Marine Collagen vs. Bovine Collagen: Which is the Best Choice?
I used to drink protein shakes like it was my religion.
In the morning. After a workout. Before bed.
I made it my daily mission to nourish my body with the complete set of essential amino acids directly involved in muscle building.
One night while browsing YouTube videos (protein shaker in hand), I stumbled across a scientific video on the benefits of "non-essential" proteins.
"Non-essential proteins?", I thought to myself.
Might as well drink a near-beer instead of a crisp IPA. Or go bowling with those goofy bumper guards.
NON-essential, right? How important could they possibly be?
I learned that something called COLLAGEN was the greatest non-essential protein around, and I had been missing out on it for YEARS.
You see, collagen is actually the most abundant protein in the human body.
Most people don't get nearly enough of this non-essential protein, and if you keep reading you'll learn why you need to be taking it, and what the best source is.
And if you've ever asked yourself: "do collagen supplements really work?", this article is for you.
The Health Benefits of Collagen Protein Powder
The word “collagen” comes from the Greek word “kolla,” which means glue.
Collagen protein makes up between 25 - 30% of the total protein in the human body. You can think of it as the glue or scaffolding that holds everything together nice and tight.
It’s found in ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and skin, but collagen is also found in blood vessels, muscle, the gut, and in your teeth [1, 2, 3].
Most people associate protein with athletes and weightlifters. People who need more protein to support muscle growth and recovery. Even non-athletes can benefit from collagen, especially since collagen production naturally declines with age.
Your body makes new collagen to combat the breakdown and loss of connective tissue (that glue I was talking about earlier) from daily wear and tear. The problem is that your body starts producing less collagen as you age -- this can start as early as your twenties.
Unless you eat a bunch of connective tissue, organ meats, hooves or hides every week, you're not getting a ton of collagen in your diet.
One of the most popular collagen supplements today is hydrolyzed collagen powder. This basically means protein breakdown is already halfway there. The small peptide chains and amino acids are easily absorbed and ready to use in the body.
In fact, one study from the Journal of Nutrition revealed that hydrolyzed gelatin (essentially the "cooked" form of collagen), was absorbed intact and shown to accumulate in cartilage and connective tissue over time -- that is huge!
When you eat a fat steak or chug down your favorite whey protein shake, the proteins are first broken down into single amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins. It's only later that they're pieced together to form larger protein molecules.
We’ve written about the benefits of collagen in bone broth, but I want to take it one step further. Today I want to compare the pro’s and con’s of two very popular collagen powder supplements: beef (bovine) and fish (or marine) collagen.
Pressed for time? Feel free to skip down to the summary bullets.
Bovine Collagen 101
Bovine collagen, also known as beef collagen is the natural protein found in the cartilage, bones, and hides of cows. It's almost identical to the kind of collagen we have in our bodies, which is what makes it such a popular and effective dietary supplement.
Collagen is rich in two important non-essential amino acids:
Glycine -- the primary amino acid in collagen, necessary for building healthy DNA. It also has inhibitory processes in the brain (much like GABA) known to reduce fatigue, and improve sleep quality .
Proline / hydroxyproline -- the main substance that cells in your skin and connective tissue need to manufacture collagen .
Beef Collagen Health Benefits
Beef collagen is the most popular collagen supplement on the market. It's known for it's ability to directly increase collagen production in the body.
Most people take collagen because it can improve skin health and elasticity. Collagen can reduce cracking and help repair connective tissues like joint cartilage, bone matter, and other tendons and ligaments.
But those aren’t the only benefits of bovine collagen. In addition, numerous recent studies point to added health benefits of beef collagen including:
Better sleep -- human studies show that glycine from collagen taken before bed can increase sleep quality and combat daytime fatigue [7, 8].
Faster wound-healing -- collagen can fight off bacteria and help keep wounds sterile. It can also form a scaffold-like layer of tissue to help close a wound and cover damaged tissue. One study showed that hydrolyzed beef collagen even increased ulcer healing by 200% .
There are so many benefits to using a high quality beef collagen supplement and the studies are continuing to support the diverse health benefits of bovine collagen.
Now let's switch gears and talk about fish collagen.
Fish Collagen 101
Fish collagen, also called marine collagen is derived from the leftover scraps of fish that aren’t fit to eat or sell in stores (bones, skin, scales, etc.).
Fish collagen is popular in the beauty industry for it's ability to increase collagen production in the skin and support a glowing, youthful complexion.
Supplement companies promote the fact that fish collagen is made of smaller protein peptides as compared to beef collagen peptides.
While marketers are having a field day promoting claims of enhanced absorption and bioavailability, the research tells another story.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition examined the absorption rate of different types of collagen protein and found an absorption rate of approximately 95% across many popular hydrolyzed collagen sources .
The main indicator of absorption wasn’t the source of the collagen. It was that hydrolyzed collagen -- no matter the source -- is highly bioavailable and almost entirely absorbed into the bloodstream.
So, Which Collagen is Better, Fish or Beef?
Click around the internet for a while, you'll see some fierce debates about this question. The reality is that the evidence is clear: hydrolyzed collagen powder is the best option, no matter the source.
If you are sensitive to beef proteins, fish collagen would be the better option. Otherwise, if you're sensitive or allergic to shellfish, then bovine collagen would be the best choice.
At the end of the day...
Fish collagen and bovine collagen have identical health benefits.
Bovine collagen is highly absorbed and reasonably priced. Make sure it is grass-fed, rBGH-free, organic, with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.