In this article:
- Health benefits of collagen
- What goes into the best collagen supplements?
- Closer look at marine collagen
- What to look for when buying marine collagen
Collagen is the glue that holds all of our connective tissues together and keeps us looking and feeling forever young. The trouble is that our bodies can only produce and preserve so much and a lack of protein has some undesirable effects. As we age, our collagen production begins to slow causing fine lines to form on our skin, joint pain to flare up, and hair growth to slow considerably. By adding collagen into your lineup of dietary supplements, it helps to boost your body's natural collagen synthesis and fight against the many signs and pains of aging.
Different collagen products have different purported benefits - some say they support joint health, some are specifically for improving skin hydration, some are for anti-aging, building muscle, bone health, etc. The unique and varied benefits of collagen usually come down to the types of collagen found in each supplement. For instance, of all ~30 types of collagen that have been identified, type I is best for improving the texture, tightness, and tone of your skin. It is also great for growing and strengthening your hair and nails. With that said, sometimes labels are more of a marketing gimmick than an accurate representation of benefits. While type I is great for supporting your skin health, it's also a multitasker that helps to strengthen your blood vessels, helps wounds to heal faster, supports lean muscle growth. No matter what your desired effect is, check the label to see what types of collagen it includes. You can learn more about the "big three" types of collagen and all of their benefits here:
The source and processing of collagen protein is also a key to choosing the highest quality and most effective supplement. The two most common types of collagen are marine and bovine collagen. Bovine collagen is derived from the hides of cows. Bovine collagen peptides should always be sourced from grass-fed cows for a high quality, cleaner, more eco-friendly supplement. Marine collagen, also called fish collagen, is derived from fish skin. Though the benefits of bovine collagen peptides and marine collagen are very similar, we consider marine collagen to be the best collagen powder on the market for a few reasons. Firstly, marine collagen contains higher amounts of the essential amino acid called glycine. This is what makes it especially effective for improving skin elasticity and giving your skin its youthful glow. Marine collagen is also more bioavailable, meaning it’s more effectively absorbed and used within the body, due to its lower molecular size. It's also more flexible when it comes to dietary restrictions and is a popular choice for those following paleo-friendly, pescatarian, keto, gluten-free or low-fat diets.
Lastly, there are a couple of sneaky ways that some brands try to sell you on lower-quality collagen supplements. When sourced sustainably from wild-caught fish, hydrolyzed marine collagen should be snow white and tasteless. When this isn't the case, like if the brand uses farmed fish, they'll often use artificial flavorings to mask its taste and alter its color. To ensure that you're not doing more harm than good by adding marine collagen to your diet, make sure that the brand you choose clearly states that it is non-GMO, flavorless, free of preservatives, and derived from wild-caught fish. The shorter the ingredients list, the better
Now that you're a super savvy marine collagen shopper, let's compare some of the biggest name brands in the marine collagen game! Quick disclaimer, we will be evaluating other brands based on the above criteria against our own premium marine collagen supplement.
Vital Proteins is one of the biggest names in collagen. You’re certain to see them everywhere online and in retail stores. Even Jennifer Aniston is involved. Just look at their product line - they have a collagen for skin hydration, skin complexion, and skin glow, collagen that uses whey protein, collagen that tasted like collagen, collagen water, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. For our purposes, we'll evaluate Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Powder. Based on their website, we know that it is flavorless, uses wild-caught fish, and has a one item ingredient list - we like it! What we're not so crazy about is the price tag. For one 7.8 oz container, it'll run at least $36. Compared to other brands, this leaves more bang for your buck to be desired. Popularity comes at a price.
Physician's Choice is another popular choice for supplements of all kinds. However, one area that they are lacking in terms of product variety is collagen protein powder. The single collagen product that they have available is their Collagen Peptides Powder. This supplement is not a marine collagen variety, it is derived from cows. The main concern with bovine collagen is its bioavailability. This brand formulates their collagen powder with special enzymes to aid in digestion which very well may help! However, bovine collagen can only take you so far. Rather than choosing bovine collagen, hydrolyzed marine collagen is more bioavailable from the get-go and can also be paired with a healthy diet with lots of enzymes and vitamin C to take it even further.
Ancient Nutrition is known for its multi-collagen products. Multi-collagen powders contain multiple sources of collagen, like bovine, marine, and eggshell in order to combine several types in one container. They do not have a formula containing only marine collagen peptides, which is worrisome because collagen sourced from chicken is neither the cleanest nor most ethical option. Multi-collagens can be tempting at the surface level, but they don’t always make for the most effective supplement. In some cases, subpar or cheaper collagen sources can also be used as "fillers" rather than using 100% pure collagen peptides from a single source.
Great Lakes does not have a marine collagen supplement, so we will evaluate their Collagen Hydrolysate, a flavorless bovine collagen. One of the biggest pros of their bovine collagen supplement is that it is simple, clean, and unflavored. They claim that it does not congeal in cold liquid so it can be added to whatever recipe you like. It is also kosher, paleo-friendly, keto-certified and sourced from grass-fed cows. For a bovine collagen supplement, it ticks almost every box on our list although we do want to give a word of caution that they characterize it as “nearly tasteless”. No matter what the brand is, bovine collagen just isn’t as bioavailable or sustainable as marine collagen. Additionally, the price point at $2.00 an oz is a bit jarring compared to $0.78 per oz of Amandean’s grass fed collagen peptides.
Amandean's Premium Marine Collagen Peptides are sustainably derived from wild-caught North Atlantic cod and are the sole ingredient in every container. Not only does this ensure that there is no risk of added hormones or antibiotics from farmed fish, it also supports sustainable fishing practices and makes use of the parts of fish that would otherwise go to waste.
Our hydrolyzed marine collagen is up to 1.5x more bioavailable than bovine collagen due to a smaller molecular weight. Additionally, it is completely flavorless, 100% soluble in both hot & cold liquids, rigorously tested at a cGMP facility, and contains no added sweeteners, sugars, soy, or artificial flavorings. It’s a good option for pescatarian, keto, paleo, and high protein diets and can easily be added to many healthy recipes. Currently, one 17.6 oz jar costs $41. They also come in bundles of perfectly portioned individual stick packs to grab and use on the go.
Finding the best marine collagen supplement doesn't have to be hard! Just a few grams of collagen can be the perfect supplement to your skincare, workout, recovery, or wellness routine. Whatever brand you choose, remember that the simpler, the better. All the goodness is in the collagen, clean and pure!