10 Reasons to Eat More Collagen

Inline_Coffee3For years, the bodybuilding, protein-gorging community has maligned collagen for its inessentiality and lack of input into the muscle-protein synthesis process. From their perspective, it sort of makes sense. Why bother with “low quality” protein like gelatin/collagen when you can pound the whey, eat the meat, and focus on other sources of the essential amino acids directly involved in building muscle?

Except the research is showing that these “nonessential” proteins are actually pretty darn useful.

A while back, I suffered an Achilles injury during of one of my Ultimate Frisbee matches. In my attempt to speed recovery time, I did some research and started supplementing with collagen. The results, in my personal n=1 experiment, were pretty dramatic. Once I added collagen to the mix, my healing kicked into overdrive. As I’ve dug deeper into this topic to uncover the many benefits dietary collagen can bestow upon us, I’m convinced collagen/gelatin is an essential part of the human diet. And yes, even—or especially—bodybuilders, power lifters, and other athletes concerned with performance, muscles, and optimizing swoleness can benefit from eating more collagen. But why?

1. We don’t make enough glycine to cover our body’s needs

Most people view amino acids in one of two ways: either they’re essential, meaning our bodies can’t synthesize them, or they’re inessential, meaning our bodies can. In actuality, there’s a third category: amino acids can be conditionally essential. Glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen, is synthesized from the amino acid serine to the tune of 3 grams per day. That’s not nearly enough. The human body requires at least 10 grams per day for basic metabolic processes, so we’re looking at an average daily deficit of 7 grams that we need to make up for through diet. Even more in disease states that disrupt glycine synthesis, like rheumatoid arthritis.

2. We’re wasting half the animal otherwise

The average cow is half muscle meat and half “other stuff.” Most people only eat the muscle meat and ignore the other stuff, which includes bones, connective tissue, cartilage, tendons, and other collagenous material. The other stuff ends up in pet food or used by other industries, but we could be eating it, getting healthier, and wasting less food in the process.

3. It balances out our meat intake

The more meat we eat, the more glycine our bodies utilize. This has been shown in rodent studies. Rats on high methionine (the amino acid most prevalent in muscle meat) diets die earlier than rats on low methionine diets. Keeping the methionine high while adding glycine, though, abolishes the reduced longevity. In human terms, this would be like continuing to eat muscle meat while adding in collagen or gelatinous meats. If the same holds true in humans, it means low-animal protein diets aren’t necessary to live longer, healthy lives. It means all those atrophied calorie restriction folks are doing it wrong. They could be eating meat—deriving the “short-term” benefits like increased lean mass, better athletic performance, and lower fat mass—and living long, healthy lives.

4. It might explain the “meat-disease” links

We like meat around here. We make no bones about it. And whenever a questionable observation study comes out claiming a link between meat and disease or death, we’re quick to show why it’s spurious or explained by variables the researchers failed to control for. But there’s another possibility: what if there is a connection between meat and certain diseases, like diabetes, and eating collagen is the key to severing that connection? In one recent study, the relationship between red meat and diabetes was abolished after controlling for low-glycine status. People with low glycine levels and high meat intakes were more likely to have diabetes; people with higher glycine levels could have higher meat intakes without any issues. In another study, low circulating levels of glycine predicted diabetes risk. It may very well be that the way most people eat meat in developed countries—eating chicken breasts over chicken wings and skin, lean steak over oxtails and shanks, muscle meat over bones, skin, and tendons—is unhealthy. Increasing your collagen, then, could balance out the meat intake.

5. It’s protein-sparing

Eating gelatin reduces the amount of muscle meat required to maintain muscle mass and perform your regular protein-related physiological functions. We don’t need so much of the expensive muscle protein when we’re eating enough collagenous materials. Most recently, elderly men who supplemented with collagen experienced greater anabolic responses to resistance training than elderly men who didn’t take any collagen. Note: this was collagen, not whey, or beef, or eggs, or any of the other rich sources of essential amino acids normally associated with muscle building. The increased dietary collagen was likely sparing the amount of “meat protein” used for daily maintenance and allowing its greater utilization for putting on lean muscle mass.

6. It improves sleep quality

One of my go-to “sleep hacks” is a big mug of bone broth about an hour before bed. It always knocks me out (in a good, non-narcotic way). And according to research, I’m not making this up or suffering from placebo. Human studies show that 3 grams of glycine taken before bed increases the quality of your sleep and reduces daytime sleepiness following sleep restriction.

7. It’s good for your joints

Remember that study showing how we need at least 10 grams of glycine each day for basic metabolic processes? One of those processes is the maintenance of the collagen in our body (the most abundant protein we carry, in fact). Collagen is everywhere through the human body, but it concentrates where joints meet and in the connective tissue binding us together. Those 10 grams of glycine is just for maintenance, not repair after catastrophic injury or recovery from intense loading. If you’re a heavy exerciser or are recovering from joint damage, supplementary collagen/gelatin/glycine will improve your resilience. One recent study found that a glycine-rich diet made the Achilles’ tendon stronger and more resistant to rupture in rats, increasing tendon remodeling in response to injury faster than rats on a low-glycine diet. A 2008 human study found that giving collagen hydrolysate supplements reduced pain in athletes complaining of joint pain.

8. It’s good for your skin

Your face is made of collagen. Your underarms are made of collagen. All the problematic swathes of skin liable to descend into wrinkly parchment are made of collagen. Collagen provides body and bounce. Just like it keeps the integrity in a bowl of jello, collagen keeps skin buoyant. And when collagen levels in the skin drop, the skin droops. The studies bear this out:

And since the apparent age of your face is actually a good barometer of your longevity, increasing collagen consumption to maintain skin appearance may be way more than just a cosmetic intervention.

9. It improves wound healing

Makes sense, right? Our collagen requirements increase during wound healing (which involves laying down collagen to build new tissue), so a little extra in the diet can make a big difference. In patients recovering from ulcers, collagen supplementation sped up healing time. Some clinicians are even packing collagen directly into the wound dressing to speed up the healing process.

10. It enhances cooking

The foundation of many classic cuisines and dishes is gelatin-rich bone and meat broth. Soups, sauces, demi glace, curries, Jell-o Americana Egg Custard. Go to a high-end French restaurant and everything you eat—except maybe the dessert—will involve gelatin-rich stock. I’ve even used straight gelatin powder to enrich sauces and curries.

Okay, okay. Sisson, I’m convinced. How do I get more collagen in my life? Here are a few ways.

Eat gelatinous meats. Many meats are low in collagen, but not all. Shanks, necks, feet, cheeks, oxtails, ribs, and all the other cuts that take extra time in the slow cooker to become tender are high in collagen. Favor these meats instead of yet another chicken breast.

Clean your bones. You know those crunchy caps at the end of chicken drumsticks? That’s cartilage, a big whopping dose of concentrated collagen. Eat it.

Eat skin. Skin is almost pure collagen. Eat it, and eat the discarded skin from finicky dinner mates.

Drink bone broth. Bone broth is trendy right now, and for good reason; it’s a rich source of collagen. Bone broth is simple to make but takes valuable time. If you can’t do it yourself, there’s a budding bone broth industry more than willing to ship frozen or shelf-stable broth to your door.

Use powdered gelatin. I always keep a can around. You don’t have to make jello with it. My favorite use is a quick 10-minute Thai curry: toast the spices and curry powder in coconut oil, add coconut milk, reduce, and whisk in a couple tablespoons of gelatin powder to obtain the desired texture and mouth feel. Delicious and a huge dose of collagen.

Use collagen hydrolysate. (Update) Following my Achilles injury, I was moved to create my own collagen powder with 20 grams of collagen protein (more collagen than 2 cups of bone broth), that’s now available for purchase.

Eat Primal Kitchen bars. Each of my PRIMAL KITCHEN® bars contains 8 grams of pure collagen from grass-fed cows (it’s what gives the bar its unctuous chewiness). With collagen being about 33% glycine, that’s over 2.6 grams of glycine in each one—almost enough to satisfy those 3 grams used to improve sleep quality and reduce joint pain in studies.

Eating more collagen is a worthwhile, delicious undertaking, and after today’s post, you should have all the tools and reasons you need to start doing it.

Thanks for reading, folks. Take care!

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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120 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Eat More Collagen”

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  1. I drink about 3 to 5 ounces of VERY gelatinous bone broth every morning (usually from Prather Ranch here in the Bay area). Anyone know how much glycine that would provide?

    1. I would guess plenty. It’s tough to quantify the amount coming out of whole food though.

      1. I’m familiar with the need for glycine to possibly counter the effects of eating muscle meat. I take 500 mg of trimethylglycine with any meat meal. It also lowers homocysteine.

  2. Mark, You convinced my on the merits of collagen and I love the taste of bone marrow and bone broth. However, my recent lipid profile showed a spike in total cholesterol to 287 and LDL to 198, from about 230 and 130 respectively. These #s seem too high a risk for the wonders of collagen! Please advise.

    1. I am very curious about this too. Would love to hear from Mark if this is related.

    2. What is your ratio? I am not an expert but your ratio is a better indicator than the induviual numbers.

      1. And by ratio, you’re referring to LDL : Triglyceride, correct? That has shown to be the more accurate predictor of health status.

    3. Great Lakes Gelatin is extracted from the split of the hide of cattle. It has no cholesterol, no carbs, MSG, Non-GMO, etc.

  3. I’ve been having organic beef gelatin collagen for about a month now! A little raw honey, a sprinkling of spices known to be beneficial and a squirt of my home made holy basil tincture and I’m good to go.

  4. Bone broth has definitely become the “thing to do.” It’s all over youtube and articles about it’s benefits are everywhere.

    I’ve never tried it, but am going to wade in and see what it’s all about. Aside from the primal benefits, I think it would do wonders for my elderly mother.

    She’s got arthritis in both hands, and has been complaining about thinning hair and her aging skin. To top it all off, she doesn’t sleep very well.

    I think bone broth may just be the thing she needs. The hard part will be convincing her to actually drink it regularly.

    1. I make soup out of it. I have pig shanks that I simmer for 6+ hours and then simply add veg and more meat. Et voila! I have a great tasting soup. I generally eat it over the next 3-4 days. Great for winter.

    2. Soup, for sure. Chicken soup… I would be very surprised if her own mother didn’t make it from bone stock.

    3. It should taste like soup did in her childhood, which may make it into a comfort food of sorts. After all, taste is incredibly important to us humans when contemplating food choices (provided we have choices).

      A good mug of broth just puts me at ease with the first sip.

    4. Just don’t skimp the salt and it’s terrific. My favorite thing to add is some ginger powder or sliced ginger. And I’ve started making “egg broth” for breakfast or lunch. Pretty much like Mark’s egg coffee, except with hot broth instead of coffee. So good!

    5. The great thing about collagen is it’s easy to hide: mixes with any liquid, has little taste but adds creaminess.

  5. I use 2 x TSP Great Lake Gelatin in my smoothies each morning I train and have never felt better!

  6. I’ve been using the Great Lakes product for about 2 years every time I’m eating straight muscle meat, like grilled steak. Just mix a couple tbs. with water and heat it up in a pan with butter and turmeric or some other herb or spice, then pour on top of steak. Delicious! Works wonders.

      1. Red or orange can if you want it to thicken or gel, green can if you want to add to smoothies, etc. The green can won’t “bloom”.

  7. Okay, I’m convinced. So how many grams a day of gelatin would I want to use?

    1. The canisters of Great Lakes gelatin and collagen list the amounts of the amino acids on the side. Not sure about other brands, but the numbers should all work out about the same. You could go to amazon and zoom in on the able or just google the nutrition info.

  8. Just in time as always, Mark! I’ve been totally confounded by an odd observation I made this morning. I had nasty scratch on my leg from where my dog accidentally caught my shin with his toenails-of-death a month or two ago.

    It seemed to take a little bit longer to heal, and it made an unusually nasty scar (from a distance it still looks like a nasty gouge). Overall I’m healthy, according to my recent physicals.

    Big change I’ve recently made is getting serious about weight training. Four days/week, 45 min to an hour, low reps heavy weight, slow controlled movements focusing on form and keeping constant tension…. It’s brutal, but by no means over training. About that time I’ve also noticed a plateau: I packed on 12 pounds of lean mass in six months, now it *feels* like I’m moving *slowly* backwards.

    The healing seems to be the thing that stands out. I get _plenty_ of protein…. But it’s all whey and chicken breast.

    I’m not picky about taste, might consider mixing my protein shakes in bone broth. Mmmm! I’m not so sure my dinner mates would approve of me eating their skin… For some reason cannibalism seems to make people uncomfortable. People can be so touchy!

    1. Alex, a Primal/Paleo lifestyle and plenty of protein don’t work for everything. If the scratch got infected it would likely take longer to heal. Chances are that if it looks like a nasty gouge, it WAS a nasty gouge. It might have needed a stitch or two to close properly and avoid leaving an ugly scar. Try adding red meat to your diet. It’s excellent for building healthy red blood cells.

  9. This sounds like a good reason to try making oxtail stew this weekend. My grandfather used to make it and it was sooooo good yet I have never attempted his recipe. Time to change that

    1. Oxtail stew is fabulous and dead easy – the key is a long slow cook to make it tender.

      Brown your oxtail in a frying pan then transfer to casserole dish. Add water to nearly cover the meat and simmer very very gently for about 3 hours. Then brown some onions and add them to the casserole. Simmer genlty for another 2 hours at least. Remove the meat & onions from the dish and boil the gravy to reduce it into a thick tasty, gelatinous sauce. Yum, yum yum.

  10. Whenever I accidentally get “glutened” I get unbearable joint pain and swelling. If I have bone broth made, I drink that because it completely relieves the joint pain. Really amazing stuff! Additionally, I suffered an ankle injury that just wouldn’t get better and started supplementing with the Great Lakes collagen. I probably took way too much because my digestion definitely suffered. But my ankle healed so quickly and now I just take a small amount after workouts and haven’t had an issue since!

    1. May I ask what happened with your digestion? I’ve always heard that this is a good supplement to heal the digestive tract..

      1. That’s a good point about it being healing for the digestive tract! Maybe it’s better in its whole food form? It actually made me really constipated which is a problem I never have. It doesn’t happen when I eat gelatin or drink bone broth though. I was taking their recommended 2 tablespoons 2x per day because I was desperately hoping to heal my stubborn injury. I don’t take nearly as much now and I only supplement a few days a week. No issues so far 🙂

  11. I just got my box of primal collagen bars. I didn’t think they’d taste great, but to my surprise they’re really good. They’re very gooey almost like caramel – people with braces beware. After having the chocolate/salt combination of the primal bar, the kind bar taste super sweet like candy.

    I think they’re a winner.

    1. Hey Chris! So happy to hear you like the bars! Thanks for the support. We are totally addicted at headquarters 🙂

      1. I just got the two boxes I ordered today (’cause I knew I’d like them) and I wasn’t disappointed. Not too sweet but very satisfying! They generated a lot of interest at my office (along with today’s post – excellent timing!). I predict a few orders from my colleagues are forthcoming.

  12. Is there a wrong way to take it? I put mine in my morning buttered coffee after someone gave me the idea. I use the Great Lakes green can.

    1. I usually drink it mixed with cold water after a meat-heavy meal. Really, it’s good in any liquid. I even add extra to my bone broth.

  13. I would add to your recommendations… cook with bone stock. Making a curry? Chicken stock. Making a ratatouille? Chicken or beef stock. Any recipe that says, “use a cup of water”, use a cup of stock instead. I make miso soup with chicken stock all the time.

  14. We eat a lot of chicken drumsticks so I save the bones and freeze them in baggies. When I get 15 leg bones, I put them in a smallish crock pot, fill with water and slow simmer for 24 hours. (Some folks say you need to add ACV but I haven’t noticed any difference if I do or do not use ACV.) Sometimes I’ll add bay leaves, celery, etc., but it tastes good even without the added veggies.

    I get double use of the chicken and end up with some nice chicken bone broth that’s good and gelatinous when cold so I know something is leaching out of those bones that normally get thrown away. I add some miscellaneous chopped veggies and that makes great veggie soup – we have at least a small bowl every night.

    1. The ACV is because the acid helps to leach nutrients, including calcium, from the bones. It doesn’t have to be ACV – any vinegar or lemon juice will work. Doesn’t affect the taste but does affect the nutritional benefits!

  15. If I ever start a personal training practice, “optimizing swoleness” will be on my business card.

  16. I’ve spent some time looking up this subject and while I’ve read a lot about many of the reasons here, one thing that I actually never considered before was that we are otherwise wasting half of the animal. Although I do eat meat I find killing animals to be a shame, but knowing that we can use the entire thing seems to justify it a bit more.

  17. I use two heaping Tbsp. of Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate (green can) in my tea pot every morning. Makes the tea cloudy, but does not effect taste or texture. I put glycine powder (cheap!) in to my kefir smoothies. I was trained in classic French restaurant kitchens where there’s ALWAYS a huge pot (or two, or three) of bones slowly bubbling. All this recent focus on bone broth makes me happy (people are learning it is tasty and healthful and makes good use of more of the animal) and makes me laugh (as I have made it at home and at work for 30+ years and so it is oh-so-not new to me).

  18. I have an awesome keto chocolate shake recipe that calls for two tablespoons of hydrolysate collagen. Super easy and filling breakfast. Plus we have homemade bone broth in the crockpot from grassfed cows and carrot/orange jello squares. I don’t have a ton of spare time but all three are so easy to do. Adding my n=2, we’ve noticed a huge difference in joint health and an increase in muscle mass gain. Cheers!

  19. When making stock and bone broth, or eating/chewing on shanks/drumsticks/wings, etc, how important is it that the animal was grassfed or pastured? I know ideally it should be, but all I can find at my grocery store (no Wholefoods, etc in my area) are regular pork shanks and regular turkey necks. Would I be ok using those or don’t even bother since they’re not pastured?

    1. I definitely vote that conventional bone broth is better than no bone broth. Great Lakes also provides collagen from grassfed beef you can order from Amazon if you are concerned and still want to supplement.

      1. Really? I made some research last week and I didn’t find any evidence that Great Lakes is grassfed.

        1. I believe kosher has to be grass fed. It does say it’s kosher. I had to look that up too.

        2. I find no indication anywhere that kosher has to be grass fed.

          For your information, the only brand I found to be grass fed is Vital Proteins.

        3. Protein Essentials is grass fed, non GMO & kosher. Also better price.

        4. I know they claim that but they only resell gelatine made in these countries. We need to trust Great Lakes and we need to trust a whole chain of fabrication thousands of miles away.

          Also, cattle ranches in South America are deforesting the jungle.

          Personally, I can’t justify paying 63$/kg for a product that I’m not entirely sure is worth that much when I can pay 27$/kg for a product that I know is CAFO.

  20. Has anyone tried the Pacific brand bone broth? If so, how are the health benefits?

    1. There’s no telling how long most brands of stock have been cooked or how much mineral content has leached into it, or collagen either. I have no information on industrial stock production, so I make my own, but I do keep Costco organic chicken stock (Kirkland brand I think) around to use in a pinch.

  21. Thanks to Mark’s advice a while back I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth daily. I’ll admit I’m a sissy city boy, can’t handle the non-muscle parts of the animal. I eat mainly chicken, turkey, sardines and Alaskan salmon. I’m going to order another box of the MDA Primal Bars … since they now have a softer texture. 🙂

    1. They do have a softer texture? That was my biggest problem with first box I bought, hard as a brick (almost). Also, I have been adding collagen hydrolysate to my coffee every morning for years now, I believe it to be an essential component of my vastly improved joint health, along with reducing the inflammatory foods in my diet such as grains and PUFA’s.

  22. When I saw Great Lake Gelatin was certified from Kosher beef, that sealed the deal. Would be nice if kosher gelatin in your primal bars, as long as not dairy….or even better the bars were subject to kosher certification.

    1. Kosher slaughter (Shechita) requires the animal to have its throat sliced open whilst still conscious.

      Good kosher slaughter should be done with a perfect blade by a trained and certified man who’s honest, kind and upright, and when it’s done with those caveats and with the animal restrained whilst upright it’s reasonably humane, and fast – bad kosher slaughter done by people for whom it’s not a serious article of faith, often involves hauling terrified animals into the air by their hindlegs, slashing them with a blunt or jagged blade, and leaving them to bleed out in pain and terror.

      If you think I’m overdramatising, go and look at some of the footage on YouTube or legitimate animal welfare sites, including Compassion In World Farming who do NOT (unlike PETA) have an underlying vegan agenda.

      For this reason I avoid ALL kosher animal products wherever possible (same with halal of course).

      IMO the only reason to prefer kosher is if it’s genuinely your faith AND (as you mentioned) certified to the extent of being done with a sharp and flawless blade, and not rushed along a production line by disinterested and underpaid workers.

      So fwiw, I appeal to MDA and other manufacturers of primal & paleo-friendly products not to default to using kosher animal products.

      1. Kosher slaughter does NOT require the animal to still be conscious. It does require stunning to be reversible, rather than the irreversible stunning used in most abattoirs. In Australia almost all kosher slaughter includes stunning – I can’t speak for what you do in other countries but it’s certainly not the case that the animal is conscious here.

        1. That’s interesting, I’d never heard of reversible stunning. Can you give me some idea how it’s performed please, what method is used?

          The only info I found online after seeing your comment relates to the relatively rapid loss of blood to the brain after throat-cutting, which is a feature of correctly-done kosher slaughter.

          I’ve copied a link to a site explaining UK Shechita (which explicitly mentions the throat-cutting as a “non-reversible” stun) which should link from my name below, just to clarify that I didn’t pluck the concept from thin air. 🙂

          If you look up “kosher slaughter” on YouTube you’ll see a great many videos taken in kosher slaughterhouses (halal too) where the animals are not temporarily stunned, nor lose blood rapidly through having their neck arteries cut – they’re pretty disturbing.

          Death and slaughter are never going to be pretty (including in the wild without human intervention) but I feel that we have a duty to minimise unnecessary and prolonged suffering and fear on the animal’s part. We have the ability to do this, after all.

      2. I agree with you that any product that claims to be kosher must be certified as such under the most reliable supervising agencies. For animal product to be certified as kosher, the schitah, is performed under very rigid guidelines (I guess what you consider to be good kosher slaughter).
        Anyone can say that their product is kosher, but for those us who do keep strictly kosher, only those products which bear acceptable kosher certification (hashkacha) is allowed.

        I am troubled that you made an appeal for manufacturers of primal and paleo products not to use kosher animal products (which basically means ANIMALS which are considered unkosher or treif, and has nothing to do with schitah) . Maybe you should do more research into the matter. Those of us who are strictly kosher and have adopted a primal lifestyle should be able to access acceptable products.
        In addition, I have contacted The Great Lakes company in regards to their kashrus as I am skeptical that their products are indeed kosher.

        1. Randi wrote: “I am troubled that you made an appeal for manufacturers of primal and paleo products not to use kosher animal products (which basically means ANIMALS which are considered unkosher or treif, and has nothing to do with schitah) .”

          No: I wrote that in the context of kosher slaughtering methods (Shechita, transliterations into English vary and I used the one I found most frequently), I appeal to “manufacturers of primal & paleo-friendly products *not to default to* using kosher animal products” – I said nothing about appealing to them to NOT use kosher products, period.

          Because that’s not what I want. 🙂

          By “to default” that means, not to assume that a baseline of using animals slaughtered by Shechita methods under the “kosher” label, which as you have pointed out is sometimes also mis-used (a concern I raised in my reply, above), is the way ahead – nor is it acceptable to all customers.

          To give you an example, in the UK almost all mass-produced cheese is now “vegetarian friendly” – this means that manufacturers have defaulted to the vegetarian desire to avoid slaughterhouse products and so, as a result, many now use genetically-modified vegetable rennet in their products, because in the UK, vegetarians who consume some animal products, such as dairy and eggs, are a significant minority, more so than vegans.

          I’ve included a link explaining this in the “website” field of this comment, and it should be clickable from my name, below this reply.

          I support the right of people who wish to buy kosher food to be able to do that, obviously including primal and paleo animal products – this automatically means that I support the right of those of us for whom the slaughtering methods that create kosher meat is undesirable, along with halal slaughter, to be able to do the same.

          Same with vegetarians who eat dairy (which I adhered to for several years) – have your groovy genetically modified cheese if you like, but please manufacturers, don’t make that become the new normal, and then promote it by making out that it’s somehow the better product.

          I hope you’ll post your findings on Great Lakes if they reply. 🙂

  23. Yes thank you! I was just trying to find out the benefits of taking in more collagen, and all the searches that turned up were skin care products! Growing up we always ate the cartilage (though it might be for reason #2 on the list of not being wasteful than for its taste) and friends from a different culture would find it strange, but there you go, collagen! 🙂

  24. I’ve been eating the “plastic” and cartilage off our chicken and beef for years. Can’t get my wife or daughter to eat it, but they’re trained to throw their plastic my way when they’re done!

  25. I am obsessed with collagen. I blend the Vital Proteins or Great Lakes into my coffee along with coconut oil and ghee. I also make bone broth and cook meat on the bone as much as possible. I am constantly talking about collagen on my blog, mostly for the way it has improved my skin. I can honestly say my skin feels firmer at 49 than it did at 39!

  26. I haven’t eaten read meat in 20 years because I just don’t like it. I eat chicken breasts, bacon and fish. I know I’m doing myself a disservice so I purchased some high quality grass-fed beef collagen recently. I bought some gelcaps to put it in but the directions say to mix with warm water. Is this necessary to reap its benefits? If so, would drinking it with warm water make it effective?
    Thanks in advance for any insight!

    1. You could put it in gelcaps but that seems like a lot of bother. If you bought beef gelatin (the orange Great Lakes can), it needs to be heated to dissolve, so mix with cold liquid then heat it, or mix it directly into warm liquids. If you buy the beef collagen hydrolysate (green Great Lakes can), it mixes pretty easily in any temperature of liquid. Putting it into gel caps adds lots of bother and expense. It doesn’t taste like beef. The difference between gelatin and collagen is just processing; they’re essentially the same thing. I mix collagen powder into my coffee or protein shakes every morning, and sometimes I remember to take it at night as well.

  27. I often crave chicken cartilage while eating chicken but I only eat it when it’s tender. So if something wrong happens and my chicken is overcooked, I get the benefit of eating more cartilage to balance the overcooked chicken!

    I’m not too good with meat cuts name, does the cut used to make osso buco is gelatinous? I LOVE it. I always eat the bone marrow too, is there collagen in the marrow?

  28. I take a tablespoon of Vital Proteins gelatin in a mug of hot nut milk morning and evening. I was pretty sick this summer and lost a lot of hair, but since I started with the gelatin a couple of weeks ago my hair has a little more body. It’s also helping my brittle nails.

  29. Nourishing Broths from WAPF is a very decent, and somewhat recent, book that covers a lot about collagen and all the other aminos in broth and their benefits. One good thing to know for the ones trying to add broths and/or other collagen source in their diets is that according to their studies it takes about 4 months to really see dramatic improvement. They relate a lot with the potential to heal autoimmune diseases (arthritis would actually be an autoimmune issue) but you got to stick to it. A lot of research used in the book is based on one dude studies that would have been shunned by modern science since cartilage cannot be patented, sounds typical to me.

    I never ate breakfast since I was a teen, could not stand it, but 6 months ago I discovered the idea of broth for breakfast. This is ultimate for me. Make a super duper broth, whip a load of eggz in it (2-4 per breaky) when it’s finished. Add a few bitter greens or kimchi when reheating, scallions and shrooms are top. Ta-da! Sustains me until lunch and I get my daily collagen. Since I mix back in the meat from the carcass, with the eggz, it has a very nice amino profile.

    Broth is easy, if you lack time, do it in a slow cooker.

    For chicken, best broth is from raw carcass. For beef or similar, cook bones in oven at 350 or so for 30-40 mins to caramelize the remaining meat and golden the bones, otherwise it will taste bland. Fancies will baster tomato paste on then first but I don’t.

    For best looking results barely boil all the time, never bring to a roll.

    I usually cook 3-4 hours, remove the meat and put aside, then keep cooking bones, skin and cartilage for 4-24 hours more. Shanks and thick cartilage does great with a long run.

    When I can I add a few veggies in the last couple hours, typical French mirepoix or whatever needs to go and can be discarded.

    Strain, add meat back, bring to a boil and whip eggs in. Voila!

    Pig head does a retarded thick gelatin you can almost stand on it. Tête Fromagée, or head cheese, is an amazing source of gelatin and a great way to spend a pig head.

    Sorry for the hijack! 🙂

  30. Unless I missed it, this article didn’t even mention the inflamed gut soothing properties of gelatin. Chicken soup…preferably made with the feet…used to be a quintessential tonic for the ill. Jello, too. Especially served after a heavy meal as a digestive aid and probably a good sleepy time aid.

  31. In the interests of research for medical use of collagen I came across this interesting article from Greenmedinfo on The GAPS diet & histamine intolerance/excess. A lot of foods are implicated, however, with this article’s emphasis on collagen and bone broth I thought others may wish to read it.
    The symptoms are listed and the solution is to abstain from certain foods for a short while.
    I have discovered, for myself, that during times of stress I can become sensitized to common foods. identifying the culprit is as easy as keeping a diet diary to discuss with a nutritionist.
    Example my shoulder pain (for a year) went away totally when I gave up the nightshade family for 6 weeks. Now I enjoy them symptom free.

  32. I tried the whole bone broth thing a while ago and got severely constipated from it. Im too afraid to risk trying it again. The idea of it sounds great however its effects on me were horrible. In a google search after I did find info suggesting that this can happen.

  33. “With collagen being about 33% glycine…”
    What are the other 67%?

    1. Proline is the other major amino acid in collagen, if I remember correctly.

  34. Will supplementing with glycine capsules achieve the same effect if you’re in a time crunch?

  35. So what about bio-accumulation of nasties in gelatin?
    Pesticides, hormones, other chemicals?
    I have never seen organic gelatin where I live so this is a concern.

  36. Also, a definitive answer about gelatin/collagen supplementation and does it raise your cholesterol levels is needed!

  37. I buy some raw ground “pet food” for my dogs. Sometime it’s ground beef with heart and liver, sometimes it’s ground chicken backs, etc.

    Is there any reason I couldn’t cook and eat it? Would I get more nutrition from that than from regular “human food” ground beef?

    1. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Pet food isn’t as carefully produced or as closely monitored for contamination as human food, partly because it isn’t deemed necessary. Most animals can and often do eat things that would kill a human being. Why would you think there’s more nutrition in a package of raw dog food than what would be in human-grade ground beef and organ meat?

    2. Hey people don’t forget chicken feet as a great source of collagen.
      Also I never slow cook any more. I have a wonderful electric pressure cooker called Instant pot and any slow cooker recipe will cook up in minutes vs hours in my instant pot.
      It turns itself off after cooking and since the contents were cooked under pressure it is sterile until you take the lid off so no worries about it sitting out on the counter overnight. Instant pot can be a slow cooker too but I never bother any more.

      1. I love my Instant Pot for making bone stock! I used to simmer big stockpots of bones and veggies for 24 hours, and it would make the house stink. Now I cook a smaller amount in my InstantPot for 1 hour and let it keep warm until I can get around to straining and bottling it. And now I don’t have to build up a huge supply of bones in my freezer, either.

  38. One of my favorite foods out here in Spain is pork ear. It’s mostly skin and cartilage, so I assume it’s a great source of collagen too. Thanks Mark!

  39. I get free pork skin from our farmer we buy our meat from, and throw a package in when I’m making broth. It makes the broth so incredibly gelatinous! The actual fat rises to the top so I can skim off when cool but still leaves the broth the consistency of jello. Another plus, I can then take the skin that’s been boiling in the broth, stick it on a cookie sheet and bake till golden and poof I have my own homemade pork rinds! (not the puffy kind, the really crunchy chicarone kind).

  40. Regarding good sources of dietary collagen, I notice that octopus, squid and other sea creatures were not mentioned in Mark’s post. I have read that octopus and squid are high in collagen (and glycine) content. However, there seems to be a plethora of types of collagen and the breakdown of amino acids from which they are composed. So, as I live in N Portugal where octopus is king and we often grill it on the bbq, I am wondering how beneficial it is on the collagen spectrum, and if the collagens found in octopus (and squid) are made nutritionally available during human digestion?

  41. This article just inspired me to try some recipes that I saw for Herbal Tea Jello. So many possibilities. Will start experimenting this weekend.

  42. I’ve been, like, vegetarian most of my life so imagine me nowadays with the only free-range boney thing I can afford, a half of a pig’s head with the poor dude’s nose coming up out of the cauldron, those beautiful snouts they have, and I’m praying to his or her spirit the whole time. The head of these beasts, these creatures so like us yet without our evil natures, is 18 pounds, and half of one is five bucks. That’s nine pounds for the price of one tiny cowmuscleburger (all units are liberty units, no SAD factory units are referenced here, ever, of course). The only thing I can afford, I mean, and still do yoga early afternoons barefoot in the snow or whatever feels primal and sunny. Btw, I killed far more sentient creatures, disrupted the social networks of more animals (they were tiny but still of consequence) when I was an aspiring vegan growing my own lettuce.

  43. I’ve been making a simple smoothie with almond milk, 2 Tbl Great Lakes collagen hydrolysate (the green can), and a handful of frozen blueberries as a post-workout treat every morning for a year or more. I don’t have nearly as many aches and pains the day after lifting as I used to. Now I’m convinced my husband should start doing the same–he developed Type I Diabetes at age 37 and his endocrinologist told him it’s typical to have achy joints, particularly first thing in the morning. He has definitely complained of that, and he works out very hard nearly every day to help keep his blood sugar down and his insulin needs to a minimum. I’m encouraged by what Mark has said about glycine being helpful for joint pain and muscle maintenance, and will definitely pass this info along to my husband.

  44. I’ve used collagen powder (usually Greta Lakes) for several years (1-2tbs/day) and have never noticed any overt effects. No changes in hair, skin, mood, sleep, joints, tendons, injury healing etc. That said,I never had any problems in those areas worth mentioning, and using collagen (and additional glycine, which I also use because I don’t feel like consciously limiting my methionine intake) just makes sense given our relatively recent departure from the inclusion of it in our diets. Great overview, thanks!

  45. Some historical perspective… Our recent ancestors always used to make bone broth from their animals. (And I’m just talking about this past century…) Animal protein was either expensive, hard to raise/slaughter/clean/prepare, or challenging to hunt. You wasted none of it. In the past, nearly all soups were based on broth made with the bones of whatever meat was available.

    Soups, and particularly chicken soups, were widely recognized as good food for sick people. I am sure the soups that this ground-level wisdom was based on involved what we now call bone broth.

    There are many old books that mention calves foot jelly as a special gift for an invalid. This is highly collagenous stuff, and was widely recognized as a healing food in that time.

    There is no reason that we should forget the knowledge of the past centuries!

  46. I like Protein Essentials. They have grass fed non GMO gluten free collagen and gelatin. I’m also a big fan of their IbsatBroth – delicious. Healed my husbands foot pain.

  47. This post is very timely, Mark! I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon 3 months ago and even though I was already consuming bone broth on a regular basis, I immediately began adding more collagen to my intake. Hopefully it too will assist in my healing journey!

  48. The powered collagen like great lakes is super convenient, but when somethings so easy you gotta be suspicious.
    I wonder if they make it/dry it at hgh temperature when will lead to lots of nasty chemical by products(acrylamides, AGES etc).

  49. The benefits sound amazing, and I would love to incorporate collagen into my diet more. However, my nutritional therapy practitioner had me tested for all sorts of reactions to food and beef was rather high on my list as reactive. Are there any other sources of collagen that I could access?

    Thanks in advance!

  50. I have been using collagen for over one year twice a day and along with a low carb diet my joints don’t ache and are not stiff as they used to be. It’s really helped my skin become smoother too. I mix it with one cup of bouillon, add a tablespoon of MCT oil and top it off with one tablespoon of butter which makes it creamy and very tasty.

  51. This isn’t really related to the article, but does anyone have any experience or know if it is possible to be fat-adapted on a vegan diet? Or close to a vegan diet? Like maybe if you become fat-adapted on a primal diet, and then slowly take out animal foods and replace them with adequate fatty plant foods, would you remain in a fat-burning state? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. 🙂

  52. Please write more on this topic, Mark. If this meat+cancer link is true, then we need to explore this further about glycine. I am hoping it does no harm in any other way as an over the counter supplement.

  53. What do I look for when purchasing powered gelatin? The Great Lakes brand that’s referenced seems a little pricey at $19 /lb.

    Is there much difference between that and the stuff that is more bulk priced? I like quality in foods, but I just can’t see how it could be much different.

  54. This is very informative. I would like my friends to have a read as just last week we were having a discussion about collagen. I am sure they will be happy to learn these facts.

  55. I’m going to have to experiment with this a bit. I have always loved gnawing on the ends of chicken legs and eating the skin and all, so I would THINK my collagen intake was pretty good… only we don’t eat that stuff all that much any more. I’m going to have to make the effort more often.

  56. I noticed that your Primal Fuel product has the same amino acids as the Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate minus cystine. Is that a good substitute for the collagen if I use it daily?

  57. Three years ago, due to an athletic injury during my college days in the 80s, I ended up with knee-replacement surgery. The doc said it wouldn’t be long before I would need the same for the other knee which wasn’t quite bone-on-bone but getting there, with bone spurs, etc. Well, I was determined to prolong this brand of misery for as long as possible, and that’s when I discovered the wonders of both broth!

    I make my own stock using beef marrow bones and other various bones from my local farm which raises 100% pastured meats. I add chicken necks and/or feet when I can get them and always add pigs’ feet. I’ll often throw in random organ meats for extra flavor and nutrients along with sea veggies, onions, garlic, etc., basically any veggies on hand. (There are just so many recipes online). I slow simmer this concoction for 3 days, strain out all but the stock, bottle and place in the fridge, and voila! I end up with the most amazing gelatin, sometimes so thick a spoon will stand upright in it. My son often just eats the gel cold, and I drink at least a cup each day.

    Bottom line: I barely feel a twinge in the knee that apparently was about to face the knife three years ago. I now can walk and exercise as much as I want, never have swelling or soreness. Bone broth–for me, a miracle food. I can’t be sure (and it depends what claims one believes), but I’m beginning to believe that, contrary to what the medical establishment claims, osteoarthritis can reverse itself, at least to the extent that quality of life is greatly improved (at least that’s my experience; and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support it). I’ve never taken medication for the osteoarthritis; e.g., the NSAIDs which, though effective for inflammation, are of course dangerous to one’s health. I do add boswellia to my regimen, but even when I’ve omitted it for weeks, the bone broth keeps me covered.

    Of course, this is just my story, my personal experience with bone broth, but you’d never pry that cup a day out of my hands. The body knows what it needs…

  58. As a person who keeps strictly kosher for religious reasons I have contacted The Great Lakes company to substantiate their claim of being kosher. I’m awaiting their reply but as of now I’m highly skeptical. In order for a product to be truly kosher and made from meat it would have to have certain symbols on the can and state that it is glatt. I searched their website and couldn’t find any information about the integrity of it’s kashrus, which would be essential for the kosher consumer. In addition, the fact that an animal is grass fed has nothing to do with it being kosher.
    The only kosher certified gelatin products I am aware of are those made from kosher fish bones.
    I wish there were more certified kosher products out there for those of us who are primal and keep kosher.

  59. Just a follow-up note: I was contacted by the company which did send me a copy of their letter of certification. Sadly, this supervisory agency is not one which is widely held as reliable within the orthodox jewish community.

  60. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for another excellent post!

    Are skin and bones from fish, as e.g. in tinned salmon or sardines, just as good?

    I eat much more fish than meat and I’m wondering if I can have enough collagen without increasing my meat consumption?

  61. Would the Great Lakes brand be a good substitute for whey protein in smoothies?

  62. I love eating the cartilage knobs off chicken bones. I feel like such an animal every time, which is awesome, but I also know that it’s super healthy for me.

  63. can collagen supplement cause constipation? I’ve started mixing it in my coffee the last few days and notice I’m not having good BM’s…

  64. You know, I still don’t get what the link could be between meat (protein, fat) and diabetes….does anyone else get miffed when the two are mentioned together or when the former is listed as correlative of the latter? Perhaps it’s just the breakdown of protein into glucose that spurs the connection, but at the very least, whenever diabetes is mentioned, I would think that it would be automatic to properly cite carbohydrate as a more likely culprit.

  65. Does anyone know how much GLYCINE you get in a serving of Mark’s Collagen Fuel powder ?

  66. I use Elgenoflex Dena every year for a month. I don’t know if I should use it more though. It was recommended by my doctor. I mostly experience issues in my knees and this contains collagen type 2. I think there are type 1 and 3 as well which are for the elasticity of the skin and prevents brittleness of the hair and nails. Is eating food that contains collagen effective though?

  67. If I understood the article, does it mean that it is better to supplement directly glycine instead of collagen?
    Collagen supplements seems pretty controversial to me. They say it doesn’t work.

  68. Ok Mark I’m confused about meat. The comment about meat and diabetes. So does it cause it or make it worse? I am prediabetic. Eating alot less carbs and was doing keto but found out I can’t digest fat. I love meat! I have collagen everyday. Are there other ways to add gelatin to my diet?

    Thank you for your time,


    1. Brenda, it sounds like you already use a collagen supplement. You could also enjoy bone broth, either sipping it as a hot drink or using it in soups, stews and other dishes.

  69. Some supplements are Collagen Type I and III, and some are Type II. My understanding is that they have different benefits, and that Type I and III are usually best taken in the morning and Type II in the evening. Is one more beneficial than the other in the context of this article or are the types much of a muchness?

  70. collagen falls apart at temperatures above body temperature, turning it into plain gelatin—yes, the stuff in Jell-O. At these higher temperatures—when added to hot coffee, for example—collagen’s molecular structure melts, diminishing or even negating the desired health benefits.

  71. Same for me. I had a rib meat injury, and beef tendon sped my healing up exponentially. I craved it and ate it and felt it work in my sleep, which was uncomfortable, until it wasnt. By night 4, I was sleeping deep.