid the following collagen-destroying behaviors:

Sun – Ultraviolet radiation (sun) can reduce collagen production. So avoid excessive sun exposure (Recall my June/July article on sunscreen).

Sugar – In general sugar is inflammatory, thus eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates interfere with collagen’s ability to repair itself.

Smoking – Smoking is bad all the way around, and it reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles.

Sleeplessness – Sleep fragmentation or inadequate sleep. Sleep is when your body repairs, regenerates and renews. And, this speaks to your production of collagen.

Does collagen cause side effects?

Collagen supplements appear to be safe for most people. The potential unpleasantness of gelatin supplements include a lingering taste and sensations of heartburn and bloating. And, you could have a reaction if you’re allergic to the source of the supplement (gluten, soy, shellfish, fish, egg, milk, peanuts and/or sugar).

In closing, as more and more collagen supplements burst onto the stage, I hope that this comprehensive information presented in this article has been helpful in the decision to incorporate collagen in your daily regimen. Because of my personal health and beauty successes with Modere’s Liquid Biocell Collagen Sciences, I have shared with others, and they have voiced their great experiences. Thus, I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you, my LOLA reading audience. Here is my blessing…a $10 off promo code: 7842487 at

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended or implied to be a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a qualified, licensed medical professional. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this article with other sources and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.