Hydrolysed collagen is collagen that has been extracted from its original source and broken down into smaller molecules to make it easier for us to absorb into our bodies. This process is known as hydrolysation.1
Before hydrolysation, collagen is typically extracted from bovine (cows), porcine (pig) or marine (fish and sea life) sources.
Once hydrolysed, collagen also takes on antioxidant properties. This means it might be able to fight free radicals and help prevent cellular damage in the body.2 After undergoing the hydrolysis process, the collagen molecules are also known as ‘collagen peptides’.
How is hydrolysed collagen created/sourced?
In their whole form, collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by our bodies.
Hydrolysed collagen is broken down in a lab to separate the tough, tightly bound chain of amino acids into smaller strands. This is done in one of two ways:
- by thermal treatment (heating), followed by the addition of enzymes
- by adding an acid (such as acetic acid) to the collagen3
Both these methods rearrange the chemical structure of the collagen and result in a lower molecular weight, which allows it to pass through gut lining and be absorbed into the body.4
Hydrolysed collagen is then available as collagen pills, collagen powder and various types of collagen drink.
Once the microscopic molecules have been absorbed into the bloodstream, it’s thought that your body’s natural collagen function is triggered, and you begin to synthesise collagen more rapidly.
Why take collagen?
Collagen is a protein which makes up a large proportion of the tissues in the bodies of animals and humans. Body parts which contain collagen in large amounts include the skin, tendons, bones, muscles, connective tissues, ligaments, gums and eyes.
Collagen is probably best known for the role it plays in skin health. It’s what gives your skin its structure and bounce and keeps it strong and smooth, with the ability to retain moisture.5
Collagen is also found in abundance in healthy and well-functioning cartilage and joints.
Your body makes its own collagen – but there are two important things to remember.
1. Your body needs the right fuel to make collagen
The body’s process of creating collagen is called collagen synthesis. For this, your body needs protein, which it breaks down into a variety of amino acids. These amino acids are then bound together into a long, rope-like chain.6 Therefore, you need to eat a healthy diet packed with protein and vitamin C to fuel the collagen synthesis process.
2. Your collagen production will slow over time
The rate at which you synthesise collagen slows as we age. Babies, children and teenagers produce collagen at a rapid rate, while in older adults the collagen synthesis rate drops each year. The age at which we start to produce less collagen is thought to be as early as 20.7
In recent years, collagen supplements have become increasingly popular as a way to stimulate the body into collagen synthesis and give natural collagen levels a boost.
Why would you opt for hydrolysed vs any other type of collagen?
The appeal of hydrolysed collagen lies in its bioavailability. It’s more easily absorbed into the body than non-hydrolysed collagen, meaning it’s likely to be more effective and offer more noticeable results.
Studies on hydrolysed collagen supplementation have been promising for both improving the overall appearance of skin and for improving joint health.
Studies confirm that hydrolysed collagen that is taken orally (such as in a powder or capsule form) can then be detected in the bloodstream, meaning that it has been absorbed.8
Taking hydrolysed collagen has been found to improve skin properties such as elasticity and the ability to retain moisture.9
Last updated: 5 June 2020
8 Identification of food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates. Iwai K, Hasegawa T, Taguchi Y, Morimatsu F, Sato K, Nakamura Y, Higashi A, Kido Y, Nakabo Y, Ohtsuki K. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Aug 10; 53(16):6531-6.