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Marine or bovine collagen - which is better?

In her weekly column, Bradford West Gwillimbury licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long discusses various collagen products for good health
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Dear Nutritionist,

Hello. I read your article with great interest on the topic of super nutrient food. I have been taking collagen powder for several years but read somewhere in the past that fish collagen is superior to bovine. What is your opinion on this? It’s more expensive, but is it better? Have it most mornings with a dash of cacao and cinnamon. On the topic of cinnamon, not all are created equal it would seem and in fact I read somewhere that what we purchase in regular stores is not quite cinnamon. It would be interesting to read about that if the other ones are as beneficial to our health.

Many thanks!
Josee from Bradford

Dear Josee,

You do your health reading! And you have a great morning routine going on! Good for you! You’re absolutely right there are different forms of collagen and different types of cinnamon and some are superior to others for health purposes. What’s great about these two supplements is how easy they are to incorporate to make significant improvements in our health for two very key issues - aging related degeneration of tissues and blood sugar control. So let’s do a deep dive on collagen this week and cinnamon next week. I will also incorporate a few other super spices you’ll want to know about next week, so be sure to tune in!

What’s the hype about collagen?

For those who didn’t read the last article, let’s recap. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. And, as we age, we tend to have a more difficult time assimilating protein from our diet while at the same time we need more! This leads to protein deficiency issues like muscle wasting and neurotransmitter troubles and eventually fewer enzymes to break down foods to extract nutrients. Supplementing with proteins as we age is imperative to fostering optimal well being - but none more than collagen.

Just how important is collagen? Here’s a list of some of the tissues it is responsible for building:

  • tendons
  • ligaments
  • skin
  • muscles
  • bones

You see, collagen is the major component of connective tissue. It lines our joints and the matrix below our skin. It’s essential for providing structure and elasticity, which enables the stretch that fibres have. Think of an old elastic waistband that has lost its ability to snap back. That is what happens, in essence, to our connective fibres as we age if we don’t get enough of this protein!

Think about all the age related health issues: sore joints, easily dislocated joints, sagging skin, and lack of muscle tone. These are all related to collagen! Suffice it to say, you want to know how to use this incredible supplement.

Bovine collagen:

There are a number of collagen peptide powders on the market. Bovine is the most common and inexpensive. It’s sourced from cow hides and provides both type I and type III collagen, in addition to other amino acids. The hides are processed to extract the collagen and break it down to make it more digestible (hydrolyzed). You’ll find it labelled ‘collagen peptides’ or ‘bovine collagen peptides’. If you use this one you want to be sure to get grass fed beef, which has been treated more humanely. It’s not much more expensive, supports ethical farming, and is readily available in health food stores.

As bovine collagen contains both type I and type III collagen, it’s good for both the skin and connective tissues. Type I collagen is typically used for skin elasticity, wrinkle reduction, and hair and nail strength. Type III supports joint and bone strength, promotes gut health, and enhances muscle recovery after exertion. Let’s summarize:

Benefits of grass fed bovine collagen:

  • Easy to find in health food stores and online
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Supports sustainable, ethical farming
  • Flavourless and blendable, easy to incorporate in your diet
  • Contains both type I and type III collagen peptides for both skin and connective tissues
  • Good for those with shellfish allergies
  • Promotes using the whole animal, so very sustainable
  • Does not deplete marine stores, which are a rising environmental concern

Marine collagen:

As its name suggests, marine collagen is sourced from fish skin and scales. It is also flavourless, but where it differs is in the type of collagen it produces. It is composed mostly of type I collagen, which has a smaller particle size and is more easily absorbed by the body for those with absorption issues. Type I collagen is used to promote healthy skin, reducing wrinkles, creating elasticity in the skin, and creating healthy hair and nails.

Obviously, this is a better choice for those who want to target this issue or those who don’t want to eat red meat or beef for religious reasons. I’ve met many clients who mistakenly believe that red meat is bad for the body and the environment due to nutrition propaganda. There is a great movie called Sacred Cow that addresses this issue if you’re looking to explore contemporary information. Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz has done a lot of investigation to expose the bad science behind the anti-meat rhetoric. You can find more info about that here.

This powder is as easy to use as bovine collagen, mixing easily into coffee or shakes, with no fishy smell or taste. I encourage clients to try both for the benefits of each!

Benefits of marine collagen:

  • Flavourless and blendable, easy to incorporate in your diet
  • Contains type I collagen peptides - good for skin, hair, and nails - a beauty supplement par excellence
  • Does not contain beef for those who are opposed to beef consumption or allergic
  • Uses the parts of the fish that are typically wasted, so very sustainable
  • Smaller particle size of the collagen peptides, so good for those with digestive issues (although bovine collagen can help heal those digestive issues)

Bone broth collagen:

As I’ve said before, collagen from bones is the natural, unprocessed way to get it. It’s also very sustainable, as it uses parts of the animal that would otherwise often be wasted in the home. So instead of throwing your bones out after you enjoy your food, keep them for a good pot of soup.

I keep a bag in my freezer and add all bones that the dog doesn’t claim to it. When it gets full it gets added to a soup stock that includes knuckle, tail, neck, and foot joints from various animals.

Fish heads and bones (which are insanely inexpensive) also make an incredible addition to bone broth, or you can do one exclusively from fish bones. A broth with cartilaginous bones will not only give the body the proline and glycine (the amino acids that are precursors to collagen synthesis in the body) but it also gives the body bioavailable organic (natural, digestible) minerals. These are hands down the most essential nutrient to longevity and health! Let me repeat that. If you want optimal health - brain, nervous system, organs, bones, joints - you want to be consuming bone broth.

This is an excerpt from last week’s article, in which I explained the dilemma with minerals:

“Humans need minerals and microminerals from our diets. If we don’t we suffer many degenerative ailments, which we can see most clearly manifest in dental health, as these are the exposed bones of our bodies. When the soil is depleted of natural compost matter, as it is with industrial farming practices, the plants do not yield food that is high in mineral content. As such, we lack it in our diets. And we typically prefer our meats now cooked without the bone in and without a gravy, so we further reduce the minerals we take in.

Minerals we get from supplements only simulate real minerals. They are chelates - which are essentially minerals from rocks coated in protein to trick our bodies to absorb them. They are completely unnatural and not optimal for our health. Two ways to get natural (organic) minerals are deep spring water that has run through rocks and been imbued with the minerals and bone broth that is made of slowly simmering bones until they degrade and the mineral content from them is imparted to the soup. I leave mine simmering 2-3 days in the crock pot for this to happen, but it can be done more quickly in an instant pot. When it’s done the bones are so soft they will crumble between your fingers. At this point you strain the broth off and discard or use the rest for dog food or plant food.

Of course, if you aren’t the type to boil or slow cook bones or you dislike the taste of broth, you can use a collagen supplement instead. But I ask you, who doesn’t like the taste of broth?!

If you don’t know how to make a wonderful, rich tasting broth - or how to use it - you can send me an email. I’ll send you my calendar so you can see when I do my next Sensational Soups online cooking class. We tune in and cook broth and 2 or 3 soups together. It’s followed up with a digital cookbook of my favourite soup recipes. It’s fun, interactive, and a skill you will use for life! Soup is incredibly easy and healthful, and it uses all the stuff you would otherwise throw out at the end of the week. After this class you will know how to use up any leftovers in soup like a pro chef!

Benefits to collagen from bone broth:

  • The most inexpensive
  • The least processed form of collagen
  • The most sustainable - uses food that is otherwise largely wasted
  • Contains both type I and type III collagen if you include bovine bones
  • Contains organic minerals that work synergistically with amino acids that from collagen to create optimal health
  • Generates a very inexpensive meal to use up leftovers

Which one to choose?

If you’re struggling to know which to choose, remember, it doesn’t need to be an either or situation. I use collagen supplements as well as bone broth in a weekly pot of soup to use up whatever leftovers we have on hand. This is really the best of both worlds!

Adding any of these forms of collagen to your diet will help with anti aging and caring for your bones and connective tissue. It’s a really simple way to take your health to the next level.

Thank you for writing in, Joesee! As always, if readers have their own health questions, I welcome them! Just send me an email at [email protected]. And if you’re looking for more specific health information check out my website and sign up for my free newsletter at Upcoming events are posted in the newsletter, as well as delicious recipes that are guaranteed to be low glycemic and sugar and gluten-free to help you take control of your health.

Nonie Nutritionista