Marine Collagen: Have You Tried It Yet?

Marine Collagen: Have You Tried It Yet?

I’ve written before about the health benefits of collagen and how it’s the most common protein in our bodies. I try to consume collagen powder on a regular basis because we know it boosts our body’s internal collagen production. This protein is especially important for us women because of its anti-aging effects on skin, ligaments, and joints. After all, we need to be able to keep up with our active kiddos! 

You can think of collagen as the glue that helps hold your body together. Unfortunately, we make less of it as we age. When collagen gets depleted, you can end up with wrinkles, brittle hair, joint pain, and digestive issues. Since no one has time for those, supplementing with collagen can be helpful at any age.

If you didn’t know it was an option, marine collagen has some unique advantages, which I’ll cover below. It’s also an excellent option for pescatarians, those with sensitivities to poultry or beef, and those who avoid cow and pork products for religious reasons. 

This powdered supplement comes from all forms of sea life. Collagen protein can come from seafood or fish skin, scales, bones, or cartilage, and it can even come from the umbrella of a jellyfish! 

You’ll see it advertised as marine collagen peptides because it goes through a process called hydrolysis, which makes it dissolve better into other foods. It’s easy to add this building block to your favorite drinks (more on that later). 

The body has three main types of collagen. Of the three main types of cartilage, marine contains mostly type I, the same type humans have the most of. 

Unless otherwise advertised, plain collagen typically comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. Bovine collagen primarily has the amino acids glycine and proline and contains both type I and type III collagen. 

One of the main advantages of marine collagen vs. bovine is a lower risk for infections. An example would be mad cow disease. Obviously, that risk is still pretty low in your typical grass-fed beef collagen.

Another advantage is for those who are trying to decrease their animal products like red meat. We know that fish is healthier, so it makes sense that marine collagen feels to be a better source of collagen compared with cow or pig skin and bones.

Multiple studies have discovered that marine collagen performs better than bovine for various types of tissue regeneration. A 2017 study on connective tissue found that marine collagen outperformed bovine. A 2021 comparison between bovine and cod collagen found that marine collagen helped skin heal better than bovine.

Fish collagen is a kind of marine collagen. Sometimes, the names are used interchangeably but they aren’t the same. Common sources of marine collagen range from starfish to jellyfish to squid. On the other hand, fish collagen comes from cod, mackerel, tuna, salmon, and others. 

Each kind of marine life offers a different combination of both essential and non-essential amino acids. They’re all high in proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, which are great for skin health and connective tissues. The extra hydroxyproline is unique to marine collagen, which may be what makes it so great for skin care.

In particular, marine collagen is more bioavailable than other forms. That means it’s easier for the body to absorb and use. Some think this might be because marine collagen has smaller particles. The smaller size helps it pass through the intestinal barrier more easily, delivering those antioxidants and amino acids to the bloodstream, and ultimately to where we need them most—whether that’s plumping up aging skin or healing an injury. 

A 2020 study found that marine collagen accelerated wound healing after C-sections. I wish I had taken it after my C-section to reduce scarring. 

I should note that your body needs vitamin C to use collagen. Make sure you are getting enough of it from food, or talk to your health practitioner about a supplement if your levels are low. 

Anytime I can do something to help the environment, I try to. I want my kids and future generations to enjoy our beautiful planet. 

Marine collagen may be more sustainable than other forms of collagen. Fish harvesting companies usually discard the bones, skin, head, and scales. These “waste products” are perfect for making marine collagen. 

I think it’s awesome to turn what was previously waste into a wellness-boosting supplement. The less trash we make, the better. This also helps keep the price of it low since it’s repurposing what would otherwise be thrown away.

Don’t take this type of collagen if you have a fish or shellfish allergy or sensitivity. You may still react and find that you’re doing more harm than good with this supplement. As always, talk to your doctor about it. 

Even though there aren’t any known side effects, experts disagree on the safety of marine collagen during pregnancy, so I don’t recommend it. Hopefully, more research will come out and prove it safe. 

In addition to the hydroxyproline, one of the biggest draws to using marine and fish collagen is that it helps me rotate my supplements (preventing sensitivities from using the same substances day after day) but still gives me the benefits of collagen almost every day. It may help with skin elasticity and hydration—who doesn’t want nice skin and healthy hair? 

Sometimes when I buy shrimp, I’ll devein it myself and use the shells to make fish broth. (See my recipe for bone broth here.) Since doing this is rather time-intensive, I don’t do it often. It’s easy to just throw the hydrolyzed powder into some of my regular recipes. As a mom, this healthy shortcut is a big win in my book. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t smell or taste fishy. It’s actually odorless and mostly flavorless. If you eat a spoonful of it plain, you might get a hint of fish, but if you add it to a smoothie or hot drink, you don’t get any fishy flavor profiles.

The nice thing about marine collagen is that it’s so versatile. It works well in both hot and cold beverages. It’s quick and easy to mix collagen peptides into my favorite drinks.

I like to add a scoop or two of it to these cold recipes (since gelatin doesn’t mix in well): 

I like to dump it into these hot drinks too:

One of my friends adds collagen to her kids’ oatmeal to sneak in a protein boost. Here are more ideas on how I use collagen hydrolysate. 

Just as you’d look for grass-fed bovine collagen, when you want to buy a marine collagen supplement, look for wild-caught. Factory farms typically treat fish with antibiotics and other unsavory chemicals, many of which are contaminated by toxic or heavy metals. Wild-caught fish are less likely to have contaminants like heavy metals. In case you’re wondering why, here are the problems with factory-farmed fish.

You’ll also want to make sure that it’s non-GMO. When catching fish in the wild, you can’t certify them as organic. So, even though I prefer products with the organic certification, it’s not possible with this supplement. 

And as always, check the label to make sure that there aren’t any hidden fillers or additives. Most will advertise being gluten-free but always check the backside. 

My favorite brand of marine collagen is Vital Proteins because they offer both an unflavored marine collagen powder and a capsule form. Use whatever is convenient for you. Vital Proteins powders are made from the scales of fresh, Non-GMO Project Verified, wild-caught whitefish off the coast of Alaska.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Tim Jackson. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Rehabilitation and a Functional Medicine provider. He holds a B.S. Degree in Health Science and Chemistry from Wake Forest University. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you tried marine or fish collagen yet? How will you add it to your health routine?

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