The Fatal Flaw of Collagen Supplements

“Sometimes the hype is real,” and if you’ve been hearing a lot more about the importance of collagen protein recently, it’s because it’s still the hot supplement on the block.

But, if you want to take collagen there are some big red flags that you need to be aware of before you purchase the pricey supplement.

In this episode of That’s Healthy, Right? host Adam Bornstein wants to warn you what to look for on the nutrition label of collagen and the types of collagen that work.

He also discusses why collagen is important for the human body, the Catch-22 of taking supplements compared to getting it naturally, and secrets on how best to reap the rewards of incorporating more collagen protein into your diet.

Have a question you want to be considered for the show? To submit a question, email a voice recording that you can do here to

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts


What Is Collagen Good for, Really? – Born Fitness

The Protein Guide (And How to Upgrade Your Diet) – Ladder

The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo‐controlled clinical trials — Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology

Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology — Journal of Medicinal Food

What is Type-II Collagen? — 

Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers — Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition 

Effects of orally administered undenatured type II collagen against arthritic inflammatory diseases: a mechanistic exploration. — International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research

Collagen: ‘Fountain of Youth’ or Edible Hoax?  WebMD


Adam Bornstein: You don’t hear this from me very often, but sometimes the hype is real, and supplement companies still find a way to screw it up.

Such is the case with collagen protein, which has just been exploding recently and on the surface for a really good reason. Collagen is naturally produced by your body, and it plays a pretty vital role in a lot of different things that you probably care about.

Collagen is important for your hair, your skin, your joints, your bones, muscles, veins, and even your organs, and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of supplement manufacturers offer collagen.

So what’s the problem?

Well, collagen has a little bit of a catch to it in that taking collagen alone isn’t enough to get its benefits, and the type of collagen you’re going to take is really going to determine if your body can digest it.

Here’s what I mean. Collagen is made up of three amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Now, before you think I’m getting super scientific, and you completely pass out and lose interest, know this, that those are non-essential amino acids.

And what that just means is that your body can produce them on your own, which makes sense. We all produce collagen, and collagen production starts to decrease around the age of 30, just like a lot of things in the human body.

So, because you can make these on your own, when you take them supplementally you need other amino acids to make use of the benefits of collagen, and this is just the way the human body works.

So you have your non-essential amino acids. Those that you can make. And then you have your essential amino acids. There are nine of them. Your body cannot make them, and you must get them from your diet.

Now, each one of those essential amino acids has its own benefits just as collagen has theirs. But here’s what makes the essential amino acids really, really valuable.

It works like a lock and key structure where whenever you eat any type of food with amino acids, whether it’s a protein powder or other, and they get broken down into these individual amino acids, and it sits in what’s really called an amino acid pool. And if you want to repair your hair, skin, and nails, it’ll pull those three amino acids to help do it.

If you want to repair your muscles after damage, it’ll pull things like the branched-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, valine-2 to heal that. But without the presence of those nine essential amino acids, all the non-essential amino acids are stuck in this amino acid pool, which refreshes about every roughly four to six hours.

So if you were to have collagen and the other essential amino acids were not present, they would sit in that pool and then not be used to their greatest benefit, which is why any type of collagen protein should either combined with a complete protein. A complete protein being one that has all the essential amino acids.

Or you should eat a food that is a complete protein, and foods that are a complete protein could be anything from eggs to chicken or beef, fish, and dairy products. You can also combine vegan sources like rice and beans to make a complete protein.

But if you’re taking collagen without those essential amino acids, you might as well be throwing your money away. You also might want to throw your money away if you’re not taking a specific type of collagen.

You see collagen is usually sold as a broken down variable, these collagen peptides, which are supposed to be essentially pre-digested to make it easier for your body to make use of them – it’s great in theory, but here’s the problem – these collagen peptides have been shown to be broken down by your digestive system, which means if you’re taking them, it might even never make it to the amino acid pool because it’s just not strong enough to survive your digestive environment.

Now, what we do know is that there’s a specific type of collagen, which is called Type II. Sometimes you’ll see it as referred to as UC-2 or UC-II, and that’s the one that we know right now can actually survive the powerful acids that are within your stomach and are not broken down by it so you can get the benefits of it.

What does it all mean?

Collagen really does have a lot of benefits, and the research is very promising. But unless you combine it with a complete protein, and unless you get this particular type, the product you are buying is most likely a complete waste.