Collagen or whey?

At Adalin Health, we like to bring you the latest research into healthy ageing, substantiated by science and free from fads, fashion or trends.

Collagen has become a trendy ingredient recently, but a recent paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has concluded that it had no effect on maintaining or building muscle mass in a trial of older men and women.

A group of around 30 men and women, average age around 68 years, spent one week on a balanced diet, followed by a number of weeks of protein supplementation. First, on a high protein but reduced calorie diet, then two weeks of high protein but reduced activity (less than 750 steps per day), and finally a return to normal their normal activity while remaining on the high protein diet. This pattern was intended to replicate the kind of conditions we find ourselves in when recovering at home from a period of bed rest, perhaps following an injury or hospitalisation.

The group was split in two, with half consuming whey protein and the other half consuming collagen.

Whey protein isolate
Whey protein, not collagen, supports normal muscle growth after hospitalisation

The results?

Both groups lost muscle mass during the periods of low activity, but only the whey protein group gained muscle mass during the recovery phase.


The authors suggest that it's the different level of leucine, which is known to have a role in muscle protein synthesis, that explains the results: whey protein is relatively high in leucine, while collagen is relatively low.

What will you do differently?

The first thing to note is that exercise is key. Even whey protein didn't protect against the loss of muscle mass during the period of inactivity designed to replicate hospitalisation. But the main thing to note is that if you are recovering from a period of inactivity or bed rest, then supplementation with high leucine whey protein along with exercise will result in higher rates of muscle protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth.



1. 1.6g protein per kg body weight per day, with the protein consisting either whey protein or collagen peptides.


1. Oikawa SY et al Am J Clin Nutr 2018 Oct 4. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy193.

2. As reported in Retr. 15 Oct 2018.