Marine collagen has gained popularity in the health and wellness industry as a clean and sustainable alternative to other forms of collagen, and numerous studies have legitimized its efficacy. However, you might still be confused about whether this nutrient is right for you. What are the health benefits and what does the research say? Keep reading to learn more!
As the body’s principal protein found in skin, bones, cartilage and connective tissues, collagen is vital to the health of our body. However, our levels of this building block begin to decline each year as we age, starting at approximately age 20 (1). Luckily, marine collagen has been shown to be an effective way to replenish this nutrient with age. Studies show that large amounts of collagen peptides are found in the bloodstream following the ingestion of marine collagen (2). These collagen peptides are then converted to the specific amino acids needed to produce collagen, which is distributed throughout the body. From our joints and bones to our skin, hair and nails, many of our body’s tissues rely on collagen for optimal health.
So what are the specific health benefits of consuming marine collagen exactly? Let’s dive in.
As the body’s largest organ, the skin can be a good indicator of overall health and clear, radiant skin helps us to put our best face forward (quite literally!). Studies have shown that regular consumption of marine collagen can be an effective way to improve skin appearance and health, while a lack of collagen can contribute to dryness and wrinkles (3)(4). Collagen is especially useful in the prevention of dry skin because of its ability to improve the skin’s moisture barrier. One clinical study showed that collagen was effective in boosting the hydration, density, elasticity and structure of the skin (5).
Research has also shown that hydrolyzed collagen supplementation is effective in reducing wrinkles by helping the body to produce its own collagen (6). In one study, 69 women aged 35-55 years experienced a significant reduction in eye wrinkles after consuming hydrolyzed collagen for 8 weeks (7).
Cellulite is a normal and healthy feature of many women (and sometimes even men’s) bodies. However, if it is something you are concerned about, regular consumption of collagen can help to minimize the appearance of cellulite. In a 6-month study, 105 women ages 24-50 years old saw a significant decrease in cellulite after ingesting collagen daily (8).
Research shows that marine collagen may benefit hair health and growth. Who doesn’t want a thicker, more luscious head of hair? Collagen is abundant in the amino acid proline, which is needed for the production of keratin, the structural building block of hair and nails. Keritin's function is to smooth the hair cuticle to give it a healthy and shiny appearance and to produce new hair follicles that are required for growth. Research shows that oxidative stress caused by environmental and lifestyle factors—such as pollution, smoking, poor dietary choices and alcohol—can have a negative effect on hair follicles, which determine hair growth, texture and thickness (9). The consumption of marine collagen may help to improve follicle health, as it has been shown to reduce oxidative stress by promoting radical-scavenging activity (10). Collagen consumption could also improve hair pigment, as oxidative stress has been linked to hair greying (10).
Regular collagen consumption could help to grow and strengthen your nails by providing a rich source of the amino acids needed to produce keratin, the structural building block of nails. Adequate amounts of keratin in the body can help to keep nails strong and healthy. In a clinical study, 25 participants experienced increased nail growth, improved brittle nails and a decrease in the frequency of broken nails after ingesting collagen peptides for 24 weeks (11).
Physical activity is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, but a lifetime of movement can take a toll on our joints as we age. Fortunately, research shows that the consumption of hydrolyzed collagen can have a protective effect on joints and can even regenerate cartilage (12)(13). According to Health Canada, consuming hydrolyzed collagen daily can help to reduce joint pain relating to osteoarthritis (14). It is understood that collagen's positive effect on joint pain is associated with its high glycine content, which has been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis (15). In one clinical study, 97 athletes showed an improvement in joint pain after consuming collagen for 24 weeks (16).
Maintaining strong bones as we age is crucial to the prevention of osteoporosis. Bones are primarily made of collagen, which provides them with structure and support. Research has shown that the consumption of collagen has a positive influence on bone composition, strength and bone mineral density (17), and positive therapeutic effect on osteoporosis (18). In a study of 66 postmenopausal women, daily intake of specific collagen peptides was shown to increase the bone mineral density of the spine and femoral neck, a bone that connects the hip and thigh (19).
If your goal is to build or maintain muscle mass, marine collagen could be a helpful supplement to mix into your fitness routine. Research has shown that marine collagen can help to enhance muscle mass and strength, following resistance strength training (20). In a research study, 53 elderly men with sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) experienced a significant increase in muscle strength after 3 months of supplementing with collagen peptides (21).
A study of 31 healthy adults found that consuming 16 g of collagen daily for six months could contribute to the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease by reducing artery stiffness and the level of low-density lipoproteins throughout the body (22). Research has shown that arterial stiffness is a predictor of cardiovascular disease because it is challenging for the heart to pump blood throughout the body once the arteries have lost their flexibility (23). Low-density lipoproteins (otherwise known as 'bad' cholesterol) can cause cardiovascular issues as it carries cholesterol from the liver to the arteries, creating a build-up of plaque in the arterial wall. This build-up is known as atherosclerosis, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.
Now that you know everything that marine collagen has to offer, you are probably eager to reap the benefits! That being said, it’s always important to consider your specific health needs when making dietary changes. Although there are no known drawbacks to supplementing with collagen, it is recommended that you consult your main healthcare provider before consuming marine collagen if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have liver or kidney disease or have been instructed to follow a low protein diet.