What is porcine collagen?

by Hannah de Gruchy March 13, 2022

What is porcine collagen

The human body is made up of lots of different tissues including skin, bone and muscle. A large proportion of these tissues are made from different protein types. The most abundant protein in the human body, accounting for around 25-35%, is collagen. Animal bodies also contain collagen, as does porcine collagen which is derived from pigs.

Broth collagen soups

There are many different types of collagen, with the main types being types I, II and III. Collagen is found in many of the tissues and has many roles. In the skin it helps support and add structure, it adds elasticity and strength to blood vessels and makes up a large proportion of the cartilage fibres that hydrate and cushion the joints.

As part of the natural ageing process, we begin to lose collagen from as early as our 20s. This slow and gradual decline means that we begin to develop wrinkled, sagging skin and we experience pain and discomfort in our joints as we lose cartilage.

For these reasons, some people choose to support their natural collagen levels by eating a diet high in collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods and taking collagen supplements. Most collagen supplements are derived from animal sources, as many animals have collagen similar in structure to our own.

Porcine collagen: fast facts

  • Porcine collagen is derived from the skin and bones of pigs.
  • Collagen from pigs is predominantly types I and III which are abundant in human skin.
  • Porcine collagen is considered more like human collagen than bovine collagen and is, therefore, more readily absorbed and easily tolerated.
  • Gelatine is a form of ‘cooked’ porcine collagen and has been used in sweet and savoury cooking for its jelly-like nature for generations.

What is porcine collagen?

Aspic Pork Jelly

Porcine collagen is derived from pigs – more specifically, it’s made from boiling pig skin and bones. Once it’s been simmering for a while, the collagen floats to the surface due to its oily, jelly-like nature. It can then be skimmed from the top of the mixture, dried and turned into a powder. This powder can then be made into porcine collagen supplements or bone broth.

Bone broth is a nutritious, savoury drink that can be consumed daily. It’s rich in amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that the body uses to synthesise collagen.

Porcine collagen is more common than you might first think. It’s been used for years in both sweet and savoury recipes. It’s often named in ingredients lists as “pork gelatine” or simply gelatine and gives jelly and soft sweets their chewy nature. It’s also sometimes called aspic, which is the jelly-like substance found in pork pies.

Pigs’ trotters, a delicacy in China, are also a good source of pork gelatine.

What are the benefits of porcine collagen?

Porcine collagen is rich in collagen types I and III, the types of collagen found predominantly in the skin. Therefore, taking porcine collagen supplements can help support the health and structure of the skin. Collagen type I and III supplements are often taken to help minimise the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin to promote youthfulness.

Collagen from pigs is rich in amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In particular, porcine collagen is rich in proline and glycine. 

Proline is one of the most important building blocks of collagen, as the body uses it to manufacture collagen that can then be used to help maintain the skin structure and keep it looking smooth. Glycine is another important amino acid in the manufacture of collagen which again is beneficial for youthful skin.

Porcine collagen vs marine collagen

Marine collagen is collagen that has been produced using the skin, fins, scales and bones of fish. It’s a plentiful source of types I and II collagen. Type II collagen is primarily found in the joints as it’s a major component of cartilage that cushions and hydrates the joints.

For this reason, marine collagen powder is often used by those who want to help protect both their skin and joints from collagen depletion. Porcine collagen supplements are usually taken for those wanting to support their skin, rather than their joints.

Porcine collagen vs bovine collagen

Pure Bovine CollagenBoth porcine collagen and bovine collagen (also known as beef collagen as it’s derived from cows, and also sometimes yaks and bison) are both rich in types I and III collagen. Therefore, both types of collagen supplements are often chosen by those who are looking to supplement their collagen levels to help support the health and youthfulness of their skin. Collagen types I and III are also good for supporting the health of muscles and bones.

Since porcine collagen is more structurally similar to human collagen, it causes fewer reactions in those who might be sensitive to animal collagen. Reactions to animal collagen supplements aren’t very common, but if you’ve experienced a reaction to bovine collagen, and your doctor has given the go-ahead, porcine collagen may be better suited to you. Porcine collagen, as well as bovine collagen, are considered safe.

Lauren Eales, nutritional therapist at Planet Paleo says: "Porcine is much less commonly found and typically used in cosmetics in Asia. If you manage to source porcine collagen, it will be a lot more expensive and you'll notice that it may have quite a taste compared to bovine collagen."

Porcine collagen supplements and porcine collagen-rich foods

Regularly eating porcine collagen-rich foods such as chewy sweets and pork pies isn’t a good way of consuming porcine collagen due to their sugary and high fat nature respectively. Pigs’ trotters are also rich in porcine collagen, but they might not be readily available in the UK unless you ask at your local butchers.

Porcine collagen supplements and bone broths are rich in types I and III collagen and are a nutritious and beneficial way of “topping up” our natural collagen levels to help support the structure and appearance of our skin.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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