To truly understand how collagen works in your body, you must first learn about the different types of collagen. Researchers have identified at least 28 different types of collagen, and at least 16 types are found inside the human body. These include collagen types I, II, III, V and X. 1
So, what makes these collagen types different from one another? It really comes down to the variation in the sequence of amino acids found in each type. The different types of collagen vary in their exact molecular isoform structure and their polypeptide chains. These differences are determined by DNA, which hold the body’s instructions for making all types of collagen.
The vast majority of collagen found throughout your body are types I, II and III. Together, these three types account for about 90 percent or more of all collagen in your body. Types I, II, III, IV, V and X account for about 99 percent of all the collagen in your body.
While collagen type I is by far the most abundant in your body, you still need the other types of collagen as well, due to their special properties. While they have their differences, all collagen types have one major common responsibility: They act like the body’s natural “glue.” Remember, collagen helps to hold the body together, supports cohesion of different organs and systems and helps give the body’s structure its integrity, resistance and exibility. This is true for all the different types.
Here’s an overview of the different types of collagen, including the best sources and primary benefits of each:
Considered to be the strongest type of collagen found in the human body, type I is found throughout your body in many different locations — primarily in the tendons, joints, ligaments, bones and skin. It can also be found in your organs, scar tissue, teeth and arteries. Collagen type I is made of mostly eosinophilic fibers that help hold together your body’s structure.
Studies have found that collagen type I is very important for skin health, including aiding normal wound healing and helping to form scar tissue. It helps to give skin its stretchy and elastic quality and aids in supporting skin health and normal regeneration. Type I collagen fibrils have a great deal of strength and can be stretched without being broken. In clinical settings, a soluble form of type I collagen is used as an adhesive substrate for cell cultures and for regenerative applications. These include using it in cosmetic surgery, dermal injections, bone grafting and reconstructive surgery. 2
Some of the best sources of type I collagen include: bone broth, grass-fed bovine/beef collagen (cartilage, bones and hides of cows), eggshell membrane collagen and sh collagen (sourced from the scales, skin, bones and fins).
Thought of as the body’s “sponge” material, type II collagen aids your exibility and range of motion. Its most important job is to help build cartilage, which is found in connective tissues, including the joints that cushion the spaces between bones. 3
Both animal and human studies suggest that cartilage made in part by type II collagen can help support joint health, which is especially important in older age, when occasional discomfort is often more common. Type II collagen is also important for supporting joint health and discomfort due to overuse. 4 A randomized, controlled study evaluated the oral use of type II collagen on markers of cartilage degradation in individuals and found that collagen supplementation helped improve walking ability, mobility and exibility. 5
One of the best sources of type II collagen is poultry broth (from chicken, duck or turkey sources). 6
This collagen is made of reticular fibers and is a major component of the extracellular matrix that makes up organs and skin. It mostly helps to form meshy, delicate tissues that encase your vital organs, especially your liver, lungs and arteries. It’s also found in your bone marrow and lymph.
Type III collagen is important for the development of the cardiovascular system and for maintaining normal physiological functions of the heart and arteries throughout adult life. Because type III collagen provides support to blood vessels and tissues of the heart, depleted levels have been linked to blood vessel instability. 7
One of the best sources of type III collagen is bovine collagen, and, in lesser amounts, eggshell membrane collagen. 8
Type IV collagen primarily helps to form tissues of your internal organs, including the tissues within your respiratory tract, such as the lungs and bronchial tissue. It also forms parts of your kidneys, heart and digestive system, including the tissues surrounding your intestines.
Type IV collagen has the important job of forming basal lamina, which is found in endothelial cells that surround and cushion organs, muscles and fat. Basal lamina fill the spaces between the top layer of skin or tissue and the deepest layer. They have a gel-like uid that provides padding and absorbs shock. Basal lamina are also needed for nerve and blood vessel functions, and they help to support healthy immune system function. 9
Studies have found that people with high blood sugar levels tend to have lower levels of type IV collagen, as they excrete more of this collagen through their urine, which may be linked with kidney challenges.
The best source of type IV collagen is eggshell membrane collagen. 10
This type of collagen helps to form your hair, the placenta in pregnant women and also the surfaces of cells. There are an estimated 70 trillion cells in the human body, and each has a surface that is made in part by type V collagen.
Type V collagen is needed during pregnancy because it helps to form a healthy, strong placenta — the organ that develops in the uterus, provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby and removes waste. A study that examined 14 normal human term placental tissue samples found that type 5 collagen was strongly immuno-supportive and important for forming areas of the stem villi stroma in the placenta (these provide maximum contact between the fetus and maternal blood).11
Some of the best sources of type V collagen are bovine collagen and eggshell membrane collagen. 12,13
Finally, type X collagen mainly aids in the formation of both new bones and articular cartilage (the smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints). As a result, this collagen is beneficial for supporting overall bone health as well as the synovial joints (joints that connect bones with a fibrous joint capsule that contains lubricating synovial fluids).
A 2005 review found evidence from multiple studies that type X collagen plays a role in the growth, development and remodeling of articular cartilage. It supports the process of endochondral ossification, which is how bone tissue is created in mammals through the use of minerals and collagen. Type 10 collagen facilitates endochondral ossification by regulating matrix mineralization and matrix components, which takesplace before new bone formation. 14
The best sources of type X collagen are chicken collagen and eggshell membrane collagen.15
Therefore, it’s advantageous to use collagen supplements that have as many of these collagen types as possible. Make sure that you get your collagen protein powder from grass-fed, pasture- raised cows (with no antibiotics or chemicals). Collagen supplements can be mixed into smoothies, soups or even into baked goods to provide collagen’s healthy benefits without adding any taste to your favorite meals.
BY DR. JOSH AXE
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, chiropractic physician and clinical nutritionist, and he operates one of the world’s largest health websites at DrAxe.com, which has over 15 million visitors a month. Dr. Axe co-founded the Ancient Nutrition company, with the mission to restore our health, strength and vitality by providing history’s healthiest whole food nutrients to the modern world.
7 http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/94/5/1852.full.pdf 8 http://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M110.112904