Not all collagen is created equal. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body.
Two of the major sources of collagen that you’ll see are bovine and marine, or cow and fish collagen. So which one is best?
When we have enough, it keeps our skin supple and elastic, while also keeping our joints strong. Unfortunately, collagen production begins to decline as we age (cue: sagging skin, wrinkles, joint pain, and other symptoms of aging). Not only that, but diets high in sugar, nutrient deficiencies, and too much sunbathing also help speed up collagen breakdown.
The Benefits of Collagen
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On the other hand, when we reduce our sugar intake and consume collagen-rich foods like bone broth, we experience a range of benefits such as:
Collagen Improves Skin Health
Consuming collagen has been shown in studies to significantly increase skin firmness and elasticity. As we know, this can do wonders for turning back the aging clock. One study found that women aged 35-55 who supplemented with collagen hydrolysate for eight weeks experienced greatly improved skin elasticity and moisture levels, as well as reduced roughness .
Collagen Helps Heal Your Gut
It turns out that patients with inflammatory bowel disease have lowered serum levels of collagen in their bodies (3). Considering that collagen helps repair the tissues along the digestive tract, it makes sense that low collagen levels would cause irritation of a weak, collagen-deficient gut lining.
Collagen Eases Joint Pain
When we’re young, a healthy amount of collagen sits between our joints, providing lubrication for easy movement. When this begins to break down, our joints become less oiled and can begin to grind together, causing pain and inflammation.
Luckily, studies show that collagen can help. One showed that collagen hydrolysate supplements helped reduce joint pain in athletes, while also stating collagen could prevent joint degeneration. Another showed that collagen supplementation helps reduce osteoarthritis pain while also acting as a promising treatment.
But the list doesn’t end there. Some other benefits of collagen include:
Bovine Collagen vs. Marine Collagen
Interestingly, not all collagen is the same. Depending on where it’s sourced from, collagen can contain different types, ranging from Type 1 to Type 10, each with its own benefits.
Two of the major sources of collagen that you’ll see in supplements are bovine and marine, or cow and fish collagen. While both have benefits, each has a different makeup of types. So which one is best?
The Benefits of Bovine Collagen
Bovine collagen, which is made of the skin, bones, and muscles of cows, is rich in Type 1 and Type 3 collagen. Both of these types are some of the most abundant in the human body, making them an excellent “fit,” if you will, for our consumption.
Type 1 and Type 3 collagen are major components of ligaments, bones, tendons, blood vessels, eyes, and skin. This makes bovine collagen excellent for maintaining bone and gut health and healing wounds, as well as promoting strong joints.
Bovine collagen is also a rich source of proline and glycine. These amino acids have a host of benefits, from reducing fatigue to repairing sun-damaged skin.
The Benefits of Marine Collagen
Marine, or fish, collagen is sourced from discarded fish bones and scales. Like bovine collagen, it is also rich in Type 1 collagen, proline, and glycine. However, studies have shown that fish collagen peptides are smaller, giving them superior bioavailability and digestibility .
Since it’s easier to digest, fish collagen is excellent if you have digestive issues or if you’re using collagen specifically to heal your gut. Not to mention, the enhanced absorption also makes it easier for your body to flood your skin and joints with more of the anti-aging and bone-building molecules.
Also, while all collagen is beneficial for your skin, fish collagen may prove to be one of the best types to take, especially if you follow a high-antioxidant Paleo diet filled with colorful fruits and veggies. One study showed that participants taking fish collagen combined with antioxidants for just two months showed remarkable improved skin elasticity, moisture, and dermal ultrasonic markers .
These results could be due to the fact that fish collagen also contains higher levels of a certain amino acid, hydroxyproline . Hydroxyproline is unique in that several of its peptides are not digested completely, which allows them to be detected in your blood. Because of this, they help stimulate collagen synthesis by activating skin, joint, and bone cells.
The Short Answer
Regardless of whether collagen is sourced from cows or fish, it’s bound to benefit your skin, joints, bones, and more. After all, studies support both forms when it comes to its benefits. However, with that being said, fish collagen appears to be superior when it comes to absorption and digestibility, which is extremely important when it comes to reaping the benefits of any type of collagen to begin with. If you’re concerned that you are sensitive to beef proteins, your best bet will be to try marine collagen.
A Note on Hydrolyzed Collagen
Another thing you should look for when purchasing collagen – whether it’s bovine or marine – is that it’s hydrolyzed. This form of collagen is broken down for even easier digestion and absorption, which is great if you have trouble digesting or breaking down proteins.
How to Get Your Daily Dose of Collagen
Collagen is virtually tasteless, making it an easy addition to dishes you already make. Some ideas on how to reap the benefits of collagen:
- Add collagen powder to soups and stews
- Create a rich bone broth from grass-fed bones
- Add a couple tablespoons of collagen powder to your smoothies
- Replace your protein powder with collagen protein powder
- Add powder to muffins, cookies, and other baked goodies
As a side note, studies show that collagen synthesis is stimulated by vitamin C, so it would be beneficial to take both collagen and vitamin C together, or increase your intake of vitamin C-rich foods (15).
Choosing a marine or bovine collagen supplement truly comes down to your personal situation and the state of your digestion. If you can’t decide which to choose, try rotating the two and see which seems to give you more benefits.
Either way, you’ll be glad you cashed in on some of the best anti-aging body “glue” around.