People are continually searching for how to look younger and have less joint pain. As we get older, aging and joint pain get worse and worse. Some turn to drugs and pharmaceuticals, but a better choice is turning to food and dietary supplements to help them with this goal.
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Hydrolyzed collagen is a dietary supplement that has recently gained in popularity because of its marketed benefits of reducing joint pain and giving consumers a more youthful appearance. Hydrolyzed collagen can come from four sources of animals; chickens, pigs, cows, and fish. This article will go into depth about fish collagen, which is officially called marine collagen or marine collagen peptides.
What is Marine Collagen
Marine collagen is a protein powder from fish. Marine collagen powder manufacturers will use various types of fish, such as cod, salmon, tilapia, snapper, and carp, to make collagen. The marine collagen powder comes from the scale and skin of the fish. The protein is then extracted and dried into a powder. Typically the powder is then hydrolyzed, which entails the use of enzymes to form low molecular weight peptides for easy digestion and absorption for the human body. A high quality hydrolyzed marine collagen will have an average molecular weight between 1000 and 5000 daltons, which equates to 100 and 500 amino acids linked together. In comparison, some high-quality hydrolyzed whey protein has an average molecular weight of 300 daltons. Which means the whey protein is much higher quality. High-quality marine collagen powder will be all-natural and made from pure marine sources. It will also be sustainable and the supply traceable. Because of its purity, marine collagen will be tasteless and odorless, which will make it very easy to add to beverage and consume. Hydrolyzed marine collagen manufacturers usually claim that their product is higher quality over bovine and porcine collagen. They make this claim because of marine collagen’s low molecular weight. Commonly, marine collagen will have an average molecular weight of 2500 daltons. The smaller the molecular weight, the smaller the peptide, thus the easier the absorption. The easier the absorption, the better and more effective the product is.
Marine Collagen Amino Acid Profile
Marine collagen is a useful dietary supplement to support one’s joints and skin because it is very high in the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids play an essential role concerning the skin, joints, bones, and tendons in the human body. However, hydrolyzed collagen is an incomplete protein. The digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAA) of hydrolyzed collagen is zero. Which makes it worthless to help increase muscle protein synthesis. Hydrolyzed collagen should not be used by athletes as a protein supplement.
Which Is Better Marine Collagen or Beef Collagen?
In order to determine which source of collagen is better, marine or beef, one simply needs to look at the average molecular weight (AMW) of the peptides. However, understanding molecular weight averages is essential first.
Protein is made up of amino acids that are linked together. The human body absorbs amino acids in di and tri peptide form, which means 2 (di) and 3 (tri) amino acids linked together. To make a hydrolyzed protein powder, manufacturers will add enzymes to the powder to pre-digest them down to get as close to di and tri peptides as possible. These peptides are measured by daltons. For example, 200 daltons is two amino acids linked together, and 300 daltons is 3 amino acids linked together.
A good quality marine collagen peptide powder will have an average molecular weight of about 300 daltons. Which means on average the size of the peptide is 3 amino acids long. A beef collagen peptide powder will typically have an average molecular weight between 2,000 and 5,000 daltons. Pretty big difference. Hydrolyzed marine collagen is much higher quality because the peptides are much smaller making them easier and faster to absorb.
A Japanese study proved that collagen peptides are efficiently absorbed
The graphic below shows a study where a collagen peptide powder with an average molecular weight of 246 daltons was much more efficient compared to a high MW collagen with an average molecular weight of 2,000 daltons
Therefore we can strongly state that marine collagen is better than bovine collagen when it comes to absorption, and utilization by the body.
Before I address the benefits of marine collagen, one must first understand collagen in the human body.
What Is Collagen In The Human Body
Collagen is a protein in the human body that is found in the connective tissues. It is a major protein, making up almost 30 percent of the protein in the human body. Collagen supports the strength, tightness, and integrity of the skin. As the human body ages, collagen gets weaker and weaker, given the skin its more “loose” appearance. Collagen keeps the integrity of the skin, which in turn gives it a more youthful appearance.
Distribution of Collagen
The production of collagen comes from various cells in the body. The sizable collagen triple helix then is derived from amino acids, which are the building blocks for the long chains that are bound together. To fight to age and to improve flexibility, these amino acids are then grouped together to form sturdy fibers.
Seventy percent of the human skin is made up of collagen. Hyaluronic acid traps moisture in the skin, as well as providing the blueprint to keep the skin elasticity. Collagen fiber is what keeps its integrity. Signs of aging begin to show when collagen breakdown is more significant than collagen production. This results in aging of the skin. Aging of the skin includes thinness, less moisture, and looser.
Human tendons are made up of about eighty percent collagen type 1 and proteoglycans. Ligaments are what hold the muscle to the bones. Bodybuilders and athletes need strong tendons to stay healthy and to reduce injury.
Joint cartilage is about 70% collagen. Collagen provides strength and integrity. The joints are lubricated by something called proteoglycans, which is made up of cellular building blocks called chondrocytes. Older people are less active because of joint pain. The joint pain is typically caused by years of use and abuse of eh tendons and joints in the cartilage and bones.
Believe it or not, but collagen makes up about 90% of the components of bones. The human bones are made up of calcium and other minerals and are structurally held together by collagen. Kind of like the nails holding the wood together in a house. Bones start to become weaker and more susceptible to breaking as we age because collagen production is decreasing. This means less calcium and other minerals are lower in the human body.
As the human body ages, muscles get weaker. One of these reasons is the reduction in collagen. The reduction of collagen helps to slowly but surely reduce the connective tissue that holds the muscle to the bone resulting in loss of strength and flexibility.
Collagen Loss With Aging
As the human body ages, it manufacturer less and less collagen. The body will start to produce less collagen at the age of 30. By the time 40 years old hits, level drop even more. Because collagen is so abundant in the human body and makes up a significant portion of protein found in the skin, joints, and tendons, this reduction in collagen production can affect many things.
Supplementing With Marine Collagen.
It has been claimed by marine collagen manufacturers and distributors that marine collagen can provide the following benefits.
- Support stronger finger and toenails
- thicker, stronger, and shinier hair
- improvement of the skin with an overall more youthful appearance
- Fewer skin wrinkles
- Improved skin elasticity
- Joint relief pain and improved flexibility
After reading this, one might think that hydrolyzed collagen is the fountain of youth. However, hydrolyzed collagen has yet to be proven to create a noticeable difference when supplementing with it. The studies done on hydrolyzed collagen are out there, but after reading the results, the conclusions are minimal. There are about a dozen or so studies in which hydrolyzed collagen was researched for the benefits listed above.
One of the best research publications that I have found was this.
The authors concluded that hydrolyzed collagen is an important weapon to fight against the everyday effects of aging. In the study above, improvements in the skin have been reported to be between 10 and 30%. Not overwhelmingly noticeable. Not only that but some of the studies were funded by the collagen manufacturers themselves. This has lead to many doctors being skeptical of the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen.
My main problem with hydrolyzed collagen, whether it is marine, bovine, pork, or chicken, is that it is an incomplete protein, which means that one should not treat this supplement like a protein powder like whey, casein, or egg proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or many of the essential amino acids. In the marine collagen case, it is missing tryptophan. Whey, milk, egg proteins are very high quality and rank at the top of the DIAA. They are excellent for muscle building and sports nutrition recovery because they contain all the essential amino acids, plus the BCAA’s which are the building blocks of muscle. Hydrolyzed collagen is an extremely low-quality protein for sports nutrition use and should not be combined with these protein powders or consumed with protein meals. Hydrolyzed collagen from any animal source will lower the digestibility rate of the other proteins. If one is to consider using hydrolyzed marine collagen to improve their skin and joints, then I recommend consuming with on an empty stomach or with a nonprotein meal. Never forget that hydrolyzed collagen cannot be used to increase muscle protein synthesis.
That being said, I think that hydrolyzed collagen can be a beneficial dietary supplement to help support an improvement of the skin. However, the following must be noted.
Anyone under the age of 30 will most likely not see any results in their skin appearance by supplementing with hydrolyzed marine collagen. Before the age of 30, the human body is producing enough of its own collagen, and therefore supplementation is not needed.
The older one is, the more dramatic the effects of hydrolyzed collagen will be. As the human body ages, it produces less and less collagen. That is why the skin wrinkles and gets older looking as age increases.
In order to see results with marine collagen supplement use, it must be taken for at least two months. There is absolutely no point in buying a one month supply. Most of the studies that I have found, the subjects being tested with hydrolyzed collagen use pertaining to the skin, consumed it on average for eight weeks, and some studies a little less and some studies for up to 12 weeks. If anything, marine collagen supplements should be sold and purchased in 2 month supply.
What Do I Say To Companies Selling It As A Protein Supplement for Sports Nutrition?
I cannot think of one reason whatsoever that I would choose hydrolyzed collagen over a milk protein, whey protein, egg protein, rice protein, or soy protein for that matter. Hydrolyzed Collagen is very low in BCAA’s, and it is more expensive compared to most protein sources. To the companies that are selling it as a sports nutrition supplement, quite frankly it is downright idiotical.
Buying Marine Collagen Peptide Supplements
When buying marine collagen peptides, the most important factor to look for is whether it is type 1 or type 2 collagen. If one wishes to use hydrolyzed collagen for skin improvement, then type 1 is to be utilized. For joints and tendons, type 2 should be purchased.
The next most important factor is knowing the molecular weight average. The smaller the peptides chains, the more absorbable, the faster and the quicker the absorption. From what I have been researching, a high quality hydrolyzed collagen will have an average molecular weight of about 2,500 daltons. Low quality hydrolyzed collagen powders will have an average MW of 10,000 or higher.
Finally, I recommend being over 30 years old. The older the age, the more noticeable the results will be. Under 30, the human body simply does not need hydrolyzed collagen supplementation because it already makes enough. Supplementing with it would be redundant.
How To Use
Marine collagen should be used at 10 grams per day. It should be purchased in powdered form. Buying it in capsules is not practical because that would mean one would have to swallow about 20 capsules for one serving or 10 capsules if the capsule was the size of a horse pill! The maximum to fit in one capsule is 1 gram. Remember to never combine hydrolyzed collagen with meals that contain protein or protein powder. Try to use it on an empty stomach.
Marine collagen should be taken for a duration of at least three months. I think anything shorter and one would be shortchanging themselves and most likely not see desired results. Collagen is not a drug; it is merely a food product. Therefore one must use it for a prolonged period of time to see the results. And when results are occurring they will be gradually and minimal, one won’t look 10 years younger from using collagen supplements.
Brands that sell marine collagen
Most of the brands I see online being sold on places like Amazon.com, do market that they are high quality. But that is meaningless. The supplement industry is full of scammers. I would try to look for a product in which you could call the company and talk to a rep. Another important thing to look for is the size of the unit being sold. You need at least 60, but actually, I prefer 90 servings of 10 grams each. This will last a person for 3 months. Anything under 30 servings per container is useless. Most people will not see results in under one month.
In conclusion, hydrolyzed marine collagen protein powder is a pretty good product to help to improve the skin. Use it over beef collagen because the quality is unequivocally better. It has decent research supporting it. And many research authors conclude it is effective for improving the skin. I would not call it a miracle anti-aging supplement like I have seen on the internet. That is taking it a little overboard. But I would call marine collagen a decent supplement to improve the overall appearance of the skin…if you are over 40! Under 40, don’t bother with it. And a stern warning to people that would consider this a sports nutrition protein powder. It is not. It is an incomplete protein. That is a FACT. Do not use it for protein supplementation. In fact, I get angry when I see a supplement company selling this product with advertising images of people exercising.
It should not be used for post-training recovery. Use marine collagen protein powder for the skin and joints, use it for at least 3 months, and do not combine with protein powders.
Update: April 5th, 2022. My current recommendation to purchase marine collagen is this.
Alex Rogers is a supplement manufacturing expert. He has been formulating, consulting, & manufacturing dietary supplements since 1998. Alex invented protein customization in 1998 & was the first company to allow consumers to create their own protein blends. He helped create the first supplement to contain natural follistatin, invented whey protein with egg lecithin, & recently imported the world’s first 100% hydrolyzed whey.