Collagen, in its many varied forms, is suddenly everywhere.
You can’t open a women’s magazine without seeing an ad for the newest collagen cream or collagen supplement. And men’s publications aren’t much better with collagen powders vying with tubs of casein and whey protein powder for attention.
So unless you’ve been living on a WiFi-less mountain top, you’ve probably come across marine collagen. But what is it? How does it differ from porcine or bovine collagen powder? And should you be taking it?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein and us humans are packed full of it. Our muscles, bones, ligaments, skin and even the lining of our digestive systems are composed largely of collagen.
This is all great if we are young, healthy and eating the right diet to support our bodies natural collagen production.
But sadly, as we age, our ability to make the collagen our bodies need to maintain our youthful vigour lessens. The result can be anything from struggling to get out of bed in the morning due to stiff joints to the horror of increased wrinkles and sagging skin every time we look in the mirror!
And since trying finding a way to keep out collagen levels up could help with a diverse range of ailments that we associate with ageing (as well as hopefully helping us to maintain our looks), collagen is suddenly very big business.
See here for a more in-depth article on all things collagen.
A collagen powder is one way in which you can try to boost your dwindling natural levels of this vital protein. Collagen supplements are sourced from (almost exclusively) animal parts as the collagen protein found in their bodies is highly compatible with the proteins found in ours. Cow and pig skin and connective tissue are common ingredients.
What is Marine Collagen?
So collagen powders are derived from animal sources. There are brands of so-called vegan collagen powder on the market, but this is a controversial topic – and you can read more about why ‘vegan’ collagen is a divisive issue here, if interested.
Marine collagen powder is one such source. It is collagen peptides harvested from fish skins, scales and bones.
In a marine collagen powder, the protein from the fish skins etc has been broken down into more manageable – and hopefully easily digestible – short chain molecules. These are called collagen peptides or hydrolysed collagen.
Is Marine Collagen Good For You?
This is the 6 million dollar question. Or more accurately, the 6.34 billion dollars by 2027 question – as that is the estimated value of the collagen supplement market in 5 years time!
Whether or not taking a collagen powder of any type is beneficial to your health is still open to debate. There is research that supports the idea, and other research which throws doubt on the theory. One thing that is clear is that more rigorous, peer-reviewed tests need to be done before we have a definite answer.
Having said that, the one thing that seems pretty definite is that taking a dose of collagen peptides each morning won’t harm your health in any way. And it may well be boosting your natural collagen production, so why not give it a go and see if you notice a change for the better?
What is the Difference Between Marine Collagen and Bovine Collagen?
The most obvious difference is that they come from contrasting sources:
- Marine Collagen – Comes from fish. Usually from the skins, scales and bones of deep water fish.
- Bovine Collagen – Comes from cattle. Usually from the skin, bones and cartilage of cows.
In terms of what the type of collagen protein that they contain, there is evidence that marine collagen supplements are rich in Type I and II collagen (found in your eyes and cartilage – amongst other things) whilst bovine collagen powder is a great source of Type I and III collagen (the predominate protein in your skin).
Is Marine Collagen Better Than Bovine Collagen?
As stated above, there is a slight difference in the composition of marine and bovine collagen which may affect which one you decide to take.
However, there are other factors that you might like to consider:
- Religious Considerations – Not all faiths consume either cow or pig products and so collagen powder derived from these sources are unacceptable.
- Ethical Considerations – Many of us are becoming more conscious of where our food – and dietary supplements – come from and are thinking more about both the ethical dilemma of intensively farming animals and the environmental costs of such practices. For many, marine collagen is considered a more sustainable product. Plus fish skins and scales are generally discarded unused and extracting marine collagen from them is a good way of utilising what would be a wasted resource.
Why Can’t You Take Marine Collagen Whilst Pregnant?
This is a twofold concern:
- Fish-Based Products can be Allergens. Many people have allergies to fish and marine collagen can be a trigger.
- Risk of Heavy Metals – Some fish are being pulled from our oceans registering worrying levels of heavy metals, like Mercury.
Our advice is that you talk to the healthcare professional that is assisting you through your pregnancy.
If you check the packaging on your chosen marine collagen supplement they will find that some brands of marine collagen powder claim that they are safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. Always seek medical advice before taking anything.
Some Problems with Marine Collagen
The first one is that marine collagen is still the product of a living creature and so isn’t suitable for those following a plant-based diet.
Ethical concerns aside, some people don’t like the taste of marine collagen.
Personally, I’ve experimented with a number of brands and I recommend taking whatever collagen powder you decide on stirred into your morning cup of coffee or tea.
Alternatively, add it to a protein smoothie or at least a glass of juice. I have sensitive taste buds and appreciate that very few collagen supplements are truly ‘tasteless’, no matter what the manufacturers claim!
Please see here for more information, prices and current availability of marine collagen brands.