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Curious about collagen? Wondering if you’ll gel better with gelatin? Or just don’t know what the heck the difference even is? We’re here to help.

Real quick: Collagen and gelatin are extremely similar in their nutritional value and in the benefits they offer, but very different in how they’re used.

Collagen is a protein that’s found in all (human and animal) connective tissue, skin, and bones. It is also the most abundant protein in the human body.

Collagen comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue. And that’s kind of what collagen does inside of the body — it acts as an important glue that holds everything together.

Gelatin is a mixture of amino acid chains that forms when collagen is heated or treated with certain chemicals. This treatment causes some chemical bonds within collagen to break.

So even though gelatin is technically a form of collagen, the chemical composition of these two proteins make them each act very differently. Notably, gelatin will — you guessed it — gel when cooled.

This article will break down the types of collagen and gelatin, the benefits of them, and help you choose which is right for you.

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Dircinha SW/Getty Images

Today, commercial collagen is available in many different forms, from powdered to pill to beverages. You’ve likely seen collagen being praised by influencers and celebrities alike (ahem, Ms. Aniston).

Processfully hydrolyzed (collagen peptides)partially hydrolyzed
Formspowder, capsules, liquidpowder, sheet
Solubilitydissolves in both hot and cold liquidsdissolves in hot liquids only
Usesa nutritional supplementa nutritional supplement, to thicken or gel foods
Gelling abilitynoyes
Thickening abilitynoyes

But let’s break down this protein a little further. While there are at least 29 types of collagen, the 4 main kinds are type I, II, III, and IV.

When it comes to processed collagen, it can either be hydrolyzed or partially hydrolyzed. The process of hydrolyzing collagen is breaking down long chains of amino acids into smaller ones.

What’s the point of processing it this way? Well, us humans typically don’t snack on cow hides or raw bones anymore, so hydrolyzing collagen makes it easier to digest and absorb.

You’ll see hydrolyzed collagen referred to as collagen peptides and partially-hydrolyzed collagen as gelatin.

Since collagen peptides are fully hydrolyzed, this also makes them dissolvable in both hot and cold water. Gelatin, on the other hand, is only dissolvable in hot liquid.

As noted above, the more hydrolyzed collagen is, the easier it is to digest. This is one of the reasons why collagen peptides (fully hydrolyzed) have become so popular.

There is very little difference between collagen vs. gelatin when it comes to nutrition, as seen below.

Protein12 grams12 grams
Carbs0 grams0 grams
Fat0 grams0 grams

But if the human body is so abundant in collagen, why do we need to consume it at all?

Well, as we age we naturally lose collagen. Other factors — including diet, sun exposure, and alcohol consumption — can all contribute to that loss.

Adding collagen to your diet has shown to have a host of health benefits (more on that below). But exactly how much should you take?

We suggest following the labels of the supplements you’re using and evaluating your needs. A recent study noted that the effective dosing for collagen was between 2.5 to 15 grams per day.

The smaller end of that range (2.5 to 5 grams) seems to benefit skin, joint, and bone health while the higher end may improve body composition and muscle mass.

Skin health

Collagen is what keeps your skin tight and bouncy, which means less collagen = more wrinkles and dry skin. If you start to notice wrinkles and dryness in places you don’t want, collagen has been shown help with that.

Several studies on branded collagen supplements linked the daily intake of collagen supplements to improved skin hydration, increased elasticity, and reduction of wrinkles.

It’s also good for the hair and nails, too.

Psst: If you want immediate skin benefits for wrinkles and lines, topical products, like moisturizers, or in-office treatments, such as Botox, will provide much faster results!

Joint and bone health

If you’re prone to developing osteoarthritis, you might want to consider collagen supplements. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements can reduce joint pain and symptoms. Older clinical studies also show that therapeutic dose of collagen for joint pain is around 10 grams per day.

There is also promising research that collagen supplements may increase bone mineral density and prevent bone loss.

Improved muscle mass

For older individuals experiencing muscle loss, collagen supplements have been linked to increasing muscle mass and muscle strength.

Specifically collagen peptides in conjunction with resistance strength training improves body composition by increasing fat-free mass and muscle strength while enhancing fat loss.

Heart health

Since collagen provides structure for your arteries, some researchers theorize that additional collagen during older age may help prevent atherosclerosis.

A small 2017 study looked at what happened after healthy individuals took 8 grams of collagen tripeptides twice a day. After 6 months, test results showed that people who were at a high risk for developing a plaque condition had less stiff arteries.

If you plan on making desserts or thickening foods, choose gelatin

Gelatin gels when cooled, which makes it the most important component for desserts like mousse, panna cotta, homemade gummy bears, or “Jello” shots. Collagen will not have this effect.

To wet your toes, sip bone broth

Not sure if collagen is right for you? Start by sipping bone broth, which contains both collagen and gelatin.

For a daily supplement, choose collagen peptides

Collagen peptides are the most used and most digestible form of collagen. Try it in powder form (add to your smoothies or coffee), capsules, or as a beverage.

For an alternative, try marine or vegan collagen

Marine collagen or vegan collagen are great options if you follow a pescatarian or plant-based diet.

Still curious what collagen can do for you? Check out our top picks for our favorite collagen creams and collagen supplements on the market.