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Collagen has been hyped for years as a superstar supplement. After all, it’s the most abundant protein in your body. Made up of amino acids (primarily glycine, proline, hydroxylysine, and hydroxyproline) it gives skin, bones, tendons, and cartilage their structure.
As we age, though, our body's natural production slows down. Joints become less flexible, bones may lose density, and skin can lose elasticity. This is when supplements come in handy.
Collagen powders found in nutritional supplements are typically derived from bovine connective tissue. But what if you are living a pescatarian or green lifestyle and want a more sustainably sourced option than cow-derived collagen?
So, what is marine collagen?
Enter marine collagen, which is made from fish skin and scales.
"Many people prefer marine collagen because it is easier to take for religious purposes, has fewer issues like mad cow disease, and is better for the environment," says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., L.Ac., a Doctor of Chinese and Integrative Medicine. "It isn't a mammal, and skin and scales are perceived as waste, but this is what is used in marine collagen."
Beyond ethical, environmental, and religious reasons, it also happens to offer greater health benefits.
"Marine collagen is usually hydrolyzed or partially broken down for better digestion," she continues. "It's bioavailable, which means it's easier to assimilate and absorbs into the system easier, as well."
Trattner says it can help boost health in the following areas:
Improving wound healing. Marine collagen has shown promise with wound healing and tissue regeneration.
Mitigating signs of skin aging. When taken for at least 90 days, it's been shown to improve the appearance of aging skin, including wrinkles and elasticity. In another study, subjects who used marine collagen concluded that their skin's hydration and elasticity had significantly improved.
Reducing hair loss. Marine collagen has been proven to effectively promote hair growth and decrease hair shedding in men and women with thinning hair.
Increasing bone density. Postmenopausal women with an age-related reduction in bone mineral density experienced a favorable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation.
Decreasing joint pain. A 24-week clinical trial of male and female athletes showed improvement in joint pain, pointing to the anabolic effect on cartilage tissue.
Marine collagen is generally well-tolerated, but it may not be for everyone. "It can cause a sense of fullness and heartburn, and should not be used if allergic to fish or shellfish," says Trattner.
When considering which product to purchase, she says to look for high-quality collagen (look for the NSF/USP or UL for third-party certifications to ensure quality) that avoids the possibility of heavy metals and to make sure it is from 100-percent fish.
"Results do take a while and most people don't notice much until 6 to 12 weeks," Trattner concludes, recommending a scoop or two in your coffee or smoothies. "I usually tell patients to look at their pedicure to see if it is growing out faster."
Our favorite products
If one of your first objections to marine collagen is worry about a fishy smell or taste, you're in the clear with Great Lakes Wellness Daily Marine Collagen. It's the first collagen powder in the U.S. market to be Marine Stewardship Council Certified, comes from 100% wild-caught fish, dissolves quickly, and has 12 grams of collagen.
Doesn't wild-caught cod from the deep seas of the North Atlantic sound scrumptious? Amandean packs it right into its powder, which has 9 grams of protein. It's unflavored and easy to mix into whatever you'd like.
While unflavored might be the go-to choice, there's no reason your marine collagen can't come in fun flavors. Cofo Provisions offers Cacao and Lemon options of wild Alaskan marine collagen protein that's sustainably sourced, gluten-free, third-party tested, and it contains no refined sugar.
The sky's the limit when it comes to creating a product that does double or even triple duty, as is the case with California Gold Nutrition's CollagenUP. It contains marine-sourced peptides, plus hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C to support healthy hair, skin, nails, joints and bones.
With 6,600 mg of hydrolyzed collagen peptides per serving, Further Food Marine Collagen Peptides help reduce wrinkles, strengthen hair and nails, and strengthen bones and joints. It's odorless, packaged in a 100% post-consumer recycled jar, and sourced from wild-caught North Atlantic codfish.
To learn more about collagen, keep reading:
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