The Differences Between Marine and Bovine Collagen

For some years, experts have debated about which type of collagen is better. What does scientific evidence say about marine and bovine collagen? What are the differences between them? Read on to find out!
The Differences Between Marine and Bovine Collagen

Last update: 15 December, 2022

In recent years, the marketing of collagen-based food supplements has made people wonder which variety is better, marine or bovine collagen. However, there are several controversies and studies about this. Do you know the main differences between marine and bovine collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Also, it’s in a wide variety of animals. According to a review published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, it’s one of the main components of the skin, bones, joints, and blood vessels.

Today, it’s a popular dietary supplement that has health benefits. It’s even popular in the cosmetic industry, as it appears to delay the onset of aging.

But what type of collagen do experts recommend?

Marine and bovine collagen

You can find several collagen-based supplements on the market, among which marine and bovine collagen stand out. Experts attribute a series of properties to them, such as that they could help keep the skin or the joints healthy. And although some studies back this up, a debate has sparked over which type is best.

It’s common to see advertisements that claim that marine collagen “is more digestible than bovine collagen”. In turn, experts suggest that it has almost miraculous health effects.

However, you need to know that all collagens are similar and, when digested, the body barely notices the difference.

In other words, marine collagen doesn’t have a better biological value, digestion, and properties than bovine collagen. What matters in both cases is their degree of hydrolysis, which is what allows the body to absorb it.

The hydrolyzing process is also called “fragmentation” or “pre-digestion” and consists of the elimination of fats and unwanted materials to get only amino acids (which is what the body uses). Regardless of its source, the only collagen that’s been sufficiently hydrolyzed manages to reach the tissues that use it as a nutrient.

A collagen molecule.
Collagen is a protein made up of amino acids. For collagen to reach the tissues to fulfill its function, it must be hydrolyzed.

Are there any differences between marine collagen and bovine collagen?

The main difference between these two collagen supplements is their source. While marine collagen comes from fish skin, bones, and scales, bovine collagen comes from the bones and skins of livestock, such as cows, bison, or buffalo.

Also, another characteristic that sets them apart is the environments of their sources, as one is from the sea and the other is from the land. Experts believe that the environment the animals live in could affect the quality of the supplement. Although more evidence is required, some studies have concluded this.

For example, research published in the medical journal Marine Drugs shows that marine collagen increases collagen types I and II in the body. Therefore, it’s beneficial for skin and cartilage health.

Meanwhile, a study that was published in the journal Nutrients indicates that bovine collagen increases collagen types I and type III. These could help prevent wrinkles, promote elasticity, and increase skin moisture. Some studies also state that it could benefit the joints.

The price, a considerable difference

A difference that’s worth mentioning between the two types of collagen is the price. As we mentioned above, marketing is behind “the enhancement” of the benefits of marine collagen supplements. This has also affected their price.

As it’s a relatively new product and several studies on it have been published, it costs more than bovine collagen. In fact, some companies offer very expensive options, even when they come from inexpensive species.

But as we commented above, beyond its origin (marine or terrestrial), the important thing is to make sure that the product is hydrolyzed so that your body can digest it. Therefore, if you’re going to buy these supplements, you need to verify their degree of hydrolysis before making a decision.

There’s no such thing as plant-based collagen

Collagen is a protein in animals and humans. It isn’t true that some plants contain it, not even a bare minimum. The idea that we could obtain collagen from foods such as seaweed has spread.

But nothing could be further from the truth, as these plant sources don’t contain collagen because they don’t need it. Instead, they have jelly-like, fibrous structures (similar to collagen) that the industry has dubbed “plant-based collagen”. However, they don’t contain the properties of the protein.

Seaweed on a dish.
So-called plant-based collagen doesn’t exist. For example, seaweed neither produce nor need it.

What to remember about marine and bovine collagen

Experts have extensively studied marine and bovine collagen supplements due to their potential health benefits. Particularly, they’ve concluded that they’re beneficial for skin and joint health. However, there isn’t enough evidence to ensure that one type is better than the other.

Generally speaking, collagen protein, regardless of its source, contains the same amino acids in similar proportions. The important thing is to make sure that the collagen is hydrolyzed to ensure good digestion and bioavailability.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Avila Rodríguez MI, Rodríguez Barroso LG, Sánchez ML. Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Feb;17(1):20-26. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12450. Epub 2017 Nov 16. PMID: 29144022.
  • Vollmer DL, West VA, Lephart ED. Enhancing Skin Health: By Oral Administration of Natural Compounds and Minerals with Implications to the Dermal Microbiome. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(10):3059. Published 2018 Oct 7. doi:10.3390/ijms19103059
  • León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed Collagen-Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019;24(22):4031. Published 2019 Nov 7. doi:10.3390/molecules24224031
  • Silva TH, Moreira-Silva J, Marques AL, Domingues A, Bayon Y, Reis RL. Marine origin collagens and its potential applications. Mar Drugs. 2014;12(12):5881-5901. Published 2014 Dec 5. doi:10.3390/md12125881
  • Song H, Zhang S, Zhang L, Li B. Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1209. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111209
  • Liu J, Zhang B, Song S, et al. Bovine collagen peptides compounds promote the proliferation and differentiation of MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblasts. PLoS One. 2014;9(6):e99920. Published 2014 Jun 13. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099920
  • Hoyer B, Bernhardt A, Heinemann S, Stachel I, Meyer M, Gelinsky M. Biomimetically mineralized salmon collagen scaffolds for application in bone tissue engineering. Biomacromolecules. 2012 Apr 9;13(4):1059-66. doi: 10.1021/bm201776r. Epub 2012 Mar 16. PMID: 22364350.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.