Bone broth has become quite the trendy food in some health circles.
Paleo diet advocates are vocal in touting the benefits of this type of broth. After all, bone broth is an ancient way of making broth, in that all parts of an animal are used to get maximum nutrition out of a kill – even the parts of the animal that can’t be eaten directly such as bones.
Bones are put to use by being boiled for hours so that certain minerals and amino acids leach out into the water, making for a nutritious cocktail.
Is Bone Broth Worth It?
Bone broth has some great stuff in it. But is there anything bad in it?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of eating bone broth.
Is all the hype reflective of how good bone broth is for you? In what ways is bone broth healthy? Is it safe to consume? Let’s answer these questions!
The Benefits of Bone Broth
1. Can improve gut health
Bone broth contains several amino acids and other therapeutic components that improve gut health.
Gelatin in bone broth can soothe the gut by decreasing inflammation that hurts the lining of your intestines †. In mice, dramatic benefits have been seen in colon health and even gut bacteria colonies after gelatin is ingested †. Gelatin is basically a clear gel that contains collagen.
Glycine is another component in bone broth. It’s an amino acid in bone broth that has been shown to protect the stomach and intestines from damage. Part of the reason is that it’s anti-inflammatory and can prevent oxidative stress †.
2. Can make skin more youthful
Collagen is a protein that is largely responsible for how healthy and youthful your skin looks. About 75% of the proteins in your skin are collagen, and when you have healthy amounts of collagen in your skin, it gives your skin a full, plump, unwrinkled look.
As the years go by, your skin collagen normally becomes damaged and your skin cells produce less of it, leaving your skin sagging and wrinkled.
But the gelatin in bone broth, since it has collagen in it, can increase the collagen production in your body. When you ingest the collagen protein, your body breaks down the protein into amino acids that can then be used to manufacture more collagen †.
Studies have shown that ingestion of the collagen amino acids can improve skin quality and youthfulness and “reduce facial aging” †. And gelatin consumption stimulates collagen production in people †.
3. Can improve joint and bone health
The collagen in bone broth doesn't just increase collagen in your skin. Other parts of your body, namely your joints and bones, need enough collagen to function youthfully and free of pain.
Collagen provides cushion and range of movement for the cartilage in your joints. If that collagen fades, your joints will give you pain, and you might even have bones scraping against each other because collagen isn't there to provide a cushion between the bones.
To be sure, a published review of collagen’s effects on joints showed that ingestion is evidenced to decrease joint pain and function †. And since collagen plays a huge role in keeping bones resilient and flexible, researchers note the importance of increasing collagen production in those at risk for bone weakening †.
4. Refuels you with electrolytes
Electrolytes – minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium – help conduct electricity in your body. Without them, you’d be dead! Your heart wouldn’t beat.
These minerals are needed for many processes in your body such as nerve signaling functions, healthy blood flow, bone density, and digestive health. And bone broth is a rich source of these minerals.
5. May help keep your muscles strong
There’s evidence that the glycine amino acid in bone broth can help prevent the wasting away of muscle tissue †. It’s thought that glycine can improve how muscles use sugar for energy and that the amino acid helps build muscle tissue, making for healthy, big muscles.
There is research that suggests broth has anti-inflammatory effects †. That’s good news because just about every disease is linked to inflammation, so you don’t want to be chronically inflamed.
Downsides of Bone Broth
Unfortunately, bone broth isn’t perfect. It may contain some toxic substances along with the good things it contains.
1. Lead contamination
Bones soak up the heavy metal lead. Our bones accumulate lead and so do the bones of animals that we eat.
Chicken bone broth has been shown to contain “markedly high lead concentrations” . Researchers say that doctors and nutritionists should “take the risk of lead contamination into consideration” when recommending bone broth consumption .
How much lead is in bone broth? Enough to make note of, according to researchers. To illustrate, the tap water they tested had 0.89 μg, whereas the bone broth had 7.01 μg .
Lead is a very toxic substance. It has powerful toxic effects on nearly every organ system in the body .
But it is worth noting that not all researchers are terribly concerned about the lead content of bone broth. They downplay “the risks” because they don’t consider the amount of lead in broth to be high . Still, the fact remains that lead levels can build up in the body over time, so it could be a problem if you’re consuming lots of bone broth.
2. You can overdo just about anything
Researchers have recorded a case of a young man who started regularly vomiting from excess calcium and vitamin D that he consumed from beef bone broth . He drank “large volumes of soup prepared by boiling long beef bones, for many months” .
So remember, there’s no need to guzzle the stuff for months on end.
There are definitely many benefits to bone broth. It is a nutrition powerhouse and benefits your body in lots of ways, as you’ve read above. Your gut, skin, immune system, and joints will get perks from bone broth nutrients.
If you’re thinking about consuming bone broth daily or very often, you might want to take into consideration its lead content. There is disagreement over whether the amount of lead in bone broth is a concern or not, but it is true that lead can build up in your body if consistently consumed. If you’re having bone broth every now and then, its lead content is not too worrisome.