Sea Cucumber: Diving Deep into the Ocean’s Best-Kept Secret
WHY is ‘bio-active’ replacing cosmetic buzzwords like ‘retinol’, ‘cold-pressed’, ‘stem cell’, or ‘*insert unnecessarily long scientific chemical formula name here*’.
WHY is marine collagen THE ingredient in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and nutrition, and taking the spotlight off of the former favorite, bovine collagen?
And WHY is the simple sea cucumber the star of this entire show?
Collagen is a complex microprotein that makes up 75-80% of the body’s largest organ, SKIN. As the main component, it is responsible for our skin’s overall health, structure, appearance and age.
However, did you know that, as the years go by, this collagen rapidly degrades; taking our skins elasticity, renewal process, hydration, turgidity (bounce) and overall youthfulness with it. (*sigh*, yep, we’re talking AGEING.)
So, it is no surprise that many nutraceutical and cosmeceutical labels out there are exploring the realm of alternative collagens available to us in other organisms to combat this very natural, but oh-so undesirable, skin-aging phenomena. Applying or ingesting collagen is incredibly safe due to collagens weak immunogenicity, which means our bodies are very unlikely to reject it.
Commonly, the convenience of obtaining terrestrial mammalian collagen like commercial bovine (cow) gelatine/collagen (CBC) makes this an easy go-to. However, when labels spout how incredible their individual products containing this ingredient are, they all too often skip over the nitty gritty details that make land-based collagen something to AVOID…
"Recently, the pathological risk of the mammalian collagen is pinpointed in term of transmitted diseases. It has been shown that bioactive natural organic materials originated from mammalian products such as collagen cannot be used for manufacturing of scaffold, because of severe inflectional problems including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), avian and swine influenzas, and tooth-and-mouth disease in bovine, pig, and buffalo occur all over the world"
(Subhan et al. 2015)
The following table compares mammalian collagen to marine collagen, highlighting the positive differences working in marine collagens favour:
|1||High melting point||Low melting point|
|2||High viscosity solution||Low melting point|
|3||Difficult extraction (Low availability)||Easily available (Large amount)|
|4||Soluble in an organic solvent||Soluble in water|
|5||Risk of transmitted diseases||No risk of transmitted diseases|
|6||Low contents of GLX and ALA with hight PRO||High contents of GLX and ALA with low PRO*|
What’s more, further research into the mechanical resistance of CBC compared to sea-cucumber collagen, including the strength, thickness and stiffness, shows that CBC is significantly weaker than sea-cucumber collagen. This otherwise means that extracting CBC to use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or medical procedures significantly deteriorates its effectiveness, while sea-cucumber collagen maintains its efficacy (Ferrario et al., 2017). Who would have thought that the simple sea cucumber could be stronger than an ox?!
Upping the Anti-
As sea-cucumbers remain on the shallow and exposed seabed, they are subject to extreme weather and tide changes. This then results in their production of a unique adaptive response to these shifts called ‘secondary active metabolites’, which are only found in plants, bacteria, fungi and a few other primitive marine organisms.
Alongside primary metabolites that play functional roles, these secondary bioactive metabolites play important adaptive and defensive roles. Marine organisms like the sea cucumber produce secondary metabolites in order to defend themselves against predators and the harsh sea-floor environment. In turn, this defense mechanism infuses the sea cucumber with every bioactive ‘anti-XYZ’ agent you can think of including; anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour… and the list is still growing as research progresses.
The Amazing Aminos
This potency of amino acids in sea cucumbers has also been discovered to be remarkably abundant with the added plus of having far more PRO (proline) than fish or jellyfish collagen, and a lot more than mammalian collagen.
Found within marine collagen and full of skin-loving properties, these amino acids include;
- GLX (Glutamic Acid) – containing many benefits including collagen boosting and free radical scavenging antioxidants.
- ALA (Alanine) - unique anti-aging abilities which combine with epidermal skin cells to fill in creases (yep, wrinkles!)
- PRO (proline) - radically improves skin-elasticity by increasing skin cell turnover and collagen production.
- ARG (arginine) – enhances the immunity and strength of skin cells.
The primary amino acids, MAAs (Mycosporine-like Amino-Acids), are wound healing, cell-renewing and tissue regenerating like their other acid counterparts but have also been observed to be particularly protective against environmental stressors such as UV radiation (UVR), temperature and pH. UVR can cause accelerated aging of skin (a.k.a. those dreaded wrinkles), pigmentation, and genetic mutations (a.k.a. melanomas and tumours) (Pereira, 2018). In experiments on human skin cells, MAAs have successfully prevented and protected the cells from the many harmful effects of UVR. Therefore, while being photo-protective and anti-aging, MAAs also have anti-cancer properties. (Chrapusta et al., 2017).
ft. Phenomenal Phenolics
Similar in benefits to polysaccharides, but different in structure, the phenolics found in sea cucumbers are water-soluble marine polyphenols or phlorotannins that mirror terrestrial polyphenols like flavonoids (the essential dietary nutrients found in fruit and vegetables) and gallic acid (the base of witch hazel, tea tree and other acne-busting ingredients common in skincare). Due to their ability to inhibit the activation of hyaluronidase, the enzyme that degrades the tissue-repairing hyaluronic acid (HA), phlorotannins have anti-aging, elasticising, wrinkle-fighting and whitening properties. (Pereira, 2018)
No Fat Shaming Here
In recent BioMarine (2020) studies, the high degree of essential fatty acids found in sea-cucumbers increases its anti-agent abilities. The fatty acids of sea cucumbers ‘are the key components, liable for tissue repair and wound healing properties.’
In particular, AA (Arachidonic acid), the principal fatty acid in most echinoderms, including sea cucumbers, plays a vital role in cell regeneration, blood-clotting and revitalisation of skin.
Other acids, like EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Decosahexaenoic Acid) are also abundant in sea cucumber extract, which are hosts for the perfect anti-inflammatory array of omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
... but Plenty of GAGs
Sea Cucumbers are no joke, but they do contain GAGs (Glycosaminoglycans) and Fucoidans, their primary polysaccharides, which provide our skin with a generous bounty of skin-saving benefits.
Modern breakthroughs have been just been made in finding that collagen extracts from echinoderms, like sea cucumber, are brilliant bioactive and biomimetic carriers for the ‘loading of L-cysteine hydrochloride, facilitating the wound healing processes due to its glycosaminoglycans’ (Coppola et al., 2020). Further, GAGs, specific to marine collagen and particularly abundant in sea cucumber extracts, have been shown to retain water, which makes it an excellent moisturizing agent for the skin. CBC, and other mammalian collagens, require the artificial addition of GAGs, while marine collagen has naturally occurring GAGs, making this type of collagen even more desirable! The cleaner the collagen, the better!
...and Another Reason to Be Peppy
Sea cucumber extract has a significantly high degree of small molecule oligopeptides (SCCOPs), derived from the polypeptide structure, which heal wounds and calm redness like its fatty acids and moisturises like its GAGs, but these peptides don’t just stop there! Sea cucumber peptides provide such an impressive amount of DNA-damage protection, through their antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-ageing benefits, that they have been proven to be far better than the cosmetic worlds’ usual favourites, Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid or ‘HCL’! (Li et al., 2018) (Oh et al., 2017) (Coppola et al., 2020)
With benefits that extend beyond mammalian/terrestrial collagens capabilities and also avoid the risk of contracting any land animal-based disease, marine collagen is an extraordinarily bio-active and nutrient rich alternative, especially that of the sea cucumber.
Ultimately, Bescher's sea cucumber collagen is what will bring YOU optimal results to your skin, your health and your overall wellbeing, while also being ecologically and environmentally conscious.
BioMarine. (2020, Feb 03). Beauty from Northern waters: The Sea Cucumber has many good reasons to convince you! [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://biomarine.org/news/252055
Chrapusta, E., Kaminski, A., Bober, B., Adamski, M., & Bialczyck, J. (2017). Mycosporine-Like Amino Acids: Potential Health and Beauty Ingredients. Marine Drugs, 15 (10), 326. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666432/
Coppola, D., Oliviero, M., Vitale, G. A., Lauritano, C., D’Ambra, I., Lannace, S., & de Pascale, D. (2020). Marine Collagen from Alternative and Sustainable Sources: Extraction, Processing and Applications. Marine Drugs, 18 (4), 214. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/18/4/214/htm
Ferrario, C., Leggio, L., Leone, R., Di Bendetto, C., Guidetti, L., Coccè, V., Ascagni, M., Bonasoro, F., La Porta, A. M. C., Daniela, M., Carnevali, C., & Sugni, M. (2017). Marine-derived collagen biomaterials from echinoderm connective tissues. In V. Matranga, & M. Kiyomoto (Eds.). Marine Environmental Research: Blue Growth and Marine Environmental Safety, 128, pp. 46-57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2016.03.007
Hossain, A., Dave, D., & Shahidi, F. (2020). Northern Sea Cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa): A Potential Candidate for Functional Food, Nutraceutical, and Pharmaceutical Sector. Marine Drugs, 18 (5), 274. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/18/5/274/htm
Li, D., Li, L., Xu, T., Wang, T., Ren, J., Liu, X., & Li, Y. (2018). Effect of Low Molecular Weight Oligopeptides Isolated from Sea Cucumber on Diabetic Wound Healing in db/db Mice. Marine drugs, 16 (1), 16. https://doi.org/10.3390/md16010016
Monteiro e Silva, S. A., Michniak-Kohn, B., & Leonardi, G. R. (2017). An overview about oxidation in clinical practice of skin aging. An Bras Dermatol, 92 (3), pp. 367-374. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514578/
Oh, G.-W., Seok-Chun, Ko, S.-C., Dong, Lee, D. H., Heo, S.-J., & Jung, W.-K. (2017). Biological activities and biomedical potential of sea cucumber (Stichopus japonicus): a review. Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 20 (1), P. 28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41240-017-0071-y
Pereira, L. (2018). Seaweeds as Source of Bioactive Substances and Skin Care Therapy - Cosmeceuticals, Algotheraphy, and Thalassotherapy. Marine Drugs, 68 (5), 1-41. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics5040068
Subhan, F., Ikram, M., Shehzad, A., & Ghafoor, A. (2015). Marine Collagen: An Emerging Player in Biomedical applications. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52 (8), pp. 4703-4707. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-014-1652-8