Marine Collagen Peptides - A Popular New Supplement?
Written by Patrick McCarthy
Collagen peptides have swiftly risen to the forefront of the supplement and functional food industry. Many people are interested in their potential benefits, but lack the knowledge of their application and potential value.
To make these highly popular supplements, the abundant protein collagen is split apart or ‘snipped’ (hydrolysed) with the use of enzymes to form isolated peptides. These are simply smaller chains of amino acids that are more readily absorbed by the body.
In recent years, mindfulness around the environmental impact of our dietary behaviours has increased exponentially. People are becoming more invested in the not only the production methods of their food, but also the raw material they are being sourced from.
This has paved the way for marine collagen, which is produced using the discarded regions (biomass) of fish (cartilage and bones) to form a powder of similar potency to the others (Source: NCBI).
But is it as effective as beef collagen? Let’s dive in!
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant form of protein in our bodies. There are many different types(up to 28 types) which are classified depending on their structure. All collagen types are known as structural proteins and key components of our cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, skin and nails. The most common type in the human body is type I (bone, tendon, ligaments), but we also have considerable amounts of type II (cartilage) and type III (skin, blood vessels) among others (Source: NCBI).
However, unlike other dietary proteins that we consume, collagen is not a high-quality protein source for the synthesis of new muscle tissue. This is because it does not contain all the essential amino acids in appreciable amounts, notably tryptophan, methionine, cystine and tyrosine (Source: Scielo). This suboptimal amino acid profile limits the capacity for it to activate the muscle building process known as protein synthesis.
Collagen consumed as a supplement, is simply an external source of the structural protein that can help contribute to the regeneration of damaged skin, joint and tendon/ligamentous injuries and more. It is well-known that as we age, our internal production of collagen progressively decreases, which is one of the reasons for wrinkles forming in the skin.
How is marine collagen more sustainable?
As mentioned, marine collagen is extracted from the ground-down skin and cartilage of fish. These are the regions that are typically a by-product of the fish agriculture industry and would be otherwise discarded. To simplify it, by consuming marine collagen, you are simply putting to good use, sections of the fish that was previously disposed of as waste. It has been estimated that up to 70% of fish is discarded as waste (Source: NCBI) and only 25% used as the food product (Source: NCBI).
As a very important addition, it is well known that fish species do not harbour or carry infections or diseases, that cattle and pigs can be subject to. A very important and painful example is the Foot and Mouth disease that was transmitted through tainted beef products several years ago (Source: NCBI). Collagen peptides derived from bovine sources can be subject to the feeding and grazing conditions of the cow from which it is derived, which is an important consideration.
What are the benefits of marine collagen?
The research is not exhaustive as of yet for marine collagen compared to other sources e.g. bovine, porcine. However, with that said, because it is mainly type I collagen (the most abundant in the human body) that is extracted from marine sources, some benefits are quite well agreed upon and assumed.
Collagen supplementation is believed to have antioxidant properties, lipid-lowering activity, connective tissue benefits, and may help to promote skin and wound healing. When our blood vessels are injured, collagen is exposed, and attracts cells called platelets from the blood which causes blood clotting. This helps to prevent excessive bleeding when the damage occurs. In addition, collagen also plays a key role in supporting the functions of blood vessels.
Marine collagen for skin Vitality
Just like our ligaments and tendons, collagen is a major component in the skin. It is believed that external collagen consumption can promote the internal production of collagen from structures known as fibroblasts in the skin.
In a large study review the dermatological benefits of collagen were shown. The review included 11 studies and reported that:
“Preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging.”
“Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. Collagen supplementation is generally safe with no reported adverse events.”
Another study combined marine collagen peptides with antioxidants in 41 volunteers experiencing visible signs of skin ageing. Using ultrasounds, after two months of supplementation there were improvements in the dermal thickness and density of the dermis (skin; Source: NCBI).
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Marine collagen and joint Pain
Collagen is the main component of all tendons, ligaments and our articular (joint) cartilage. This sparked the hypothesis that collagen supplementation may help to reduce joint pain, especially in individuals susceptible to it e.g. injured athletes, osteoarthritic patients.
In one high-quality study, 140 participants that consumed 10g of type I collagen (main type in marine collagen) each day for 6 months reported reduced joint pain compared to the placebo groups (Source: NCBI).
Marine collagen and bone health
As mentioned, one of the most widely-studied effect of collagen supplements is the role it may play in the protection of bone. This is especially important for female athletes and the elderly who are at an elevated risk of arthritis and osteoporosis.
A recent systematic review concluded that “Collagen hydrolysate has a positive therapeutic role in osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: potentially increasing bone mineral density, having a protective effect on articular cartilage and, primarily, providing symptomatic relief of pain.”
Similarly, a study showed that 10g each day of type I collagen supplementation relieved symptoms of osteoarthritis while the placebo yielded no effects.
In a large-scale review, it was concluded that type I collagen hydrolysate (hydrolysed collagen peptides) consumed at dosages of 12g appeared to have beneficial effects on osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, positively impacting bone mineral density and cartilage (Source: Scielo).
Hopefully from this article, you have learned that marine collagen is a sustainable alternative to bovine or porcine sources. It is formulated from the by-products and discarded products of the fish industry, making it the environmentally-friendly choice.
In terms of safety, collagen supplements fall into the category of ‘nutraceuticals’ which nutritional products that may have a pharmaceutical action in the body, and do not pose any risks (Source: Scielo). They are also considered nutricosmetics for their role in skincare. Collagen is in fact, regarded as safe for human consumption with a low-risk of adverse reactions.
Research of supplemental collagen peptides has shown that it can help to improve skin hydration and structure, reduce joint pain and symptoms of injury in athletes among other benefits.