Are you planning on taking collagen and realised there are different sources – bovine, porcine and marine? If you have, then you may now be wondering, ‘which one should I take?’
We’ve covered the general lowdown on collagen in this article. But in this one, we’re going to focus on marine collagen in particular. Keep reading for all you need to know about it.
What is collagen?
The bodies of all animals, including humans, contain large amounts of the protein, collagen. Collagen is what adds structure and strength to our skin, organs, bones, tendons and ligaments.
Collagen - which contains the three amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline - plays such an important role in the body that it reportedly makes up 75% of the skin’s support structure.1
In terms of what this structure is and collagen’s role in it all, think of your skin as being a mattress. Collagen is the frame that’s around your mattress, and gives it the necessary support, shape and structure.
Unfortunately, the older we get, the more our collagen levels start to drop. As every year goes by, our bodies produce less and less collagen.
It also makes lower quality collagen too. What’s more, free radicals, such as the sun’s UV rays, pollution and smoking, can speed up the rate at which our collagen levels deplete.
What is marine collagen?
Marine collagen is a type of collagen protein sourced from fish and other sea life, such as jellyfish.
It’s a growing market, with public demand increasing following a series of successful studies into its effectiveness.2,3
Marine collagen is renowned for its high collagen content. It’s also absorbed well by the body and is considered as being more eco-friendly and sustainable than other collagen sources.4
How is marine collagen created?
Marine collagen is derived from the skin, bones and scales of fish. After the flesh of the fish is removed for food, the fish viscera (that’s everything that’s left) is cleaned and the collagen is extracted.
What is hydrolysed marine collagen?
Sometimes, the collagen is then hydrolysed, which means the long, rope-like chains are broken down into shorter chains, which are easier for us to absorb through our gut and into our bloodstream.
Hydrolysation can be done chemically, using acids, or by physical methods, such as heating.
What’s left is a concentrated collagen that’s sold in the form of marine collagen powder or added to drinks, tablets, or even, coffee whitener.
Why take collagen?
The body has a remarkable ability to produce its own collagen – the protein that gives skin its bounce, elasticity and plumpness.
However, collagen synthesis (the process of combining different amino acids and components to make new collagen) declines as we age. Which is where marine collagen comes in.
Collagen is a protein that makes up a large part of our bodies – the skin, organs, bones, tendons and ligaments. It contains the three amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.
Marine collagen is a type of collagen protein that’s sourced from fish and other sea life, such as jellyfish.
What does marine collagen do?
Marine collagen is classified as being a type I collagen. Type I collagen is the most abundant form of collagen in the body and is found in tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, teeth, hair and nails.
Marine collagen helps the skin repair itself.5 The trauma to the healthy tissues causes the growth of thick, fibrous tissues at the wound site, commonly known as scar tissue.
Marine collagen is thought to give your natural collagen production support by triggering your body to ramp up its collagen synthesis.
In 2016, researchers in Russia conducted a study that found that after 8 weeks of marine collagen supplementation, skin elasticity, sebum production and skin thickness and density were ‘remarkably improved’.6
9 marine collagen benefits
Supports skin health
Research carried out on animals has found that marine collagen maintains dermal thickness on mice by promoting the number and activity of skin fibroblasts, or cells in the dermis that produce collagen.
Meanwhile, in another study, women who took a supplement that contained hydrolysed type I collagen had better supported skin with diminished appearance of lines, photo-aging, and better maintained moisture levels.7
Improves sleep quality
The amino acid, glycine, which is found in marine collagen, has been linked to having a positive impact on sleep quality.
A review of research found that having glycine before bed helps maintain satisfactory levels of self-perceived sleep quality.
Glycine is also believed to help maintain our core body temperature, which can help with getting a better night’s sleep.
Marine collagen is kind to the gut because it’s easy to digest. What’s more, its amino acid make-up, which includes glycine and glutamine, may support the tissue that lines the digestive tract.
Glycine has been connected with helping with inflammation, and glutamine is necessary for the health of the enterocytes, or epithelial cells, that line the gastrointestinal tract.
Provides workout support
Collagen is essentially a concentrated source of glycine, which helps the body produce creatine, and can help support muscle mass and exercise performance.
Marine collagen also contains proline, which acts as an antioxidant and helps monitor cell damage that may cause post-workout achiness.
According to one animal study, marine collagen enables the body to absorb calcium, phosphorus and other minerals.
This is due to its close connection with osteoblasts, the cells in our bones that synthesise and mineralise bones.
Osteoblasts secrete collagen, creating the unmineralised portion of the bone called the osteoid.
Stronger nails and hair
It’s believed that taking collagen may lead to increased hair and nail growth. However, studies are limited, especially in relation to bovine and porcine-sourced collagen.
According to one 24-week study, people who took bioactive collagen peptides reported a 12% increase in nail growth rate and a 42% decrease in the frequency of broken nails.8
Marine collagen reportedly gets to work more rapidly than bovine collagen.
This is because the molecules in type I collagen enable it to be broken into smaller pieces than other types.
Because most marine collagen products contain only type I, they’re believed to absorb into your bloodstream faster than bovine collagen, which contains collagen types I and III.9
Sustainable source of collagen
Most forms of marine collagen come from fish waste that, if it wasn’t used for marine collagen, would otherwise be discarded as a by-product of the fishing industry.
In turn, this makes marine collagen the most sustainable, eco-friendly source of collagen there is, as it’s essentially made from something that would otherwise be surplus to requirements.
Collagen supplements, marine included, may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions. Collagen provides structure within the arteries. Without enough collagen, the arteries may become weak and fragile, which may lead to the disease, atherosclerosis.
In one study, 31 healthy adults took 16g of collagen a day for 6 months. They reported a significant reduction in artery stiffness compared. Their levels of good cholesterol had also increased by an average of 6%.
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Marine collagen is classified as a type I collagen – it’s the most abundant form of collagen in the body and is found in tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, teeth, hair and nails.
Just as there are several benefits to taking bovine collagen, there are several benefits associated with taking marine collagen, ranging from skin and gut health, to improved bone strength and muscle mass.
What is the difference between collagen and marine collagen?
Fish collagen is one of the best collagen supplements for pescatarians or those who wish to avoid pork and beef-derived products.
Marine collagen comes from fish waste, which might otherwise be discarded as a by-product of the fishing industry, potentially making it the most sustainable, eco-friendly source of collagen.10
Marine collagen is also considered ‘cleaner’ than collagen from land animals, as there is a lower risk of contaminants and no chance of transmissible disease from a fish source.11,12
There are certain cultural and religious factors that could affect the suitability of bovine (cow-derived) or porcine (pig-derived) collagen.
This means marine collagen is the most consumer-friendly type across the world. As marine collagen is a type I collagen, it’s most suitable for promoting healthy skin and bones, and the best collagen powder for anti-ageing.13
Collagen from bovine and porcine sources is type II collagen – which is found in the cartilage. Therefore, bovine and porcine collagen is more suitable for people primarily concerned with joint health.
Is fish and marine collagen the same?
Yes, it’s the same thing, but just referred to by a different name. Fish and marine collagen is made from fish waste, hence the name ‘fish collagen.’ And, of course, ‘marine’ has a sea/fish connection too.
Finally, marine collagen is known for being bioavailable – which means we can absorb it into our bloodstream. This is because it has a low molecular weight and is able to pass through the gut lining.14
Marine collagen side effects
The side effects of taking marine collagen are said to be minimal. Some of the known side effects include:15
High calcium levels
According to the US National Library of Medicine, taking collagen supplements may lead to high calcium levels or hypercalcemia. Collagen supplements that come from marine sources, such as shark cartilage or shellfish, may contain high levels of calcium.
High calcium levels can lead to constipation, bone pain, fatigue, vomiting and nausea. It’s therefore not advisable to take marine collagen if you already have high calcium levels or alongside calcium supplements.
Always speak to your GP first before taking any type of supplement to make sure it’s safe for you to do so.
Some people, especially if they have a fish allergy, may find they are allergic to marine supplements that have been made from shellfish or other marine sources.
According to a study published in Allergology International, fish collagen caused an allergic reaction in a 30-year old woman with a known marine allergy, even when the supplement was produced using high-heat methods.
If you are allergic to shellfish or have another type of marine allergy, avoid taking marine collagen supplements.
Doing so could lead to side effects, such as swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body; wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing; abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, some collagen supplements can leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Both marine and bovine collagen supplements reportedly don’t taste or smell very pleasant.
Fish and marine collagen are the same thing, which have been linked to minimal side effects.
Marine collagen tends to come from fish waste and potentially contains fewer contaminants and transmissible diseases than collagen that’s made from land animals.
Until now, you may have heard of collagen, but not realised that collagen supplements can be made from both bovine and marine sources.
Marine collagen is one of the best collagen supplements for pescatarians or for people who want to avoid pork and beef-derived products.
Because it comes from fish waste, it’s potentially the most sustainable, eco-friendly source of collagen around.
As for its collagen make-up, marine collagen is a type I collagen that’s particularly good for healthy skin and bones for anti-ageing.
Last updated: 17 June 2021