Marine or Bovine Collagen - which is the best for a supplement?

Marine or Bovine Collagen - which is the best for a supplement?

Collagen is found in many places. As a supplement, there’s usually a choice of either marine or bovine, both of which have pros and cons. So, which is right for you, marine or bovine collagen?

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a group of proteins that occur naturally in the body.(1) It is what makes our skin smooth and springy when we’re young, and helps joints to move smoothly. Unfortunately, as we get older, collagen production slows down. This means that our skin loses its elasticity and gets wrinkles, and our joints get stiffer.

There are 28 distinct types of collagen that have been identified, but the most common ones in the body are Types I, II, and III.(1) Over 90% of the collagen in the body is Type I.(2)

Type I is found in:(3)
  • bones 
  • tendons
  • ligaments

Type II is found in:(3)

  • cartilage 
  • the eye
  • the spine

Type III is found in:(3)

  • the skin
  • the walls of blood vessels
  • the fibres of tissues (like the lungs, liver, and spleen) 

Collagen functions differently to other proteins like enzymes. It actually makes up around 20-30% of all protein in living organisms!(4) 

There are a lot of uses for collagen because it is very biocompatible.(4) This means that it does not react badly when it comes into contact with different parts of the body. 

Taking collagen has shown to improve the appearance of the skin, which is why it’s so popular as a supplement.(5) This is also why it features in a lot of creams and moisturisers that claim to reduce the signs of aging and the appearance of wrinkles. Many people also use collagen supplements in order to help joint function.

Where does it come from?

The collagen used in supplements usually comes from two places - fish and cows (marine and bovine). Marine and bovine collagen are both considered safe.(6) Both sources have many benefits, but they do each have their drawbacks as well. 


What are the benefits of bovine collagen?

There are considerable benefits to using bovine collagen. 

Studies have found that bovine collagen can increase Type I and III within the body.(7) Collagen Type I and III are important because they make up the majority of the skin. As a result, they may be useful for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and aging in the skin.(7) It may help with elasticity and retaining moisture as well.(7) 

There have also been studies looking at bovine collagen’s effectiveness for joints. One study tested if it was useful against osteoarthritis. 30 people who were given 5g of bovine collagen twice a day for 13 weeks found that there was an improvement in their symptoms.(8) 

The fact that bovine collagen is a common source is also beneficial. This means that it is likely to be cheaper on average, and therefore available to a wider range of people.

Does bovine collagen have any disadvantages?

However, there are some disadvantages to using bovine as a source of collagen.

One of these is due to religion. There are many people for whom eating beef products is forbidden. This includes Hindus and Rastafarians. For others, beef products must be prepared a certain way, such as Jews and Muslims.

Because of this, bovine products could exclude many people from the benefits of collagen.

Another concern is that collagen products from beef could contain transmissible diseases.(2) One example is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), known as Mad Cow disease. This concern has been prompted by recent outbreaks. 

There is also the fact that the farming practices of cattle are often harmful to the environment. The livestock industry produces 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is a significant factor in global warming.(9) Because of this, alternatives should probably be considered.


What are marine collagen’s benefits?

Marine collagen has many benefits, some of which can help tackle the problems of bovine collagen. 

Fish and other marine organisms have a very high collagen content.(4) This means that they could increase collagen within the body, in the form of Types I and II.(10) This may help with the health of your skin and cartilage.(11)

Recent studies into the uses of marine collagen suggest that it can reduce wrinkles and protect from UV radiation.(10) UV exposure is another factor (other than aging) that damages collagen. There is also evidence that it is good at retaining water.(4) Keeping skin hydrated can reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Other benefits of marine collagen include a lower risk of carrying diseases.(4) There is also evidence that it may have a higher absorption rate than bovine collagen.(5)

Marine collagen is also acceptable for everyone to use, regardless of religion. 

There is also an environmental benefit, as biomass that is discarded during fishing could be used for collagen extraction.(4) This would mean that ‘waste’ is being reused, making the practice sustainable. The waste mainly consists of bones, skin, scales and fins, which are all good sources of collagen. 

What are the disadvantages of marine collagen?

Like bovine, marine collagen does have a few drawbacks.

As it is derived from fish and shellfish primarily, marine collagen contains a significant allergen.

There have been some reports of this source having quite a fishy taste and smell, which may put some people off.(12) Others have also reported feelings of heartburn, but this does not seem to be universal.(12)

Marine collagen may also be harder to find, and can sometimes be more expensive when you can get your hands on it. 


The protein collagen plays a very important role within the human body. Unfortunately, its production decreases with age.

Collagen can be taken from a number of places, most commonly from cows, and from fish and other marine animals.

Both bovine and marine collagen have important functions that could be beneficial in supplement form. This includes reducing UV damage and the appearance of wrinkles. 

When it comes to benefits in the body, there’s not much difference between marine and bovine collagen, but it’s up to you to decide. Which is better, marine or bovine collagen?


























This information is meant to supplement, not replace, advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

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