Collagen supplements are popular for their health and beauty benefits. But, are all sources of collagen created equal? A registered dietitian weighs in and shares their take on marine collagen v bovine collagen.
We’ll also cover collagen benefits, what to look for in a collagen supplement, and amounts and safety.
Are Marine Collagen and Bovine Collagen the Same?
Collagen is an umbrella term for the structural proteins found in humans and animals. Marine collagen is collagen that comes from the sea, while bovine collagen comes from beef sources.
Marine Collagen vs Bovine Collagen
Most collagen supplements are made with either marine or bovine collagen. While they are both in the collagen family, each source provides different types of collagen.
For context, there are 28 different types of collagen. The most common types of collagen include:
- Type Ⅰ
- Type Ⅱ
- Type Ⅲ
What Is Marine Collagen?
Marine collagen is sourced from sea animals. It was discovered only 70 years ago during a study of marine sponges. Because of its source, marine collagen is sometimes called sea collagen or fish collagen.
Type Ⅰ collagen, the most abundant type of collagen, is found in marine collagen. Benefits associated with type Ⅰ collagen include:
- Joint health
- Skin elasticity
- Skin firmness
There are also small amounts of type Ⅱ collagen present in sea collagen.
What is Bovine Collagen?
Bovine collagen is usually sourced from cows. It helps boost types Ⅰ and Ⅲ collagen. Like type Ⅰ, type Ⅲ collagen is also associated with anti-aging skin benefits.
Most collagen supplements resort to bovine as their main source of collagen. Many of these supplements claim to help support:
- Hair, skin, and nails
- Joint health
- Bone health
Foods High in Marine & Bovine Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. In fact, collagen makes up 30% of the body’s protein supply. Additionally, collagen is present in many foods.
Marine collagen is mostly found in the scales, skin, and bones of different species of fish. Examples of fish containing marine collagen include:
- Silver tarp
On the other hand, bovine collagen is found in the bones, connective tissues, cartilages, and hides of red-meat animals. Most bovine collagen comes from cows. However, other sources of bovine include:
Collagen is also found in everyday foods like:
- Bone broth
Studies suggest that consuming marine or bovine collagen can deliver a wide range of health benefits.
Collagen makes up the largest part of the skin’s connective tissue, aka, its extracellular matrix. As such, it plays a major role in maintaining the structure of the skin. It also allows for other important skin functions to occur. These functions can impact the skin’s overall health and appearance.
Further, sea collagen and bovine collagen alike behave as natural humectants. Humectants help the skin and hair retain moisture.
Here’s a list of some of the skin benefits that marine collagen and bovine collagen provide:
Bone & Joint Health
The bone matrix is also mostly collagen. Collagen provides the bones with strength and structure to support normal function and movement.
In the joints, collagen works by maintaining healthy cartilage tissue. Cartilage tissue is the flexible tissue that cushions the joints and bones – think, a shock absorber to prevent injury. The body relies on collagen to provide enough cartilage tissue to protect the joints.
Should I take marine collagen or bovine collagen?
Getting enough collagen to provide health benefits is challenging, despite its availability in common foods. Taking a dietary supplement with collagen can help.
You want to improve your skin health
Collagen loss is one of the leading reasons for visible signs of skin aging. Poor dietary habits can result in nutrient deficiencies and consequently, collagen loss. For example, certain amino acids and nutrients like copper, vitamin C, and zinc can influence your body’s ability to produce collagen.
In addition, researchers have found that collagen production can decrease by as much as 75% as a result of natural aging.
Fortunately, there’s evidence that oral supplementation of collagen peptides can help reverse collagen loss. As a result, this may help improve visible signs of aging in the skin.
There’s no major difference between taking marine collagen v bovine collagen for skin health. As long as you are reaching for a high quality supplement made with an effective dosage.
You want to support healthy bones and joints
As mentioned, collagen production slows down as we age. Consequently, the quality of the connective tissue surrounding the bones and joints can suffer. This can lead to joint and bone pain as well as risk for certain degenerative and inflammatory disorders like osteoarthritis.
Studies suggest that supplementing collagen daily may help improve common joint symptoms like stiffness and discomfort. Additionally, taking collagen may help with bone preservation as we age.
As with skin, you can reap both joint and bone benefits with either marine or bovine collagen.
Dosage & Safety
Studies have found that supplementing 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen daily is enough to deliver benefits.
Collagen supplements are typically safe for consumption with little to no known side effects. However, if you have an allergy to fish or shellfish, you should exercise caution around marine collagen.
Additionally, quality matters when it comes to picking the right collagen supplement. We suggest looking for collagen supplements made with grass-fed bovine or sustainably sourced fish.
Marine vs Bovine – Which is the better collagen?
Both marine collagen and bovine collagen deliver similar health benefits. In fact, dosage and type of collagen (i.e., Type Ⅰ, Ⅱ, etc.) play a larger role in terms of benefits than its source.
However, marine collagen tends to have an advantage over bovine collagen in terms of consumer preferences.
Some of the main reasons people prefer marine collagen include:
- Less likely to transmit infection-causing agents that are more common in bovine animals
- Less cultural and religious implications compared to bovine collagen
The Bottom Line
Marine vs bovine collagen is a common question that people face when selecting a collagen supplement. Simply put, both sources of collagen can help improve skin, joint, and bone health.
Gaby Vaca-Flores is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Santa Monica, CA. In merging her passions for nutrition and skin, Gaby created Glow+Greens to provide her readers with science-backed education + digestible wellness tips.