Marine collagen peptides promise a solution to sustainability while claiming unique benefits. In this post, I’ll give you the facts on marine collagen powder so you can decide for yourself if the reality lives up to the hype. Here are your questions that I answer in this article:
- What is marine collagen?
- What are the benefits of marine collagen?
- Is marine collagen sustainable?
- Is marine collagen safe? Does fish collagen have BMAA toxin?
- Who should take marine collagen peptides? Who shouldn’t?
What is marine collagen powder?
Marine collagen peptides are made in the same way that other collagen is. Fish scales and bones, crustaceans, and other sea creatures are boiled down to make gelatin. That gelatin is treated to create hydrolyzed collagen peptides, which are smaller proteins that your body can use more effectively than the larger proteins in gelatin.
People tend to think the benefits of marine collagen are better than other sources for a few reasons. Some of the claims I’ve seen are:
- Marine collagen is more effective for joint health and skin health than other collagen sources.
- Marine collagen is more sustainable than other collagen.
- Marine collagen is a more humane source of collagen.
However, for every “pro”, there’s a “con”. Criticism of marine collagen goes along the lines of:
- Research shows that marine collagen is not clinically better than other sources, and may in fact be worse for skin health and beauty.
- The industry supporting marine collagen is not very robust, making marine collagen more expensive, less consistent, and less available than other collagen sources.
- Marine collagen can have a characteristic “fishy” smell
- Most marine collagen is not certified sustainable
- And probably most importantly, marine collagen is rarely tested for BMAA, a toxin that might be linked to neurological conditions like ALS. Read further to learn more.
What is marine collagen good for?
Because the structure of your aquatic collagen is almost the same as other conventional collagen sources, when you look at the big picture the benefits are similar.
- Collagen is known to decrease joint pain and improve mobility in people with arthritis as well as healthy individuals with joint pain.
- Collagen improves skin moisture, decreases fine wrinkles, and may strengthen hair, skin, and nails.
- Collagen protein can help your fitness goals by improving muscle mass and helping as part of a targeted weight loss strategy.
- All types of collagen are high in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, plus some other critical amino acids. This means that collagen might be good for helping you sleep better.
The bird’s eye view is great, sure; you’ve got to know what should be expected in most people.
If you want to know more about the specifics of collagen supplementation, check out our article: Is Collagen Good for your Skin?.
And if that doesn’t quench your thirst, try out a bottle of our collagen and we’ll give you a free copy of our ebooks:
- “Collagen 101: The Ultimate Guide to Improve Skincare, Joint Health & Energy”
- “7 Drinks to Guarantee You Look, Feel & Perform Your Best”
- "The Best Strategies to Resync Your Performance & Recovery With Collagen".
But I know you came here for the details on maritime collagen. So really, is marine collagen better than pork or beef collagen?
Let’s take a look at what the science says.
One of the few studies that pits fish collagen against pork collagen head-to-head was done at a private lab in Japan. The results showed that pork-based (“porcine”) collagen increased skin moisture by 28% compared to the inactive treatment.
What about the fish collagen? It improved skin moisture too, but only by 12%.
What does this say? That fish collagen can help with your beauty goals, but porcine (pork) collagen may be more than twice as effective.
It seems that fish collagen hasn’t broken out of the cosmetic supplements research field yet, so subscribe to our channel and we’ll let you know when we see a new study that sheds light on other uses of marine collagen!
Fish collagen can help with your beauty goals, but
porcine (pork) collagen may be more than twice as effective.
Is Marine Collagen Safe?
So collagen from underwater sources may be good for skin health, but you might be wondering if it’s as safe as other collagen sources.
With mercury, pollutants, and other toxins in our waters being a concern, it’s no surprise that you might be thinking twice about reaching for any supplement that comes from the ocean.
The good news is that, since mercury builds up in that fat of fish, and since collagen supplements are made of purified protein, there’s a low risk for mercury contamination in your marine collagen supplement.
That being said, contamination in protein supplements is a common issue. Research by watchdogs ConsumerLabs and Clean Label Project show that heavy metals like mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium are almost always found in plant-based protein powders - even though they’re also just protein extracts or concentrates.
So even though there’s no conclusive evidence on the topic, I’m going to play it safe and avoid supplements like fish collagen that have a high potential of contamination.
Another toxin getting big exposure in the scientific and popular communities is beta-Methylamino-alanine, or BMAA for short. BMAA might be linked with some types of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
It’s unclear whether BMAA actually causes neurological issues, but studies show that it may play a contributing role. Regardless, as a neurotoxin it’s an important contaminant to pay attention to.
The problem? Nobody seems to be testing for BMAA in supplements that are made from seafood or sea creatures.
A side note: not all blue-green algae - the so-called superfood, spirulina - produce BMAA. If you think you need a cyanobacteria supplement, make sure it’s the best quality you can get in order to avoid BMAA in spirulina!
To learn more on this subject click here.
Although numerous studies do show that BMAA only accumulates in some ocean life and not in others (see our table below), it’s pretty darn hard to figure out where your marine collagen comes from!
BMAA in Fish, Crustaceans, and Molluscs (Lance et al. 2017)
Marine animals with little or no BMAA
May contain higher levels of BMAA
(!) indicates highest levels
Shark Cartilage (!)
If you’re worried about toxins in your marine-based supplements or side-effects of marine collagen, there’s a couple things you can do.
First, get in touch with your supplement company. If they can’t tell you where their fish comes from or if their products are third-party tested for contamination and also post-production (which is the most important), then they probably don’t have your safety in mind! It doesn’t hurt to ask, but it might hurt to not ask!
So if you’re in the market for a new supplement company - one that values transparency and quality over profits - there are ways to make sure your products are free from contamination.
Look for a third-party certification somewhere on the product label. There are a number of them, and any is better than none, but we only settle for the best.
NSF certified supplements are certified to contain what they say they do, in addition to being free from hundreds of known banned substances and contaminants. This is the best supplement certification on the market, and it’s proudly held by our Resync Recovery Blend.
The next tier of certifications includes BSCG and Informed Sport certifications. Resync’s commitment to transparency is obvious in our BSCG-certified Resync Recovery and Resync Collagen Blends.
Other certifications (which are not even close to as specific in their testing as the above companies) include Consumer Labs, Underwriter Laboratories, and USP. These are better than no testing, but are not sufficient if you’re looking for the best of the best!
Is Marine Collagen Practical?
Now let’s take a step back and look at the practical issues of using a marine collagen.
Principally, I’m concerned with price and quality. I’m willing to pay a few extra bucks for the peace of mind I get when choosing a top-shelf supplement; but I hate being swindled into buying an expensive product that doesn’t provide any real advantage over some other product.
Consistency of Marine Collagen
When it comes to marine collagen, take a look at consistency. Most marine collagen powders are made from a variety of maritime sources which makes for an inconsistent product that might not work all the time.
Being in the industry, I can tell you that even the companies that farm the fish and process the collagen don’t have strict control on the source and consistency of their product. It’s rare that you actually know what kind of fish is in your supplement, where that fish was caught, and under what conditions the collagen was produced.
With such a patchwork pipeline from fish to bottle, it’s no wonder that companies can run out of supply fairly frequently - certainly more often than a pork-, beef-, or chicken-based collagen supplement.
Sustainability of Marine Collagen
A lot of companies out there claim that fish collagen is more sustainable than collagen from mammals.
I beg to differ.
Yes, fish collagen plays a big role in the sustainability movement. Collagen is made of the leftover parts of the animal that nobody wants to eat (even though from an evolutionary perspective, perhaps we should be eating those odd and ends; I’ll save that topic for another blog).
Whether you're getting your collagen from bovine hide and hooves or from fish scales and bones, you’re supporting a sustainable industry.
If you want to make your dollar go further when it comes to environmental impact, look for a certified wild-caught or grass-fed collagen source.
The collagen in Resync comes from quality-certified and predominantly grass-fed sources, so you know your making an environmentally-friendly choice when you take Resync collagen blend.
Cost of Marine Collagen
Environmental sustainability aside, how sustainable is fish collagen for your wallet?
Marine collagen tends to be some of the more expensive collagen you can buy. Some companies try to get around this pitfall by making the serving size super small, so it looks like you’re getting a bunch of servings for a good price.
Look through the marketing ploys though and you’ll see that they’re trying to con you.
Studies show that you need at least 2.5 to 20 grams of collagen per day to get the science-backed results. How much you should take - 2.5 grams every day for a year, or 20 grams a day for 6 weeks - probably depends on how quickly you want to see results.
We recommend an in-between approach, and that’s why Resync Collagen delivers a dose 15 grams of collagen per serving, right in the sweet spot for effectiveness.
The last thing I want to point out is that marine collagen should be avoided by anyone with a fish or shellfish allergy. Seems obvious, but you won’t find any allergen issues with Resync.
What’s the Bottom Line for Marine Collagen
When it comes to marine collagen, there are a few key points to remember:
- Marine collagen is mostly type 1 collagen made from fish and shellfish.
- Marine collagen has been studied mostly for cosmetic purposes like increasing skin moisture, increasing skin collagen thickness, and decreasing fine wrinkles. One study showed that collagen from pork is more than twice as effective as fish-based collagen.
- Marine collagen can be possibly contaminated with heavy metals and neurotoxins. Always look for quality-certification when you’re looking to buy a product with high risk for contamination. However, please keep in mind that nobody in the industry tests for BMAA in any supplements made from sea creatures.
- Marine collagen is as environmentally sustainable as land-animal collagens, it’s typically more expensive, and is not suitable for people with fish and shellfish allergens.
If you want to dive deep into all the reasons why collagen is a must-have for your routine, try out a bottle of our collagen and we’ll give you a free copy of our ebooks: “The Best Strategies to Resync your Performance and Recovery with Collagen” and “7 Drinks To Change How You Feel, Look and Perform”.
If you liked this article, I know you'll love pour feature on keto, supplements, and collagen: Shocking Facts You Should Know About Keto And Collagen. And don't miss our last blog: Whey or Collagen - What's better for you?
If you want to know which collagen powder to buy, what different certifications mean, and what products return the best results, check out our buyers guide here:
But if you’re ready to do the work yourself, examining every product label in the supplement aisle, here’s our guide on how to choose the best collagen supplement:
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This content is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute the practice of any professional healthcare service, INCLUDING the giving of medical advice. No provider-patient relationship is formed. The use of this information, and the materials linked to this content is at the user's own risk. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should abide by the advice of their healthcare provider, and should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have.
Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/22/2020