I often get asked what is the difference between the various collagen products on the market. Specifically, when browsing through all the different marine collagen products available out there one must wonder how to choose the best one. Let’s think about what makes marine collagen of the highest quality and what to look for when picking the best one.
Firstly, it is the choice of raw materials that makes the difference. Most common sources are fish skins and fish scales. These can come from sustainably farmed fish or from wild caught deep sea fish. Fish can be freshwater and seawater species, tropical species living in warm waters or cold fish living in the Atlantic Ocean. While some of these aspects are a matter of personal preference, all these differences may actually lead to slight differences in composition of the collagen obtained from these.
Secondly (and more importantly), it is the processing and purification process that is absolutely crucial to the bioavailability and efficacy of the collagen in question. Collagen is a type of protein, which is basically a long chain of individual tiny building blocks (amino acids), which are arranged in a way that gives collagen its unique functionality of providing our skin, hair, nails, joints and bones their structure, elasticity, firmness, hydration and so on.
These long collagen chains need to broken down into shorter chains so they can be absorbed in our digestive tract. Collagen producers use high purity enzymes (proteases) to specifically cut long collagen chains into dipeptides (2 amino acids) and tripeptides (3 amino acids), which can be easily absorbed into our bodies and be used for targeted biological activities. What sets different collagen products on the market apart is the choice of raw material source, the choice of enzyme and the extent and level of control of the hydrolysis process.
Therefore, collagen of the highest quality delivers very high degree of purity (> 99.8% of dry matter) achieved through several steps of ionic demineralization and filtrations. This also ensures removal of all impurities, which includes heavy metals that are often found in marine animals. A good simple way for a consumer to tell if a collagen product is of high quality is to check if it is easily water-soluble and has neutral taste, smell and colour.
A good collagen product must also be able to back any claims it makes through conducting published (peer-reviewed) placebo-controlled clinical studies and human trials.