have been hearing so much about the benefits of Collagen and bone broth lately. What is the difference between them? Which would give me better nutritional value? Thanks! –K. S.
This is a question that I have been thinking about a lot lately, and I am happy to have a chance to address it. Some use the terms collagen, collagen peptides, gelatin, and bone broth interchangeably because they are all comprised of the same 18 types of amino acids, but there are unique traits that each possess.
Let’s begin with collagen. What is collagen?Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is the substance that holds all living tissues together. Collagen is the long-chain of amino acids that is found in bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, blood vessels, organs and skin. In its original form, collagen cannot be absorbed through our diet because it is formed from three very long chains of over 1,000 amino acids twisting into a helix. The natural strength of collagen in its full length form is what makes it difficult to break down in digestion, and it remains too large to cross the intestinal wall.
What is the difference between collagen and collagen peptides?Collagen peptides are made by breaking down full-length collagen molecules so that they are smaller and more easily absorbed. They are made from the same amino acids, but because they are smaller, collage
n peptides can be digested and enter the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream the collagen peptides travel to the targeted tissues
in the body, bone, cartilage, skin, etc, where the body’s cells will use these smaller peptide building blocks to construct the full-length collagen strands to repair and sustain the body.
What is the difference between hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides?Some people are confused when these two terms are used, however they are referring to the same thing. Collagen peptides are what occur when you break down full length collagen through hydrolysis.
What is gelatin? Is it different from collagen/ collagen peptides?Gelatin is collagen that has been partially broken down, but is not as small or easily absorbed as collagen peptides. Gelatin will only dissolve in hot liquid, while collagen peptides will dissolve in liquids of any temperature.
What is unique about bone broth?Bone broth is a time honored process of slowly cooking bones in water to form gelatin that dissolves in the broth. The health benefits from broth are found in the dissolved gelatin. However, while bone broth is an excellent ingredient to cook with, it is less effective than supplementing with collagen peptides. Why is this? Because collagen peptides are smaller and more easily absorbed into the bloodstream than gelatin. In addition collagen peptides cause fewer digestive symptoms than the gelatin found in bone broth and it is possible to notice an improvement in health sooner with the more easily absorbed collagen peptide supplements.
Bone broth is often not cooked in a way to maximize nutritional efficacy.Most people only simmer their broth for a few hours, but for maximal nutrient release it is necessary to simmer the broth for much longer periods of time, ideally 20+ hours. Even after this more prolonged simmering, the amount of collagen released into a serving of chicken bone broth is 6 grams. It is also important to consider the quality of the animal bones that are used to make the broth. A nutritionally superior bone broth should be made using the bones from grass fed cattle, pastured poultry or wild caught fish. Since you will be extracting the nutrients and ingesting them in a more highly concentrated form, it is important that the animal was healthy. While it is possible, to find these high quality bones to make broth, it may be difficult to acquire enough to make sufficient quantities of broth to ingest to get your recommended 5-8 grams of collagen a day, especially as some recipes call for five to six pounds of bones for every gallon of stock. In addition, bone broth doesn’t have the other added nutrients that are necessary for optimal collagen absorption.
Gelatin and collagen are two proteins that are commonly associated with health benefits such as healing leaky gut, promoting skin health, improving digestion, and reducing joint pain.
Oftentimes, you may see gelatin and collagen used interchangeably. But while they come from the same sources — bones, skin, and tissue — they’re not the same thing.
Gelatin vs Collagen: Similar, But DifferentAs mentioned, collagen is found in bones and connective tissue. Since it’s too tough to eat tendons or ligaments, these parts must be cooked down using a process called partial hydrolysis to make the collagen digestible. The hydrolyzing and drying of the bones and tissue is what forms gelatin powder. In other words, gelatin is the cooked form of collagen.
Making bone broth is one of the most delicious ways to get more collagen and gelatin into your diet. By simmering animal bones and animal tissue in water with other aromatics for 20 to 24 hours, the collagen and gelatin get released from the bones and make their way into your tasty soup.
When it comes to collagen supplements, you may have heard of hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides. This form of collagen is simply hydrolyzed gelatin that has been more aggressively processed to form smaller proteins, which can be easily absorbed in the digestive tract.
Simply put, the differences between collagen and gelatin come down to how they’re processed. The processing method is what gives collagen and gelatin different textures, unique health benefits, and allows them to be therapeutic in different ways.
So, should you use collagen peptides or gelatin? Let’s take a quick look at the similar health benefits of collagen and gelatin, followed by their differences, so you can decide which one is best for you.
What Collagen and Gelatin Have in CommonFirst, let’s break down the makeup of each. Since collagen and gelatin are derived from the same sources, the have identical amino acid profiles. Most of the essential amino acids found in gelatin and collagen are highly anti-inflammatory (unlike some other animal proteins), which makes them beneficial for supporting overall health and well-being.
Gelatin and collagen contain the amino acids proline and glucosamine, as well as proteins called glycosaminoglycans. All of these nutrients support joint health by promoting the growth of new cartilage and cushioning the joints (1, 2). Having more of these nutrients has been found to help reduce the pain associated with arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The amino acid glycine is also found in gelatin and collagen. As a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, glycine also helps to improve joint function, but has the added benefit of supporting healthy nervous system function, improving sleep quality, building collagen, and strengthening the intestinal lining (3, 4). As you can see, glycine is one of the reasons why collagen and gelatin provide health benefits to the entire human body.
Lastly, one of the most important nutrients for healthy, younger-looking skin is collagen.
As the most abundant protein found in your skin, collagen helps preserve skin elasticity to keep it smooth, supple, and youthful. Since our bodies begin to produce less collagen once we hit age 25, consuming gelatin and collagen through your diet is especially helpful to improve your skin health from the inside out (5). Collagen has taken the skincare industry by storm thanks to these potential benefits, however the jury is still out on whether or not supplemental collagen is as effective as consuming it in whole foods since your skin doesn’t absorb collagen topically. As a protein, collagen is also a primary building block for healthy teeth, bones, hair, and nails (6).
hen collagen is boiled, partially hydrolyzed, and dried to form gelatin, it turns into a brittle, dry powder. But when mixed with hot liquids, it dissolves into a gel-like substance (hence the name gelatin). If you’ve eaten Jell-O before, you’ve had gelatin.
The gelatinous texture of gelatin is why it’s useful to add gelatin to your recipes as a thickening agent (such as homemade gravy, vitamin gummy candies, and soup). The gel-like texture also determines how it’s digested and absorbed by your body, which can influence certain aspects of your health — from balancing blood sugar levels to intestinal repair.
Gut RepairPicture gelatin as a thick, goopy gel when it’s being digested and absorbed in your intestinal tract. It moves sluggishly and is slower to digest, which is why it’s said to help soothe and coat the gut lining.
Since gelatin is 30 percent glycine, it’s one of the richest sources of glycine on the planet. Glycine has been shown to improve gut health by repairing the intestinal wall, and sealing the gut lining — which is essential for healing leaky gut syndrome and the autoimmune conditions that stem from leaky gut, such as rheumatoid arthritis and allergies (7, 8).
The benefits of gelatin for healing the GI tract also make it one of the top foods to eat on the GAPS diet, which is a gut health protocol designed to help repair the gut lining and heal digestive symptoms, leaky gut syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.
Blood Sugar BalanceOne study showed that when gelatin was consumed with sugar, it reduced the glucose response by nearly 50 percent (9). This suggests that gelatin is an effective protein for reducing blood sugar spikes and crashes when consumed with high carb meals. Therefore, gelatin may also be helpful for managing and improving Type 2 diabetes and other blood sugar imbalances (10).
It’s possible that the slow digestion and absorption rate of gelatin is one factor that allows it to reduce insulin spikes, but the study specifically mentions the high glycine content in gelatin for reducing the glucose response. Since collagen peptides also contain glycine, it’s possible they may have a similar effect.
Digestive HealthGelatin may improve bowel regularity, and relieve bloating and constipation. Its gel-like texture absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the intestinal tract, which is needed to promote healthy and regular bowel movements.
Gelatin has also been shown to increase gastric acid (stomach acid) production, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption.
Side Effects of GelatinSome may experience digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, and heartburn when first adding gelatin to their diets, or from eating too much. This is because the larger molecules of gelatin are “heavier” and can be harder to digest.
To avoid these symptoms, it’s best to start with a small serving size of gelatin (such as 1 teaspoon) and gradually increase to 1 or 1 1/2 tablespoons.
Key Health Benefit of Collagen Peptides (Hydrolyzed Collagen)
Easy to AbsorbAs we covered, powdered collagen supplements are gelatin that’s been processed more aggressively using hydrolysis, which forms smaller molecules called short chain peptides.
These short chain peptides are easier for your body to digest and absorb, which means the amino acids in hydrolyzed collagen may be more bioavailable and cause fewer digestive symptoms. Not only that, it’s possible that because collagen peptides are easier to absorb, you may notice the health benefits of collagen sooner when taking peptides, compared to gelatin powder.
Summary of Gelatin vs. Collagen Health Benefits
As you can see, gelatin and collagen both provide many of the same incredible health benefits, so there really is no wrong choice. Whether you choose gelatin or collagen comes down to how you want to use it (i.e., do you want to mix collagen in your smoothies, or add texture to your recipes?), and which form of collagen your body responds best to.
Because collagen products are made from animal products, which can sometimes be contaminated by improper farming and ranching practices, it’s important to select a high-quality product. Supplements are not evaluated by the FDA, so search for collagen powders made from organic and pasture-raised animals that have been vetted for safety and quality by a neutral third party like the National Sanitation Foundation.
Our favorite way to make sure we get enough of both? Delicious bone broth of course! Try making your own slow cooker beef bone broth, or purchase your favorite kind to drink straight from a mug or use in your recipes.
However you choose to consume collagen and gelatin, you now have a better understanding of what each one is, how they’re processed, and the benefits they provide.