The Difference Between Collagen Types 1, 2 and 3

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    Collagen does more than make your skin look young and supple. But that’s a good place to start. Get all the facts about this prolific protein.

    What is collagen?

    Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Its fiber-like structure is used to make connective tissue strong and resilient, able to withstand stretching. It also keeps our skin from sagging by giving us that plump, smooth, youthful look, as well as thicker hair, healthier nails, and may even promote muscle mass (when combined with resistance training), which is always a help with weight management.

    Though your body naturally makes collagen, the production of it decreases with age. With aging, collagen in the deep layers of the skin changes from a tightly organized network of fibers to a loose, disorganized maze. Additional factors that cause production to drop off more quickly are sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol intake, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. Environmental exposures can also damage collagen fibers, reducing their thickness and strength, leading to wrinkles on the skin’s surface.

    In food, collagen is naturally found only in the connective tissues of animals. Chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are all excellent food sources of collagen. Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, also provide collagen. Vitamin C is critical for collagen synthesis, so foods like citrus fruit, strawberries, broccoli, Bell peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and avocados are essential to your diet.

    Because you lose collagen as you age, many people rely on collagen supplementation as part of an anti-aging beauty regimen.

    Health Benefits of Taking Collagen

    To date, the majority of the research done on collagen supplements has been as it relates to joint and skin health. Human studies are lacking, but some randomized controlled trials have found that collagen supplements support skin elasticity.

    This double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness of collagen hydrolysate (CH) on the skin elasticity of 69 women found that the CH group showed significant improvement in comparison to the placebo group.

    This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effect of low molecular weight collagen peptide (LMWCP) on skin hydration, wrinkling, and elasticity found that the three parameters being measured all showed significant improvement in the LMWCP group when compared to the control group.

    Another article has found that collagen hydrolysate supplements can promote joint mobility and comfort in athletes.

    How Many Types of Collagen Are There?

    There is some debate over the number of collagens there actually are. Some scientists believe there are 16 while others claim there are 28. In the world of supplements and nutrition, there are 5 main types of collagen (I, II, III, V, X), 3 of which are most well known. Typically, when collagen types are identified on the label, they are listed as Roman numerals.

    What is type 1 collagen?

    Type 1 collagen is the most prevalent in the body and is responsible for providing structure to hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, eyes, organs, cartilage, bones and other connective tissues. It is especially abundant in the skin, where, along with elastin, it plays the role of a "scaffolding structure," which keeps the skin resilient, plump, bouncy, and youthful in general. As supplements, type 1 collagen comes from bovine, porcine, egg shell membrane, and marine sources.

    This study found that ingesting hydrolyzed collagen for 90 days is effective in reducing skin aging, as it reduces wrinkles and promotes skin elasticity and hydration.

    What is type 2 collagen?

    Unlike collagen types 1 and 3, type 2 is more localized. In an adult, collagen type 2 is the major structural component of the hyaline cartilage of the articular surfaces, and it has also been found in other tissues such as the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc and the retina, sclera, and lens of the eye. Chicken cartilage is extremely high in type 2 collagen. In supplements, type 2 collagen is usually sourced from bovine or chicken sources.

    What is type 3 collagen?

    Type 3 collagen is a structural component of blood vessels, the uterus, and the bowel. It regulates type 1 collagen fibril formation, and can be found in reticular fibers such as bone marrow. In supplements, type 3 collagen comes from bovine and marine sources.

    Can You Take Them Together?

    It is perfectly safe to take collagen supplements together as there is no evidence of competition with absorption of one type of collagen with another. If taking multiple collagen supplements daily, it is suggested that you take them consistently for the best results.

    Which is the Best Type to Take?

    There are many collagens you can take, but types 1, 2, and 3 are the most well-known and also the most prolific in the body. Each one has a different role so it is key to know the difference between them when choosing the best collagen supplement for your needs.

    Type I collagen is the most common in the body, and it provides structure to skin, tendons, bones, ligaments, and other connective tissues. It is especially abundant in the skin where it is responsible for keeping it plump, elastic, and young-looking.

    Type 2 collagen can be found in the cartilage in the ribs, nose, larynx and trachea. It is also found in cartilage in many joint surfaces. While it supports joint health, it hasn’t been shown to be very beneficial to skin.

    Type 3 collagen works in conjunction with type 1 in skin, ligaments, blood vessels, and joints. It also promotes skin health and elasticity.

    Overall, types 1 and 3 are the most prevalent in the body and would provide the most benefit to skin health. Type 2 would provide the most benefit to joint health. But the choice is yours. The main thing to keep in mind is that you cannot send collagen to one specific area in your body. Once ingested, your body distributes it accordingly. It’s always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider when choosing supplements.

    The Bottom Line

    Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is essential for healthy bones, teeth, joints, ligaments, and skin (among other things). It’s the magic that makes your skin smooth, plump, elastic and youthful. Like most things, it starts to diminish with age. And lifestyle choices like sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, stress, and sedentary lifestyle all expedite the process. The good news is collagen supplements can help. If you’re going to use them, get all the facts from the professionals before you begin. And don’t forget the importance of vitamin C to the synthesis of collagen.

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    Dr. Pragati Gusmano, ND
    Formulator and Medical Researcher
    Dr. Gusmano is a licensed naturopathic physician. She received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University and has over a decade of experience in nutrition and the natural products industry. Her clinical interests include lifestyle medicine, optimizing nutrition at all stages of life, pediatrics, and mind-body medicine. In her free time, you’ll find her outside connecting with nature, spending time with her two children, and cooking plant-based meals.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.