Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Vital Proteins Bad For You?

Also Known As: Collagen peptides



Short answer

Vital Proteins Collagen is not inherently bad for you and can be a beneficial addition to your diet, predominantly when sourced ethically and tested for purity. While the 'grass-fed' and 'wild-caught' labels suggest higher quality, their impact on the efficacy of collagen is minimal. Moreover, most people tolerate collagen well, improving skin and joint health according to some studies. Watch out for potential allergens in the ingredients, and be cautious with dosages; there's no RDA for collagen, and overconsumption could lead to nutritional imbalances. Choose products wisely, considering individual needs, dietary preferences, and environmental and ethical values.



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Long answer

Assessing the Quality and Sources of Vital Proteins' Collagen

Vital Proteins, a well-known brand within the supplement industry, touts its collagen products as being sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine hides, and wild-caught fish. While these terms can invoke images of superior quality and ethical sourcing, it is essential to scrutinize what they actually mean in the context of collagen supplements and whether they translate into tangible health benefits for the consumer.

Firstly, let's discuss the bovine collagen. 'Grass-fed' implies that the cattle from which the collagen is derived have been fed a natural diet of grass, rather than grain, which can lead to higher levels of certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. 'Pasture-raised' indicates that the animals have access to the outdoors, leading to a potentially better quality of life for the animals and potentially less stress, which in turn may influence the quality of the collagen.

Regarding the marine collagen, 'wild-caught' fish are often considered to be a more sustainable option compared to farm-raised fish, and are thought to be free from artificial feed and the potential accumulation of toxins such as mercury.

Given these claims, it's pertinent to ask: do these factors significantly impact the safety or efficacy of the collagen supplement? Scientific studies suggest that the source of collagen, particularly whether it is from grass-fed and pasture-raised sources, may not dramatically alter the amino acid profile - the primary determinant of collagen's effectiveness. However, some argue that grass-fed, pasture-raised sources may reduce exposure to potential contaminants such as antibiotics and hormones, commonly used in more intensive farming practices.

To provide an added layer of reassurance, Vital Proteins states that their products are third-party tested for quality assurance. This is a crucial point for consumers, as independent testing can verify claims about product purity and potency. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that not all third-party certifications are created equal, and the particular standards and rigor of testing can vary significantly.

When assessing the dietary supplement quality, consider looking for certifications from organizations such as NSF International or the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Unfortunately, as of my knowledge cutoff date in early 2023, Vital Proteins does not carry these specific certifications. Consumers should remain cautious and seek out the most transparent companies when it comes to third-party testing and certifications.

  • Source Verification: Enquire about the legitimacy of 'grass-fed' and 'pasture-raised' claims
  • Amino Acid Profile: Consider if sourcing impacts the amino acid composition of collagen
  • Third-Party Testing: Look for evidence of independent verification of product contents and quality
  • Contaminant Exposure: Consider reduced exposure to contaminants with ethically sourced collagen

In summary, assessing the quality and sources of Vital Proteins' collagen involves more than taking marketing claims at face value. Instead, it requires a deep dive into the nuances of animal husbandry, the implications for nutritional content and potential contaminant exposure, and the importance of third-party verification. As a savvy consumer or health practitioner, demand clear evidence and transparency regarding these factors to make the most informed decisions about collagen supplementation.

Digestive System Response to Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements, most notably those produced by brands like Vital Proteins, have taken center stage in the market as elixirs for everything from skin health to joint support. But how do these supplements fare once they navigate the complex terrain of the digestive system? Let's break down the effects on digestion and sift through the evidence available.

When ingested, collagen protein, like any protein, is broken down into its constituent amino acids by the robust enzymatic actions of the stomach and small intestine. These amino acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall. This is where the importance of a high-quality protein source, such as hydrolyzed collagen found in many supplements, becomes apparent. Hydrolyzation breaks the collagen down into smaller peptides, which are easier for the body to absorb.

For those with digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a sensitive stomach, the concern is whether collagen supplements could exacerbate their symptoms. Clinical evidence, however, suggests a different narrative. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that collagen peptides are generally well-tolerated and do not seem to cause significant digestive distress in most individuals.

  • Hydrolyzed collagen is hypothesized to aid in gut health due to its amino acid profile, including glutamine, which is known for supporting the integrity of the gut lining.
  • Some anecdotal reports suggest collagen supplements may aid in digestive discomfort, which aligns with preliminary research on their potential anti-inflammatory effects on gut health.

But the conversation isn't one-sided. Though rare, some individuals report mild side effects, such as feelings of fullness or heartburn, likely due to individual sensitivities or the concurrent intake of other supplements or medications. These side effects, while typically mild, underscore the importance of listening to your body and consulting with a healthcare provider before adding a new supplement to your regimen.

Given that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements with the same scrutiny as medications, consumers must rely on brands to ensure the purity and safety of their products. This can vary widely from one collagen supplement to another, raising the question of whether contaminants or poor-quality ingredients could cause digestive reactions. To mitigate these concerns, look for products that have been third-party tested for quality assurance.

To sum up the digestive system's response to collagen supplements:

Typical Digestive Response Potential Side Effects Notes for Sensitive Individuals
Effective digestion and absorption of amino acids Mild symptoms like fullness or heartburn Consultation with a healthcare provider recommended
May support gut lining integrity Rare, but possible individual sensitivities Consider starting with a lower dose to assess tolerance
Generally well-tolerated according to research Interaction with other supplements or medications Monitor for adverse reactions if taking other supplements

In the debate about the impact of collagen supplements on digestive health, empirical evidence points to a positive or neutral effect for the majority of users. However, it's imperative always to approach new supplements cautiously, mindful of the body's signals and potential interactions with pre-existing conditions or treatments.

Allergy Risks and Ingredient Transparency in Vital Proteins

When delving into the world of supplements, particularly those that are protein-based like Vital Proteins, it's imperative to scrutinize the allergy risks and the transparency of ingredients used. This not only aids consumers in making informed choices but also guards those with sensitivities or allergies against adverse reactions. Let's dissect the potential allergens in Vital Proteins and examine how forthright the brand is about what goes into their products.

Potential Allergens in Vital Proteins

  • Collagen Sources: Most products by Vital Proteins are derived from bovine (cow) or marine (fish) sources. Individuals with sensitivities to bovine products or seafood may experience allergic reactions.
  • Flavor Additives: Flavored varieties often include additional ingredients, which could be problematic for individuals with more obscure or specific food allergies.
  • Additional Supplements: Some Vital Proteins formulations are fortified with added supplements such as probiotics, vitamins, or minerals, which could carry their own allergen risks.

Assessing Ingredient Transparency

  • Label Clarity: Vital Proteins typically lists all ingredients on the product label, providing clarity to consumers. However, the source of certain ingredients can sometimes be vague or not entirely comprehensive – for example, "natural flavors" is a term that can conceal numerous undisclosed components.
  • Third-Party Testing: They also have their products third-party tested, which is a useful indicator of quality and purity. This testing can validate the absence of common allergens like gluten, or contamination risks.

Concerning allergens, it's essential to highlight that cross-contamination is a risk factor to consider. For instance, facilities that process products containing common allergens like nuts, soy, or dairy might also process Vital Proteins supplements. This can pose a significant threat to individuals with severe allergies, making it crucial for them to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating these products into their routine.

Moreover, although Vital Proteins claims to use "natural" ingredients, this term is often murky and unregulated. "Natural" does not automatically equate to "hypoallergenic," and it does not exclude the potential for negative reactions. Consider the case of naturally derived flavors: without disclosing the specific components, consumers with allergies may unknowingly ingest something harmful to them.

To their credit, Vital Proteins does provide a certain degree of transparency regarding their ingredients, and consumers can often find detailed ingredient information on the company's website or by reaching out to their customer service. Nevertheless, as a vigilant consumer or health enthusiast, continuing to question and research what "natural" means in each context is paramount.

In conclusion, while Vital Proteins shows a commitment to quality and purity, it is crucial for those with allergies to scrutinize the labels and to be wary of terms like "natural flavors." Additionally, it's advisable for consumers with serious allergies to conduct further research, consult with a healthcare provider, and possibly contact the manufacturer directly to ascertain the full scope of ingredients and manufacturing processes that could affect their health.

Daily Recommended Intake and Potential for Overconsumption

Understanding the daily recommended intake of collagen supplements like Vital Proteins is paramount in assessing the risk of overconsumption. What's crucial to note is that there's no official Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for collagen, as it's not considered an essential nutrient. However, most studies evaluating the benefits of collagen use dosages ranging from 2.5 to 15 grams per day.

Now, delve into the realm of potential overconsumption, a territory marred with uncertainties due to a lack of comprehensive long-term studies. Some health practitioners suggest that taking collagen supplements in moderation is generally safe for most people, as the body can regulate the absorption and utilization of amino acids effectively.

  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Excessive intake can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances such as bloating or feelings of heaviness.
  • Imbalance of Amino Acids: Collagen is high in certain amino acids like glycine and proline, and overconsuming these could potentially disrupt the balance of amino acids in the body.
  • Potential Interactions: Overconsumption might interact with other dietary supplements or medications, though specific interactions linked to collagen peptides are not well documented.

Let's not ignore a critical consideration; most collagen supplements, including Vital Proteins, derive their collagen from animal sources. Thus, one must ponder the potential of contaminants such as heavy metals or allergens—factors that can contribute to negative health impacts, primarily when overconsumed.

A closer scrutinization of Vital Proteins themselves reveals that they reassure their product's safety with third-party testing for heavy metals and other contaminants. However, transparency levels vary across the supplement industry, necessitating a vigilant consumer approach to sourcing information on product safety.

It's equally important to discern between supplemental collagen and dietary sources of collagen—such as bone broth, chicken skin, and fish—which come with their own set of nutrients and are typically consumed within the context of a balanced diet. This makes the conversation on overconsumption slightly more complex, as it’s not commonplace to overconsume collagen through diet alone.

In summary, while overconsumption of Vital Proteins or any collagen supplement is relatively unlikely to cause serious harm, it is, theoretically, capable of leading to negative health consequences as mentioned. The advocate for caution would thus recommend following the serving size instructions on the product label and consulting with a healthcare professional, especially if you plan on taking doses higher than those studied in research.

Efficacy of Collagen Supplementation for Joint and Skin Health

The popularity of collagen supplements, including brands like Vital Proteins, has surged, with bold claims of improved skin elasticity and joint health. As a diligent investigator armed with scientific literature, I unravel whether these claims hold water.

Collagen and Skin Health

Collagen is a critical protein in the body, comprising a significant portion of our skin's structure. As we age, collagen production decreases, leading to the classic signs of aging: wrinkles and decreased skin hydration. Companies offer collagen peptides in supplement form, proposing that they can help reverse or slow these processes. But can swallowing collagen truly rejuvenate skin?

Several studies have shown modest improvements in skin elasticity and hydration in individuals taking collagen supplements. For example, a study published in the "Journal of Medical Nutrition & Nutraceuticals" reported that skin elasticity significantly improved after subjects consumed hydrolyzed collagen for 8 weeks. Another, in "Skin Pharmacology and Physiology," found improvements in skin hydration and decreased wrinkles after 12 weeks of supplementing with collagen peptides.

However, skeptics argue that the digestive process breaks down collagen proteins, questioning their ability to directly enhance skin health. Furthermore, comprehensive reviews indicate that while some improvement is noticed, more high-quality, long-term studies are needed to cement these supplements' role in dermal health comprehensively.

Collagen and Joint Health

Collagen's role in maintaining joint health, particularly for those with degenerative joint disorders like osteoarthritis, is less contested. The protein contributes to the integrity of our cartilage, which cushions joints.

A study in the "International Journal of Medical Sciences" found that supplementing with collagen leads to significant reductions in joint pain. Similarly, research from "Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism" shows that athletes consuming collagen may benefit from decreased joint pain, potentially enhancing performance. It's important to note, though, that many of these studies focus on specific populations, such as athletes or the elderly, and effects can vary widely among different individuals.

Nutritional Synergy

Effective collagen supplementation isn't solely about ingesting the protein alone. The presence of vitamin C, for example, is essential for the synthesis of collagen fibers in the body. Thus, for collagen supplements to be effective, considering the overall nutritional context and additional supplement ingredients is critical.

In conclusion, while early studies into collagen supplementation for skin and joint health are promising, they aren't a magic bullet. Ensuring products are from reputable brands that use hydrolyzed collagen, coupled with a balanced diet rich in micronutrients like vitamin C, may enhance potential benefits. Yet, as with all supplements, consumers should maintain a critical perspective and seek professional medical advice tailored to their specific needs.

Comparing Plant-based vs. Animal-based Collagen Sources

When it comes to collagen supplementation, a hotly debated topic is whether plant-based sources hold a candle to their animal-based counterparts. This subsection dissects the differences, scrutinizing their implications for efficacy and health. Collagen, by definition, is a protein found in the connective tissues of animals. However, the burgeoning demand for vegetarian and vegan-friendly options has led to the development of 'plant-based collagen' or collagen builders. Let's delve into each.

  • Source and Composition

    Animal-based collagen supplements typically come from bovine (cows), porcine (pigs), or marine (fish) sources. They contain collagen Types I and III, which are most prevalent in the human body, directly aiding in skin, bone, and joint health. Marine collagen, often considered superior due to its enhanced bioavailability and Type I concentration, is particularly beneficial for skin health.

  • Plant-based 'Collagen'

    Since actual collagen cannot be found in plants, what’s marketed as ‘plant-based collagen’ usually includes supplements that are rich in nutrients known to boost the body's collagen production. These typically consist of vitamin C, zinc, and copper, along with various amino acids that are the building blocks of collagen. However, they do not provide collagen directly.

  • Absorption and Utilization

    Animal-based collagen peptides are hydrolyzed – broken down into smaller units, making it easier for the body to absorb. Studies suggest that hydrolyzed collagen from animals can be efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. On the other hand, plant-based options often rely on the body's ability to synthesize collagen using provided nutrients, the efficiency of which can depend on the individual's health and metabolism.

  • Collagen Co-factors

    Both types of products often include additional ingredients to enhance the body's collagen synthesis. For animal-based products, this could mean the inclusion of hyaluronic acid or vitamins. For plant-based, it usually involves a more robust profile of supporting antioxidants and minerals.

  • Environmental and Ethical Considerations

    Plant-based collagen options are often favored by those with ethical reservations about using animal products. Furthermore, plant-based supplements tend to have a smaller environmental footprint compared to farming animals for collagen. These considerations are increasingly important for many consumers, regardless of the direct health implications.

  • Efficacy in Practice

    Scientific evidence backing the efficacy of animal-based collagen supplements in promoting skin elasticity, joint health, and other benefits is growing. In contrast, clinical evidence for plant-based collagen boosters is less direct, often focusing on the role of specific nutrients in overall skin health and not specifically on collagen production.

In summary, while animal-based collagen provides a direct source of the proteins needed to maintain and repair the human body's collagenous tissues, plant-based collagen boosters provide the building blocks and encourage the body to increase its own collagen production. The choice between the two will ultimately depend on individual dietary restrictions, ethical beliefs, and health goals. When considering any supplement, it's crucial to look beyond the marketing claims and examine the scientific evidence, the source, and the composition to make an informed decision that aligns with both your health needs and personal values.

Frequently asked questions

Collagen is a protein exclusively found in animals, so there are no true plant-based sources of collagen. However, there are plant-based 'collagen builders' or 'boosters' available that supply vitamins and nutrients necessary for the body to produce its own collagen. These are not equivalent to animal-derived collagen but can support collagen synthesis in the body.

Collagen supplements contain higher levels of certain amino acids, including hydroxyproline, which can potentially increase the risk of kidney stone formation, especially in individuals with a history of oxalate stones. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting collagen supplementation if you have a history of kidney stones or are at risk for them.

Collagen plays a key role in wound healing due to its function in tissue regeneration. While there's potential for collagen supplements to support recovery after surgery by providing the necessary amino acids for tissue repair, more research is needed. Always consult with a healthcare provider before adding supplements like collagen to your post-surgery regimen.

Collagen supplements can be taken at any time of day; however, some evidence suggests that taking them on an empty stomach might facilitate better absorption of the amino acids. As collagen is high in protein, taking it first thing in the morning or right before sleep could theoretically provide the body with amino acids when it's in repair mode. Ultimately, consistency is key, so choose a time that fits your routine.

Ask a question about Vital Proteins and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • mild gastrointestinal discomfort
  • feelings of fullness
  • heartburn
  • mild allergic reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • gastrointestinal disturbances
  • imbalance of amino acids
  • potential allergen exposure

Ingredients to be aware of

  • bovine-derived ingredients
  • marine-derived ingredients
  • additional flavor additives
  • artificial ingredients under the guise of natural flavors
  • potential contaminants like heavy metals


  • improved skin elasticity
  • increased skin hydration
  • reduced wrinkle visibility
  • diminished joint pain
  • possible gut health support

Healthier alternatives

  • dietary sources of collagen (bone broth, chicken skin, fish)
  • vitamin c-rich foods
  • zinc and copper-rich foods
  • amino acid-rich foods

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Sports Research Collagen

  • Promotes skin health
  • Strengthens nails
  • Supports bones & joints
  • Hydrolyzed for easy mixing
  • Type 1 & 3 collagen
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 12-15-2023

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