When people buy collagen supplements, most don’t bother to inspect the label. The supplement says it contains collagen, and that’s good enough for them. What many people don’t realize, though, is that there’s no universal source of collagen.
The protein is found in every mammal as well as in numerous fish species. Collagen’s health benefits are pretty consistent across all sources, but they’re different in other ways that might influence your decision.
Consider these differences before picking out a collagen supplement.
Different animal sources of collagen
There are many different sources of collagen, but the main ones are bovine and marine. Bovine collagen is derived from cows. The animals are harvested for meat, then manufacturers extract collagen from the cow hides. They target this part of the body because collagen is the main component in mammal skin.
The extraction process is easier for bovine collagen. Manufacturers can produce collagen supplements from cows in large quantities. Due to the high production volume, bovine collagen is more widely available on the market. It’s more common than marine collagen, which also makes it significantly cheaper.
Marine collagen comes from cold water fish like salmon. Manufacturers extract collagen from the fish’s scales and skin. The fish used for marine collagen supplements are either wild caught or sustainably raised. Marine collagen is a bit less common because it has a longer, more involved extraction process. As a result, marine collagen supplements tend to be more expensive.
While marine collagen is pricier, it’s also better for the environment. Cold water fish are ethically sourced, making them a more sustainable option than traditional farming practices for red meat. Supplement companies also take collagen from parts of the fish that are usually thrown away. Marine collagen reduces animal waste, which is a good selling point for consumers who want to buy eco-friendly products.
Allergies and dietary restrictions
People are rarely allergic to bovine and marine collagen. However, bovine collagen may be easier on the stomach because its molecular structure is more similar to collagen naturally found in humans. Individuals with shellfish allergies are better off sticking to bovine collagen because they’re less likely to have a reaction.
On the other hand, some people may prefer marine collagen due to dietary restrictions. For instance, many people have cut red meat out of their diets in pursuit of eating leaner proteins. Anyone trying to avoid red meat for health reasons should also choose cold water fish as their source of collagen. Marine collagen is also the preferred source for pescatarians.
Bioavailability of different collagens
Bioavailability refers to how fast a nutrient can get broken down and absorbed into the body. Bovine collagen has a lower bioavailability than marine sources because the peptides contain larger particles. This is mostly due to the fact that cows are much larger than cold water fish. Low bioavailability isn’t necessarily bad—it just means the person taking bovine collagen will have to wait longer to see the associated health benefits.
Marine collagen has a much higher bioavailability. Fish are quite small, and so are their molecular structures. Your digestive system will have a much easier time breaking marine collagen into readily absorbed peptides. Since marine collagen is absorbed a lot faster, you may see positive changes in your health sooner than bovine collagen.
Health benefits of all collagen sources
Despite their differences, cows and fish are both great sources of collagen. Collagen provides the same health benefits, regardless of whether it came from a cow or fish. Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy from taking either bovine or marine collagen supplements.
- Age-defying skin: Collagen is the main protein found in skin. As we age, our bodies slow down collagen production. Signs of aging start to develop, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and sagging skin. People who take collagen supplements may have increased skin elasticity and moisture retention. The result is smooth, plump skin that defies the aging process.
- Strong hair and nails: Collagen is also a key building block in your hair and nails. The protein guards against breakage, brittleness and split ends. Taking collagen supplements on a regular basis can support thick hair growth and added shine.
- Muscle growth and recovery: People looking to build more muscle should make collagen supplements part of their workout regimen. Collagen aids post-workout recovery by sending amino acids to muscle tissue. Over time, you may notice faster muscle gains and less soreness after exercising.
The choice between bovine and marine collagen is entirely up to you. One is just as healthy as the other, so it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. Consider factors like your budget, health goals and dietary restrictions. No matter where you get it from, collagen is a win for your overall health!