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Bone Broth: Should You Dig It?

Image via FreeImages.com/Jean Scheijen

by Laura Cipullo and the Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

As we head in to 2017, bone broth continues to lead the food trends. Wonder what it is? Is it really worth braving the farmer’s market in these cold temperatures for the expensive bones? Let’s navigate the what, the claims and the nutritional value as evidenced by research.

What is bone broth?

Bone broth is a collection of animal bones that are boiled in water and combined with different herbs and spices. It is thought to be very similar to regular soup stock – the kind your grandmother made with the chicken carcass. The biggest difference between regular soup stock and bone broth is that the bones are boiled in water for approximately 24-48 hours.  Grandma’s only boiled for about three hours.  You can drink the broth, add it as a soup base or cook with it when making foods such as mashed potatoes. The greater duration of boiling is thought to be beneficial because it allows the bones to release nutrients and minerals into the boiling water.  It is also thought that by soaking the bone, collagen, gelatin, and amino acids, which are nutrient-rich, become easier to digest.1  

What are the claims about bone broth?

Claim 1:

While there are very few if any evidence-based studies supporting bone broth’s benefits, people are consuming it regularly.  There are claims assuming collagen from the animal bones will make human’s bones stronger. In reality, your body breaks down the animal’s bones into amino acids, which are then used to build hormones and muscles, like any other source of amino acids2.  This is similar to how dietary fat is absorbed by your body and gets used to make hormones, line your nerves and does not necessarily get stored directly as fat.

Claim 2:

Time Magazine’s ‘You Asked’ writes that the book Nourishing Broth claims bone broth reduces inflammation, speeds healing, calms allergies and combats fatigue. It is a mouthful of claims that points back to the collagen found in bones and the connective tissues of the animal’s body and your body, too. When specifically focusing on collagen it is important to know that Vitamin C is needed to bind the two amino acids found in collagen (known as lysine and proline) to form pro-collagen in your body. This means if you are drinking bone broth, you need to have Vitamin C with it to get the collagen benefit (helping to make collagen in your body). But does this reduce inflammation or speed healing? Read The Collagen Connection3 for more food for thought.

Below are four of at least 14 types of collagen documented in Linus Pauling’s Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease3 by Jim English and Hyla Cass,

What is Collagen Anyway?

Type I: Makes up the fibers found in connective tissues of the skin, bone, teeth, tendons and ligaments.

Type II: Round fibers found in cartilage.

Type III: Forms connective tissues that give shape and strength to organs, such as the liver, heart, kidneys, etc.

Type IV: Forms sheets that lie between layers of cells in the blood vessels, muscles, and eye.

 

 

Claim 3:

One Medical 4 and Dr. Mercola5 both reference individuals following the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) and Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diets as proponents to bone broth, believing that the gelatin “undoes” leaky gut syndrome. While I have not read in depth about these two diets, having “gelatin plug up the holes,” or the idea that as One Medical’s post addresses it, “Gelatin helps seal holes in the intestines that are associated with food allergies and autoimmune conditions, and is a key component in both the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) and Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diets, which are designed to address gut issues and promote healthy digestion” seems preposterous. Perhaps this is not meant to be a literal interpretation.

In RD jargon, it seems that bone broth like chicken soup can be a digestive aid due to its warmth and stimulation of the GI tract and for the psychological comfort it provides, which thereby decreases anxiety and thus potentially leaky gut. So while not the perfect food, as there is no perfect food or perfect remedy, bone broth can be incorporated into a varied diet. I recommend using bones of organic and sustainably-raised animals to prevent exposure to unnecessary hormones and pesticides. Skim the fat off the broth after it has been refrigerated – as the fat has been associated with causing lead poisoning and vitamin D toxicity.

References:

  1. Heid, M. (2016). You Asked: Does Bone Broth Really Have Health Benefits? Retrieved December 07, 2016, from http://time.com/4159156/bone-broth-health-benefits/
  2. Sakimura, J. (2014, December 03). Will Bone Broth Cure What Ails You? Retrieved December 07, 2016, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/johannah-sakimura-nutrition-sleuth/will-bone-broth-cure-what-ails-you/
  3. English, Jim and Cass, MD, Hyla. (2013, April 09). The Collagen Connection Retrieved December 14, 2016 from https://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/collagen-connection/
  4. Konstantinovsky, Michelle (2015, March 05). What’s the Deal with Bone Broth? Retrieved December 14, 2016 from http://www.onemedical.com/blog/eat-well/bone-broth/
  5. Mercola, Joseph, MD (2013, December 16). Bone Broth — One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples Retrieved December 14, 2016 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/16/bone-broth-benefits.aspx