Marine vs. Grass-Fed Collagen: Is There a Difference Between Them?

Written by James Parsons on July 16th, 2021 in Blogging

0:00 Listen to audio podcast

Marine vs Grass Fed Collagen

One of the biggest concerns about using a supplement to bolster your overall health is deciding on a brand and which supplement will be the most effective. As health supplements become more popular and see more and more use, brand awareness and, more importantly, the content of the supplements become more critical than ever. When it comes to collagen supplements, the main difference comes in the form of the supplement’s origin and content to determine how effective it will be for you.

Two of the most common forms of these collagen supplements are the grass-fed and marine variants. With this article, we hope to enlighten you on which of these supplements will best suit your needs and help determine the difference between them (if there is one).

First, let’s define collagen and get into the differences between each collagen type.

What Are The Different Forms of Collagen?

As it exists within the human body, collagen is the primary structural protein used for the connective tissues in our bodies. Collagen serves as one of the central components of body parts such as bones, tendons, skin, muscles, and ligaments and is even a component of our teeth. Twenty-eight different kinds of collagen are confirmed, and each fits into one of two groups; fibrillar or non-fibrillar.

Fibrillar collagen provides the body with three-dimensional frameworks for tissue and organs. Non-fibrillar collagen forms triple-helical monomeric units to modify fibers and form filaments.

The different collagens, in general, can be categorized as follows:

Forms of Collagen

Fibrillar Collagens:

  • Type I
  • Type II
  • Type III
  • Type V
  • Type XI

Non-Fibrillar Collagens

Non-Fibrillar Collagens:

  • FACIT Collagens (Type IX, Type XII, Type XIV, Type XIX, and Type XXI)
  • Short Chain Collagens (Type VIII and Type X)
  • Basement Membrane Collagen (Type IV)
  • Multiplexin Collagens (Type XV and Type XVIII)
  • MACIT Collagens (Type XIII and Type XVII)
  • Microfibril Forming Collagens (Type VI)
  • Anchoring Fibril Collagens (Type VII)

When it comes to the primary five forms of collagens, the fibrillar variants, the first three can be directly traced to grass-fed bovine and marine collagen. Type I collagen is the most common collagen as it composes 90% of the collagen in our bodies. Type I collagen is found in the skin, bones, and walls of blood vessels and the connective tissues, and fibrous cartilage. A study in 2008 found that collagen (Type I) is located in scar tissue, suggesting that this variation of collagen plays a role in healing wounds and blood clotting.

Tissues From Tendons

Type II collagen is found in the more elastic cartilage in the body and is ideal for promoting joint health. Unlike type I collagen injections, which cater to the patient’s vanity in most cases, Type II collagen injections serve a higher purpose for people’s health. The only similarity Type II collagen has to Type I collagen is that they are both fibrillar collagens. Some studies have determined that Type II collagen injections can be used to treat and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. One hundred fifty subjects were given Type II collagen for arthritic treatments, with only two becoming nauseous as a result. Out of the subject pool, 136 showed signs of reduced inflammation in the afflicted joints.

Type III collagen is primarily for the enhancement of muscle structure and organs. Type III collagen is the second most prevalent collagen in the human body after Type I. Type III collagen is also located in the intestines and has led to the belief that Type III collagen helps with intestinal health. However, it is largely unproven. Type III collagen is the catalyst for the synthesis of blood platelets, which means the 3rd type of collagen vital to the body’s ability to clot blood.

Collagen is derived from the Greek word “kólla,” which translates to “glue.” A fitting term seeing as collagen works to keep the body and genetics together. However, after the age of twenty-five, the human body begins declining in its production of collagen. To this end, people tend to seek out a supplement that allows them to reap the benefits of collagen even when their body fails to keep producing it. These supplements, however, come in more than one variety.

Bovine (Grass-Fed) Collagen

Bovine collagen, as you might expect, is most common in species of bovine mammals. Though it is naturally produced in humans, the collagen in supplements is harvested from cows, pigs, yak, antelope, bison, and water buffalo. Most collagen supplements are extracted from cows and are created by boiling the cow bones in water. The collagen is then extracted before being dried, powdered, measured, sorted into capsules, and packaged.

Bovine Collagen

With all the different variations of collagen that exist globally, the use of bovine collagen can still be remarkably beneficial for your health.

  • Bovine collagen is known to bolster the concentration and benefit of Type I and Type III collagen in your body. Types I and III collagen are responsible for the health and moisture of your skin, making bovine collagen ideal for when you are trying to repair the integrity and aesthetics of your skin.
  • The use of collagen on the skin can be very effective if you are interested in improving the appearance and elasticity of your skin. An 8-week study was conducted on mice found that bovine supplements provided significant improvements to the skin’s elasticity, antioxidant activity, and bolstering collagen content and reinforcing collagen fibers. However, the studies found that the supplements were not effective in moisturizing the skin.
  • The benefits associated with bovine collagen are not strictly aesthetic and may serve a much more practical purpose. There has been a link between bovine collagen and the alleviation of symptoms of osteoarthritis, a common variation of arthritis that disintegrates the protective cartilage of your bones. A test-tube study conducted on mice found that bovine collagen increased the formation and mineralization of their bones which might be beneficial in combatting osteoarthritis. Later, a 13-week research study observed 30 osteoarthritis patients with symptoms affecting their knees. Those that ingested 5 grams of bovine collagen twice daily saw marked improvement and alleviation of their symptoms.
  • Another potential health benefit of bovine collagen is its potential to avert possible bone loss. Studies were conducted in animal trials that found collagen diminished the risk of bone loss, further proving the benefits of collagen in fighting osteoporosis. A 12-week study was conducted on rats given bovine collagen supplements that highlighted a significantly reduced rate of bone loss.

There is no recognized dosage from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when using bovine collagen. The physical act of taking the supplements usually entails that you ingest hydrolyzed collagen in pill form or mix a powder in with beverages like juice, water, or coffee. One study found that low heat doesn’t affect collagen, so you can even take the powdered form and bake it into pastries if you’re feeling creative. Some companies even sell collagen gummies and candies.

Marine Collagen

Marine collagen is another form of collagen harvested from the skin of fish rather than any mammalian species.

Salmon Scales

Traditionally, marine collagen is harvested from the scales of cold-water fish like salmon.

  • While marine collagen is beneficial to Type I collagen levels like the bovine collagen, it reinforces Type II collagen levels rather than Type III. However, the benefits of these two collagen types are remarkably similar to those in bovine collagen, resulting in pretty similar benefits. Marine collagen is considered to be fantastic for the health of the skin, much like bovine collagen.
  • Unlike bovine collagen, marine collagen also provides benefits to digestive health. If you enjoy your snacks or turn to food in times of stress, you risk damaging the lining of your rather delicate intestines. Once damaged, it exposes you to potential diseases that would wreak havoc on your intestines. Fortunately, there is evidence that marine collagen can help you overcome this risk due to the amino acids it provides. Marine collagen is an excellent source of glycine and glutamine, both of which contribute to the digestive tract lining. Glycine is notable for maintaining inflammation, which helps to cope with diseases and conditions that inflame the gut.
  • The real benefit of marine collagen is its bioavailability. A study suggests that marine collagen could be up to 1.5 times more effective at absorption, allowing it to be more readily accessed by the body and bolster the benefits enjoyed due to the supplements. Marine collagen also has fewer inflammatory effects when compared to bovine grass-fed collagens.
  • The primary issue with studies into marine collagen is that its use is still very new, meaning the research associated with it is relatively sparse. The research that does exist corroborates marine collagen’s benefits for bone tissue regeneration, protection from UV radiation, and even optimized healing for wounds.

Marine collagen is a potentially invaluable weapon for improving your health, though it is a bit more expensive to get your hands on than bovine collagen.

Side Effects and Allergies

As with any supplement or medication, collagen is not immune to potential adverse side effects. When it comes to collagen, the side effects are less prominent due to it being a naturally occurring substance in our bodies. There have been reported instances of collage supplements inducing mild digestive symptoms and leaving an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth. There have also been concerns raised that the overstimulation of collagen production and levels can exacerbate oxidative stress and promote reactive oxygen species.

Doctor Results

Though these adverse effects haven’t been fully confirmed in their research, the concerns are still valid.

There are also more mundane issues to keep on the lookout for collagen supplements for support. For example, if you are allergic to fish, taking marine collagen supplements could negatively impact your health. Not to mention the fact that many collagen supplements have not been reviewed or submitted to safety tests before being authorized for sale. There are also no known tests conducted to determine the excess effect collagen might have on pregnant or nursing women, meaning that cautious use of the supplements is a significant measure when you fall into these categories. This same lack of knowledge applies to collagen’s effect on children as well.

Ultimately, the potential side effects of collagen supplements are minor, though the research into these supplements is in its infancy. When this is the case, your best bet is to exercise caution and consult your physician when you have concerns about your supplement’s effects on you, especially with sensitive individuals.

Is There A Difference Between Them?

The uses of collagen supplements are mainly untested as their use is a relatively new sensation. When it comes to using them to revitalize your skin or reinforce your bones and joints, the more popular supplement in circulation today will tend to be either bovine or marine-based. However, it all comes down to which you should use.

Difference Between Collagen

Bovine collagen is the most heavily researched at this juncture and offers a wide array of potentially incredible benefits for your overall health. It provides the potential to help bring back a youthful sheen to your skin and help protect against diseases that would negatively impact the integrity of your bones. Marine collagen is still undergoing tests but already demonstrates similar benefits to grass-fed bovine collagen. Its main advantage over the former is that the body is better at absorbing and assimilating it. It also provides intestinal health benefits that might help if you, like us, enjoy your snacks on the spicy end of the spectrum.

Ultimately, it is nearly impossible to identify one as superior to the other given the relative lack of overall knowledge we possess on the benefits of collagen, especially the newer marine variant.

For the time being, it is a matter of trial and error on a case-by-case basis until more concrete evidence is found. The studies that suggest that marine collagen has higher bioavailability are promising, as they would be better absorbed into your bloodstream.

The best thing to do in the meantime is to take these supplements with caution and keep in touch with your physician.

Do you have any questions for us on marine or bovine collagen? Which do you prefer between the two, or which type of collagen are you thinking of trying? Please share your experiences and thoughts with us in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you, and we reply to every comment that we receive. 

Written by James Parsons

James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.