Bovine, Marine or Vegan - what’s the difference?
We now know that collagen is a fantastic nutrient in optimising our health and longevity, providing us with essential amino acids that many of our modern diets often lack.
However, one thing is for sure; not all collagen is created equal. We always ensure to source the highest quality ingredients so that you can be safe in the knowledge that you are getting the best on the market. We are aware that with many variations hitting the shelves, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed and confused with which collagen to choose. To help bring you clarity, we’ll give you the low down on the different collagen sources so you can decide which is the best option for you.
What sources of collagen are available?
Hydrolysed collagen can be obtained from many different animal sources. Studies have looked at everything from sheep, pig, chicken, duck and rabbit skin however the most preferred sources to use as a functional food or supplements are bovine (cow) or marine (fish). The collagen is usually extracted from bones, skin (hide) or scales of the animal depending on the brand and what type of collagen you are utilising.
Whilst the health benefits of collagen are similar whichever type you choose, each source has its own unique advantages depending on factors such as molecular weight of the peptide chain, solubility, and functional activity. (1).
Bovine collagen can be extracted from different sources and tissues, however here at Ancient + Brave, we only use collagen taken from the hide, rather than derived from bone or cartilage. It is theorised that collagen sourced from the hide is the most pure and ‘clean’, as this part of the animal is constantly being regenerated and regrown throughout its life.
Using the hide also means that this is an environmentally sustainable source of collagen, as the majority of the by-products from processing beef would otherwise become waste. Sourcing bovine collagen from the EU also ensures that there is a reduction in carbon footprint, with less air miles to travel as well as tight regulations on the use of antibiotics, hormones and the care of the animals.
The source of collagen also impacts the particular type found in each bovine product. Whilst many studies claim that the difference between bovine and marine collagen lies in Type of collagen it is abundant in (e.g. Type I or 3), our True Collagen product is only Type I - just like our Marine product. Importantly, Type I collagen is the most abundant and strongest type of collagen found in the human body, meaning it works the most effectively to heal and rebuild tissues.
As well as the generalised improved skin, hair and joint use, studies have found further benefits in bovine collagen which include antioxidant, antimicrobial and antihypertensive activity (2). Bovine collagen is often the choice for those looking to support their gut health as both types I and III are found in the intestinal lining and so may be beneficial in maintenance and repair (3).
Bovine collagen is also free from the top 14 major allergens making it a preferred product for those especially with shellfish or fish allergies. Ancient + Brave's True Collagen is the highest quality, 100% bovine hydrolysed collagen peptides.
One of the biggest pros to a marine based collagen is the absorbability and similarities to human collagen. Marine collagen displays a high resemblance to the amino acid profile found in human collagen. The peptide molecules are also smaller in size, which means potentially this source of collagen is absorbed up to 1.5 times more efficiently, making it slightly more bioavailable for target tissues to utilise.
The smaller particle size simply allows quicker and easier uptake and transportation of the collagen peptides to the skin, bones and joints for the production of new collagen (4). Some also believe that the smaller molecular structure of marine collagen makes it easier to digest, which may be an important factor if you have any digestive issues or have experienced any digestive discomfort with other collagen sources.
Thanks to this efficiency, marine collagen has been a favourite in the beauty industry for its impact on skin health. Rich in the amino acid hydroxyproline, an essential component of skin and other connective tissues, marine collagen has been shown in studies to improve skin elasticity hydration and reduce the appearance of wrinkles (5).
Just with the bovine collagen, marine sources are also considered environmentally sustainable. It creates even less greenhouse gas emissions and the majority of the by-products from fish production that usually becomes waste can instead be used for collagen peptide products.
From a dietary perspective, marine collagen is also a great choice for those on a pescatarian or halal diet. Our new Wild Collagen provides 100% hydrolysed collagen peptides from sustainably sourced, wild caught North Atlantic white fish.
As plants do not create their own collagen, there isn’t a vegan source of pure collagen per se - however by supplementing with collagen specific amino acids and Vitamin C for the synthesis of collagen, we can use this as a ‘vegan’ substitute.
The long amino acid chains that help to form the large collagen molecule are mainly created from just 5 key amino acids – glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, arginine and alanine. Therefore, instead of using a direct animal source of collagen peptides, good quality vegan ranges contain generous amounts of all 5 of these amino acids, from vegan or fermented sources. Vitamin C is a key cofactor for the enzymes which build new collagen molecules, therefore products which feature this as an additional extra will further support the body in the natural production of collagen.
Whilst there is yet to be robust comparative studies of vegan collagen against marine or bovine in terms of health benefits and outcomes, the key attribute of a vegan version is no doubt the environmental impact. When the vegan amino acids are sourced and produced in a sustainable way, there is an environmental benefit as well as an animal welfare advantage.
Ancient + Brave's innovative vegan Collagyn range contain the 5 main amino acids found in collagen from vegan and fermented sources, alongside beautiful botanicals, intelligent nootropics and bioactive nutraceuticals. With added vegan nutrients such as iodine, choline and vitamin D3, that are typically hard to come by in a vegan diet, this is a great vegan alternative to hydrolysed collagen.
- Associated health benefits from supplementing - all sources are very similar (improved skin health, healthy hair, joint and bone support, muscle repair)
- Easy to use within drinks
- Typically used to improve gut and joint health
- Environmentally sustainable source of collagen, as the majority of the by-products from processing becomes waste e.g. hide of the animal
- Rich in Type I collagen
- Made in the EU from EU cattle, free from antibiotics and hormones.
- Top 14 allergen free
- Preferred product for those with shellfish/fish allergies
- Displays high resemblance to human collagen
- Marine peptide molecules are generally smaller in size, potentially making them slightly more bioavailable and absorbable
- Rich in Type I collagen
- Wild Caught, not farmed
- Shown to improve skin elasticity hydration and reduce the appearance of wrinkles
- Environmentally sustainable source of collagen. Produces less greenhouse gas emissions and because the majority of the by-products of fish processing usually becomes waste - e.g. fish skin
- Suitable for pescatarians or halal
- Contains the vegan versions of the amino acids found in animal derived collagen
- Provides a source of vitamin C - a key cofactor in collagen production
How do you choose?
Ultimately the answer to this question will vary from person to person. Whilst collagen in any format is no doubt an amazing health optimising nutrient, your personal choice on whether you will benefit most from marine, bovine or vegan sourced collagen will depend on many factors including; dietary preferences, allergies, intolerances, health needs and also lifestyle.
What is important however, is to find a high quality supplement that delivers results, whilst also ticking the boxes to ensure you take it consistently and can include it easily into your day.