Although they are not exactly the same as gelatin, both originate from collagen and are proteins made of amino acids. To understand better what collagen peptides are we will first start by explaining what collagen is and how collagen peptides differ from native collagen.
Collagen is the body’s most important building block and it makes up approximately 30% of the proteins in our bodies. Collagen is the key structural protein that ensures the cohesion, elasticity and regeneration of all our connective tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones. In essence, collagen is strong and flexible and is the ‘glue’ that holds everything together. It strengthens various body structures as well the integrity of our skin. There are many different types of collagen in our body, but 80 to 90 percent of them belong to Type I, II or III, with the majority being Type I collagen. Type I collagen fibrils have enormous tensile strength. This means they can be stretched without being broken.
Different cells in our body tissues are responsible for the production of collagen. The cells use specific amino acids and peptides as building blocks for the production of the large collagen helix structure. This is then organized into the strong fibers that provide structural tissue support, flexibility and the ability to withstand forces.
With age, our bodies naturally begin to produce less collagen, and the first signs of aging start to occur. From around the age of 30 and accelerating in our 40s, loss of collagen affects all the connective tissues. Here’s how:
As skin cells become less active, the collagen network that provides skin firmness and structure breaks down. Our skin becomes dehydrated and thinner, while lines, wrinkles and deep furrows start to appear.
Bone turnover becomes imbalanced, with bone loss exceeding bone formation. This causes our bones to become more fragile and breakable.
Lower levels of collagen and other matrix components caused by aging can lead to loss of cartilage and joint function. This results in joint discomfort.
A gradual loss of muscle mass and strength caused by aging can affect our balance, gait and overall mobility.
Aging is a natural process, but extrinsic factors – such as UV, pollution or lifestyle choices – can accelerate the process and lead to premature signs of aging.
Collagen peptides are small bioactive peptides obtained by enzymatically hydrolysis of collagen, in other words, the breaking down of the molecular bonds between individual collagen strands to peptides. Hydrolysis reduces collagen protein fibrils of about 300 – 400kDa into smaller peptides with a molecular weight of lower than 5000Da. Collagen peptides are also known as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate.
Collagen is a safe and natural ingredient available in different grades. It can be found in foods, such as bone broth or gelatin-based desserts. Its solubility, absorption and digestibility levels vary from one grade to another.
Native collagen is composed of large triple helix chains of amino acids and strengthens the structure of our body. It is not soluble. Typical applications include collagen casings, medical materials, sponges for burns/wounds etc. The molecular weight of native collagen is around 300 - 400kDa.
Gelatin is obtained by partial hydrolysis of collagen. This process occurs when collagen triple helices are broken down to the point where they are pulled apart into individual strands. Gelatin will only dissolve in hot water, and will jellify when it is cooled (this is the same gelatin you would get in the bone broth you prepare at home). Because of its gelling, foaming, emulsifying and binding functionalities, gelatin is often used in culinary applications, such as gummy candies, jellies, sauce thickeners etc. Gelatin also has an irreplaceable role in pharma applications, where it is often used as excipient for making soft and hard capsules. Gelatin has a molecular weight of 50kDa.
When gelatin is hydrolyzed even further, those individual strands of protein are broken down into small peptides of amino acids. Collagen peptides are soluble in cold water, highly digestible and ready to be absorbed by our bodies. Studies have demonstrated that over 90% of the peptides we consume are digested and absorbed within a few hours after consumption. This rapid absorption ensures an effective delivery of the essential peptides and amino acids to their site of action in our bodies. Find out more about bioavailability of collagen peptides.
Collagen peptides are highly bioavailable. They act as building blocks, renewing bodily tissues, such as skin, bones and joints. It has been proposed that collagen peptides may act as a messenger to the cells and trigger the synthesis and reorganization of new collagen fibers, thereby supporting our tissue structure. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated collagen peptides’ health benefits. Key areas of benefit include healthy aging, joint and bone health, sports nutrition and skin beauty. Collagen peptides are cold water-soluble and highly bioavailable and bioactive. This makes them a better option for functional foods and beverages and dietary supplements than gelatin. Collagen peptides have a molecular weight of less than 5000Da.
As a bioactive protein, Peptan is highly digestible and bioavailable. It is neutral in taste and odor and can be easily incorporated into different applications – from functional foods and drinks, such as nutritional bars or powder drinks, to dietary supplements with little requirement for any additional product reformulation.