Key Takeaways

  1. People often take collagen supplements to improve their joint health and reduce joint pain and to improve the appearance of their hair, skin, and nails.
  2. The only kind of collagen supplement that’s been shown to significantly improve joint health is undenatured type II collagen.
  3. Keep reading to learn what collagen is, why people supplement with it, how it can improve your joint health, the best collagen supplement for reducing joint pain, and more

If you’re like, well, most everyone, you have at least a little bit of joint pain.

Maybe it’s your shoulder, or your knee, or your hips, and maybe the pain comes and goes or maybe it lingers.

Maybe you’ve tried things to sort it out like stretching, resistance training, foam rolling, anti-inflammatories, and natural supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, only to be disappointed.

And now you’re looking for information on yet another supplement that promises to finally soothe your joint pain—collagen.

Can it?

Well, the long story short is yes, it absolutely can.

As with all supplements, some work better for some people than others, but there’s good scientific evidence that collagen supplements can indeed reduce joint pain and inflammation and even benefit people with healthy joints.

By the end of this article, you’re going to know what collagen is, why people supplement with it, how it can improve your joint health, the best collagen supplement for reducing joint pain, and more.

Let’s start at the top.

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What Is Collagen?

collagen supplement dosage

Collagen is the main component of your body’s connective tissues, which means it serves as the primary building block for various things in it, including your skin, teeth, cartilage, bones, tendons, and organs.

The collagen found in supplements comes from the connective tissue in animals, such as cows, chickens, and fish, and while there are over 37 different kinds of collagen in animals, they can be divided into three main categories:

  • Type I collagen is the most abundant collagen of the human body, and is present in scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, and more.
  • Type II collagen is the collagen that preserves joint function and protects them against damage.
  • Type III collagen is a major structural component in hollow organs such as the uterus, bowel, and in large blood vessels. Similar to type I, type III plays a key role in wound healing, and affects the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails.

Summary: Collagen is the main component of your body’s connective tissues and is found in skin, teeth, cartilage, bones, tendons, and organs. Collagen found in supplements comes from the connective tissue in animals, and is separated into types I, II, and III.

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Why Do People Take Collagen Supplements?

The main reasons people take collagen supplements are to improve their joint health and reduce joint pain (type II collagen supplements), and to improve the appearance of their hair, skin, and nails (type I and III collagen supplements).

You can get collagen from your diet by eating foods like organ meats, whole fish, and bone broth, but most of us don’t serve those up very often.

This is why collagen supplements are a more convenient and reliable way to reap the benefits of increased collagen intake.

Summary: The main reasons people take collagen supplements are to improve their joint health and reduce joint pain, and to improve the appearance of their hair, skin, and nails.

What Are the Benefits of Collagen Supplements?

Research into type I and type III collagen supplements shows they may help . . .

. . . which all sounds very promising.

The problem is, much of the research that shows there are benefits to taking type I and type III collagen supplements is funded by companies that sell these products.

While this doesn’t mean we should completely discount their findings, it does mean we should look upon the results with skeptical hippo eyes.

hippo

In other words, type I and type III collagen supplements may deliver on some of their promises, but don’t get your hopes up. 

Research into type II collagen supplements, though, is more promising. Many studies have shown they can markedly improve joint health and function.

To understand how, we have to look at how joints commonly become dysfunctional and painful.

Your joints are lined with a flexible tissue known as cartilage, which lubricates them and absorbs physical impacts. Healthy cartilage makes it easy to move around and keeps your joints pain free.

Read: How to Effectively End and Prevent Joint Pain

Most people assume that if they’re having joint problems, exercise is to blame. All that repetitive running, squatting, and benching must take a toll, right?

Not really, it turns out.

Sure, doing too much exercise can make for achy, inflamed joints, but research shows that various kinds of exercise that you’d expect to be harmful to your joints, like long-distance running and weightlifting, aren’t associated with cartilage loss or joint damage.

In fact, regular exercise seems to help keep your joints healthy and working properly.

Why do so many athletes and exercise enthusiasts suffer from joint pains, then?

Well, the most common reason is that athletes have a tendency to overtrain. More specifically, they increase their training intensity, volume, or frequency too fast, which doesn’t allow their joints to fully recover from their workouts. And after several weeks or months, the aches and pains begin.

Read: The 7 Best Ways to Fix and Prevent Knee Pain

In other cases, athletes are dealing with a condition unrelated to their training known as arthritis, which is often caused in part by an unwanted immune response to joint collagen that eats away the cartilage.

In other words, your body’s immune system can mistakenly target and attack joint cartilage as a foreign, unwanted substance, and thereby undermine the structural integrity of your joints.

Studies show that Type II collagen can help alleviate this condition by “teaching” the immune system to stop attacking the proteins in joint cartilage, which in turn can significantly improve joint health and function and decrease or even eliminate pain and swelling.

In other words, type II collagen supplements can work like a natural vaccine of sorts, allowing your body to recognize its own joint collagen as a safe substance, thereby switching off the autoimmune response.

And the best part about type II collagen supplements is that these effects have been demonstrated in people with arthritic conditions and people with healthy joints.

This is significant because it makes type II collagen one of the only supplements known to help preserve joint health and function (as opposed to just treating joints that are already damaged and dysfunctional).

Summary: Research into type I and type III collagen supplements is promising, though may not be reliable. Joint pain in athletes is normally due to overtraining or arthritis—both of which may be improved by taking a type II collagen supplement.

What’s the Clinically Effective Dose of Collagen?

The optimal dose of type I and type III collagen is still not clear, although some studies have found 2.5 to 3 grams per day is enough to improve skin complexion.

For type II collagen, the clinically effective dose of collagen is between 10 to 40 milligrams per day for improving joint health.

And yes, that’s a rather large range for dosing, but that’s only because studies have shown benefits using various doses, and it isn’t clear if more is better. Research clearly shows that 10 milligrams is effective, but not that two, three, or four times that amount is necessarily better.

Summary: The optimal dose of type I and type III collagen is likely to be 2.5 to 3 grams per day, and supplementing with 10 mg of type II collagen per day is effective for improving joint health, though it’s unclear if more would be better.

What Types of Results Should I Expect with Collagen Supplements?

best collagen supplement

Despite the marketing hype surrounding collagen supplements, don’t expect miracles.

It’s not going to magically give you vibrant, glowing skin and nails and luxuriant hair, and joint pain is a complex, mysterious, and mercurial phenomenon.

In particular, you shouldn’t expect too much from type I and type III collagen, since there’s a strong possibility much of the research on these collagen supplements is at least a little overblown.

If you want to do everything you can to keep your joints healthy and pain-free, though, then taking a type II collagen supplement is a wise choice.

The main benefit that people notice when supplementing with type II collagen is fewer joint aches and pains during everyday activities, and especially during and after exercise.

Don’t expect immediate results, though, as it typically takes several months for a type II collagen supplement to noticeably impact joint health and function.

Summary: Although you shouldn’t expect much from supplementing with type I and type III collagen, type II collagen supplements will probably reduce joint aches and pains after several weeks or months.

Do Collagen Supplements Have Any Side Effects?

No.

Collagen is about as harmless a supplement as you can find.

There’s a small percentage of the population who are allergic to some forms of collagen, but it’s exceptionally rare.

What Are the Best Collagen Supplements for Joint Pain?

If you’re fired up to buy some collagen, make sure you read this section because not all type II collagen supplements are the same.

The only kind of collagen supplement that’s been shown to significantly improve joint health is undenatured type II collagen.

“Undenatured” means that the collagen proteins haven’t been broken down or modified during processing.

Popular methods of commercial processing use chemicals and heat to alter the collagen’s basic form (to denature it), and research shows that denatured collagen can’t produce the same beneficial results as undenatured collagen, which is its more natural form.

This is why my joint supplement, Fortify, contains a clinically effective dose of undenatured type II collagen in every serving along with three other ingredients also proven to enhance joint health and function:

  • Curcumin
  • Boswellia serrata
  • Grape seed extract

The bottom line is if you want healthy, functional, and pain-free joints that can withstand the demands of your active lifestyle, then you want to try Fortify today.

Summary: The only kind of collagen supplement that’s been shown to significantly improve joint health is “undenatured” type II collagen, which means the collagen proteins haven’t been broken down or modified during processing.

The Bottom Line on Collagen Supplements

If you’re primarily concerned with improving the health and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails, then type I and type III collagen supplements may help.

If you’re more concerned with preventing or reducing joint pain and improving joint health, though, you want to take an undenatured type II collagen supplement, like Fortify.

It can reduce joint inflammation and swelling and stop your body’s immune system from destroying the cartilage in your joints.

You have to be careful to pick the right kind of collagen supplement, though, as undenatured type II collagen is the only one that’s been proven to significantly improve joint health.

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