Updated: Oct 23, 2021
What is Collagen Protein?
Let's start with what Collagen is... Collagen is one of the most important sources of protein produced by the body. There are close to 28 types of collagen that have been identified. Collagen is made mostly of the amino acid glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline forming a triple helix by three alpha (α) chains. The position of these alpha chains determines the Type of Collagen produced. Type I Collagen is the most common and it is found in skin, bone, teeth, tendon, ligaments, vascular ligature, and organs. Whereas, Type II Collagen is mostly found in cartilage. This type of collagen is sourced from articular cartilage and hyaline cartilage. Type II is made from chondrocytes. Therefore, many of these sources are acquired from tracheal cartilage from large animals and from sternal cartilage for poultry. Type III Collagen is found in skin, muscle, and blood vessels like Type I is the most common. The last collagen source is Type IV which is found at the basal lamina layer, which is secreted by endothelial or epithelial cells, which form the extracellular matrix between connective tissue.
Whereas Type I and Type III collagen are made from fibroblasts (cells in connective tissue) and osteoblasts (cells that makeup bone). These two types of collagen maintain and support skin, muscles, bone health, and hair & nail growth. They also have 19 amino acids. All the types of collagen can be taken together to support overall health; however, it is recommended that Type II collagen be taken separate from Type I and Type III to help increase maximum absorption.
Homemade bone broth is a popular version of collagen protein that holds a special place among natural and whole-food circles. Even though, the practice of consuming bone broth has been an ancient practice and a staple for many communities/cultures worldwide. You may wonder how bone broth could be related to collagen protein? There are many misnomers about the two and their connection.
Different forms of bone broth have been consumed for centuries, in many cultures, often as a base for soups and stews. A popular dish like Pho which is a Vietnamese dish is a prime example of a dish made from bone broth. Other examples include Chicken noodle soup or even the Mexican dish menudo, which is made with tripe, along with other broth or stock-based soups. Though the two are not synonymous, often, they are used interchangeably. The difference is obvious, one can be made with vegetables, while bone broth can only be made with bone or flesh/organ products of animals. Though vegetable stocks are beneficial, they will not provide the collagen byproduct that bone broth does.
Bone broth supplementation has a rather cult following in whole food circles. Due to this influence, many bone broth supplementation sources, are a staple in specialty health food stores. As a result, they are often sourced from bovine, supplied by ranchers/farmers that treat animals through ethical practices and inhumane conditions. These particular bovine sources are either grass-fed beef or other pasture-raised bovine products. Many of these products can attest to a certain level of quality and integrity that is most beneficial when sourcing collagen protein. In fact, many of these products are Type II sources of collagen. However, with the growing market for quality products and informed grocers driving that market, you can now find more quality bone broths in common grocery and local grocers.
Collagen protein is a byproduct, in a sense, of bone broth. Bone broth is the result of cooking bones and/or flesh (ligaments and connective tissue) of animal products in water along with the addition of herbs, veggies, and spices for flavoring. The degradation of the bone releases calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, along with compounds called glycosaminoglycans.
Glycosaminoglycans are molecules that aid collagen healing and building, some of which, include: Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate, and Hyaluronic acid. All of which are known to help strengthen cartilage, stimulate the growth of new collagen, and improve synovial fluid production in joints. This aids to help reduce pain and friction, especially for those suffering from osteoarthritis. Glycosaminoglycans are highly polar and attract water, carrying with them, to areas it is most needed. Most likely where collagen is lacking, that is where Glycosaminoglycans will go. Therefore, it helps to moisten our skin and keep our tendons and ligaments agile.
Aside from making homemade bone broth, currently, on the market, there are various forms of collagen protein. Obviously, homemade bone broth has added benefits, such as, the addition of herbs that can be tailored to your individual tastes.
The second type of collagen protein, I'm going to discuss is supplementary form. In a pinch, there are some on the market that can make suitable supplementation, especially if they are done, in concert, within a timed supplementation routine and schedule.
Conclusively, homemade bone broth made from quality animal product grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, free-range is the most complete source of collagen protein. As it provides all the Types of I, II, and III collagen. However, as a matter of convenience or even tailored to certain health issues such as skin, hair, or joint health. Supplementation is available from various sources, if it is acquired from reputable health food stores or sound supplementation sources, then the benefits can be equivocal to homemade bone broth.
There is some confusion around different types of collagen protein. Due to this confusion, many individuals may not be receiving the full benefits or its intended benefits; from the various sources of collagen types, for their specific needs. As with ALL supplementation, the source, is just as important as the product. I hope this helps you decipher, the different types of collagen and collagen protein sources available. While also shedding light on the important benefits of collagen protein consumption or supplementation; whether, through homemade bone broth or from other supplementary sources.
References:  León-López, Arely et al. (2019). Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications. Molecules, 24 (22): 4031.  Song et al. (2017). Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice. Nutrients, 9 (11): 1209.