Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s a component of bones, cartilage, tendons, muscles, and skin, which acts to hold us together. Beginning around age 40 the body’s collagen production begins to decline at about one percent per year. (You’re likely to see the effects as lines, wrinkles and sagging skin on the face and neck.) Collagen supplements, including pill and powder forms, are promoted to address the changes in aging skin, hair and nails resulting from decreased collagen.
Marine collagen is derived from fish skin or scales as well as from seaweed, sponges, jellyfish, and algae. It has been used medically as a dressing for skin wounds to protect against infection and promote healing and skin regrowth,
An advantage of marine collagen is that it is free of the risks of animal diseases that may be transmitted by collagen extracted from cattle and pigs. Marine collagen is widely available and is said to have better chemical and physical durability.
Some studies have shown small beneficial effects in women who ingested marine sourced collagen for weeks: improvements in skin texture, firmness and hydration, as well as enhanced skin brightness and overall appearance. No side effects, hypersensitivity, or systemic effects have been reported.
Collagen used to be available only in injectable form to improve the appearance of aging skin. You can now buy all types of collagen in capsules, powders, and a variety of edible products and drinks. They’re not effective for everyone and any changes noticed are likely to be quite modest. Some people complain that marine collagen leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and others have reported bloating and indigestion. If you have an allergy to fish, avoid marine collagen.
Apart from its effects on skin, several clinical trials have shown that collagen pills or powder supplements have led to decreases in pain and increased functioning in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. They may also help ease lower back pain, improve bone density, and help build muscle mass.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Ye-Seon Lim et al, “Marine Collagen as A Promising Biomaterial for Biomedical Applications,” Marine Drugs, August 17, 2019, doi. 10.3390/md17080467
Learn more about Dr. Weil’s partnership with Origins and how we use the science of anti-inflammation to address skin care and aging skin.