Is it safe to take marine collagen?
Did you know that collagen makes up 25% - 35% of the protein mass in your body? It is the most abundant protein in your skin, muscles, connective tissues, nails, joints, bones, corneas, blood vessels, and teeth. The body has a natural ability to produce collagen, making it a non-vegan compound. There is a lot of buzz surrounding collagen in beauty and dietary supplement markets. You have probably used these supplements, most of which are derived from cow and pig skins. The enthusiasm over their health benefits isn’t waning anytime soon. However, like any other product from health brands, collagen is a subject of debate over what's the best source. Among the most sought-after forms is marine collagen, whose popularity has been growing over the years. You might be wondering what marine collagen is, why it is so special, and whether it is safe to take. Read on to find answers.
As implied by the name, marine collagen is derived from sea-dwelling sources, particularly wild-caught cod. It may also be harvested from aquaculture fish. Broken down from fish bones, skin, and scales, it offers the most bioavailable collagen. It has no added flavour or smell, making it a perfect add-in to soups and smoothies.
Wild-caught fish is sourced from natural habitats, say, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Aquaculture fish, on the other hand, comes from cultivated fisheries or fish farms. The two sources are integral, and using both brings perfect balance. Consuming marine collagen peptides can rev up your collagen level. During its metabolism, it is synthesised into amino acids which are distributed throughout the body through the bloodstream.
Understanding the different types of collagen
Twenty-eight forms of collagen exist in the human body, but four are the most abundant:
Type I: The most common type found in tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, vasculature, and organs
Type II: Occurs in the cartilage, joints, and intervertebral discs
Type III: A major constituent of reticular fibres in blood vessels and skin
Type IV: Found in the eye lens, inner ear, and kidneys
Collagen supplements differ significantly but they are usually a combination of types I, II, and III. Some are specific to types I and II. Marine collagen falls under type I.
Benefits of marine collagen
With age, your body generates less collagen and a poor diet can diminish the levels as well. Without sufficient collagen, you might develop weak muscles, gut issues, wrinkles, tight tendons and ligaments, and joint pain.
Traditionally, collagen peptides have provided health benefits to humans for centuries. Increasing evidence shows that they support skin and hair growth; joint and bone health, and are highly recommended for sports recovery. Some studies have shown that collagen promotes cutaneous anti-ageing by signalling the skin to increase the production of natural collagen.
Increased collagen levels can help delay various signs of ageing including wrinkles, sagging skin, and joint issues. Many people today avoid animal products, especially red meat and they prefer fish because it is healthier. So, fish collagen is a better option for people who cannot use other forms of collagen due to religious concerns or fear of certain ailments like mad cow disease. Again, marine collagen is more sustainable considering it is harvested from unused raw materials like fish skins. In essence, fish-based collagen is both economical and eco-friendly.
How to use marine collagen
It comes mostly in liquid form, pill, or powder, and you can take it separately or mix it with food. It is highly soluble and safe to add to drinks and baked goods. Some companies have also developed creams made with fish collagen. When you take marine collagen, it triggers the release of types I and II which are more prominent in cartilage, vertebral discs, connective tissues, and the skin.
Are there side effects of marine collagen?
Generally, collagen from marine sources is well tolerated by the body with no adverse side effects reported so far. If consumed orally, collagen peptides are safe in doses up to 10g.
However, people who are allergic to fish, eggs, and shellfish should avoid marine collagen. Some people feel bloated and nauseous after taking any fish-related supplements. Others experience heartburn and feel as if their stomachs are overly full. However, these minor effects are not directly related to the marine collagen itself. It appears that these supplements are generally safe for the majority of people. But there are some potential side effects to know.
Unpleasant taste: Even though marine collagen is unflavoured, some people claim that it has a bad taste while others say it has no discernible taste
Hypersensitivity: This occurs in people who are allergic to fish
Reduced appetite: Low appetite can be a bad or a good thing depending on the individual taking the supplement. Collagen increases satiety, which may affect your appetite for food in the next few hours.
Hypercalcemia: Due to high levels of calcium in marine collagen sourced from shark cartilage, you might develop weak bones. Avoid taking marine collagen alongside calcium supplements.
What to look for in fish collagen supplements
If you are a conscious consumer, you want to consider not just the quality and safety standards of marine collagen. The sustainability of the product is equally important. When it comes to collagen sourced from ocean fish, it is good to know the practices behind it. Is the process properly managed to safeguard the environment?
Sustainable fishing keeps the fish population at a productive level while respecting the rest of the ecosystems. If you want to know whether a product is from a clean source, look for suppliers with the MSC label which is a seal of certified and sustainable fishing practices.
The amount of collagen needed to boost collagen levels in the body is 10g. Most of the products in the market hardly meet this standard. Make sure you’re only buying hydrolysed marine collagen so it can be absorbed and assimilated into the body effectively.
Lastly, check the brand to see if it’s trusted and verified by third parties. You want to buy a product that is free of toxins and that the ingredients listed are accurate.
Is taking marine collagen every day good for you?
Yes. You can safely take marine collagen every day for tangible outcomes. Always follow the directions and dosage information. If you are on medication, talk to your doctor before using marine collagen. Doctors usually recommend limiting protein intake for patients with kidney disease, so you might have to cut down on the number of grams of marine collagen for daily consumption.
When you start taking marine collagen, you naturally desire to see results as soon as possible. However, it may take a while before it works because collagen turnover is a bit slow. With consistent dosage, you might realise changes in 8 – 12 weeks, which is the average time the skin requires to repair and rejuvenate.
You can keep taking collagen supplements as long as you want - in fact, the longer the better! Studies have shown that it can take 12 months of daily supplementation to see the benefits for bone density start to materialise. If you stop taking collagen, the benefits you have experienced from your supplement may start to disappear within 3 months. You can continue taking collagen indefinitely and it's just as safe as consuming any other protein.
Can marine collagen cause weight gain?
Note that there are 50 calories and zero sugars in 14 grams of collagen peptide. Suppose you take 10g of marine collagen every day - this will amount to 35.71 calories. It is very unlikely that you will gain weight unless you consume 300 - 500 calories per day. Remember that excess intake of proteins can cause weight gain, but taking marine collagen in the recommended dose may not increase your body mass.
Will it cause constipation or diarrhoea?
Some people fear that collagen may lead to constipation. But if you constipate, it may be a result of low levels of fibre and water in your diet and has nothing to do with consuming marine collagen. Just like eating any type of protein, your body requires enough water for smooth digestion. Always take sufficient water and a fibre-rich diet to keep your digestive health intact.
There’s also another misconception that marine collagen causes diarrhoea. Before you believe such myths, ask yourself if your body is reacting to other ingredients. As mentioned earlier, the side effects are mild but there's no evidence that marine collagen disrupts bowel movements.
Can marine collagen replace a fish dish?
No. Marine collagen supplements are not the same as whole fish meals. A whole fish contains higher amounts of collagen because it abounds in bones, skin, head, scales, cartilage, and entrails. Similarly, a whole mackerel or sardine will generally give you more collagen than a fish fillet.
The best way to give your body diverse nutrients is by eating whole foods to support your joints and skin. There is no scientific study showing that marine collagen is superior to a balanced diet or quality protein.
It is a good idea to supplement your daily diet with marine collagen. Many studies have proven that it is safe for human consumption. Adding marine collagen to your diet is a great way to boost natural collagen but you must buy from reputable brands. Also, make sure it is in the hydrolysed form, which is already broken down and ready for absorption. Don’t forget to compare the volume of collagen peptides per serving of powder vs. capsule because they are not created the same.
Side effects can be negligible or mild, depending on your body. All in all, different people react differently to collagen supplements. In case of unpleasant effects, discontinue immediately and consult a doctor.