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Fish Collagen: The Most Bioavailable Collagen Source Yet?

An image of fish at market

If you’ve been keeping up with our posts, then you know we’re big fans of collagen. We are huge advocates of whipping up your own broth using those beef or chicken bones that you would’ve otherwise discarded or fed to Fido.

Did you know, though, that fish collagen is also a thing? Those fish bones are just as jam-packed with nutrients, and this article we’ll explore why you’ll want to add fish collagen to your daily collagen repertoire.

What’s So Good About Fish Collagen?

Fish collagen (also known as “marine collagen”), is collagen derived from the bones and scales of fish. It’s not present in the meat, so don’t expect to get collagen from that can of StarKist tuna.

Here’s the kicker about fish collagen: it has a higher bioavailability rate – about 1.5 times higher – compared to other collagen sources. A good bioavailability rate is crucial as it determines the amount of nutrient that is able to survive the journey through your intestinal tracts and liver. In short, more of the collagen makes it into your bloodstream intact with minimal molecular breakdown. Fish collagen has higher bioavailability due to the smaller size of the collagen peptides compared to bovine or porcine collagen.

Fish scales and bones are actually a rich source of Type I collagen, the most abundant collagen type in the human body.

In our past post on the different types of collagen, we talk more about the differences in collagen types and their respective benefits. You’ll learn all about Type I and why it’s a nutritional powerhouse.

In a nutshell, Type 1 collagen has been scientifically proven to:

  • Prevent wrinkly skin by promoting skin moisture and elasticity. This was proven in a 2015 clinical study where subjects supplemented with Type I. Fish collagen, by the way, is also sold in topical form as an anti-aging cream.
  • Regenerate bone health. This study showed that fish collagen plays a vital role in bone mineralization and the synthesis of bone cells.
  • Stabilize blood sugar. This is due to the high glycine content in Type I. Studies reveal a link between low glycine levels and Type II diabetes. For diabetics or those at risk, we recommend a supplement stack of fish collagen and Sensolin.
  • Enhance cognitive ability. It’s not an old wives’ tale that fish soup is good for the brain. Fish broth is high in iodine, an element that is a proven brain booster. Iodine deficiency has been linked to brain and thyroid imbalance.
  • Fight off bacterial infections. Fish collagen contains collagen peptides called collagencin, which inhibits the spread of certain bacteria. In fact, scientists are developing a form of skin wound dressing made from collagencin to prevent infection of an open wound.

How to Get More Fish Collagen in Your Diet

The aforementioned benefits present a huge positive for fish lovers. However, as mentioned, you won’t find collagen in the meat. If you prepare your own fish, then we recommend leaving the scales intact. Unbeknownst to some people, the scales are edible.

Just as you can make bone broth soup with beef and chicken bones, you can do the same with fish bones. Have you ever heard of fish head soup? It’s a delicacy in some parts of Latin America and East Asia. Aside from the head, much of the bones are also intact. If you slow cook the fish, the bones also become soft enough where they can be consumed.

Top off the broth with some clam juice, your choice of veggies, and you have a seafood stew fit for a seafarer.

Don’t like seafood? No problem. Fish collagen is also available in capsule form. Look for a product specifically labeled “fish collagen,” “marine collagen,” or “Type I collagen.”

Does the Type of Fish Matter?

Most fish varieties contain some degree of collagen. However, we recommend fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. This includes fatty fish such as wild salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Like Type I, omega-3s also promote healthy skin cell production. Most fatty fishes provide a hefty source of zinc as well. Studies prove this mineral is beneficial for collagen synthesis.

Finally, regardless of the fish type, we recommend wild-caught sources, which is the fish version of grass-fed beef. Farm-raised fish may contain toxins like polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). This endocrine disruptor is known to damage cellular health and may nullify much of the health benefits.

What About Jellyfish or Shellfish Collagen?

Be careful if you purchase collagen labeled as “marine collagen.” Read the label to be sure the collagen is from fish and not from jellyfish or shellfish. Collagen from these sources as well as large fish, such as shark, also contain collagen with larger peptide chains. The result is less bioavailability.

Remember, the whole point of taking fish collagen is its superior absorption. In addition, these sources also contain mega doses of calcium. While this is no doubt a beneficial mineral, taking too much of it has been linked to hypercalcemia, according to this study.

Fish Is Undeniably Good for You

The takeaway of this post? Fish in its entirety – that includes the bones and scales – is good for you. We’re not saying you have to make fish a part of your daily diet if you don’t like seafood, but the benefits of fish collagen are undeniable given the extensive scientific studies. If tuna sandwiches and salmon steaks just aren’t your thing, then at least consider fish collagen via supplementation.

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Ryan Tronier

As managing editor for UMZU, Ryan Tronier leads a talented team of writers, producers and fitness experts to create content that connects with passionate audiences.
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