Bone Broth Benefits: Superfood or Super Fad?

Over the last several years, bone broth has been touted as a superfood and this has raised a lot of questions like… Is it a superfood or a super fad? Is bone broth good for you? And is there any scientific proof of bone broth being good for you?Bone Broth Benefits

In this article, we will cover what Dr. Kenneth Brown, gastroenterologist, has to say.

Bone broth has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, however, there have been very few scientific studies done on it. There is evidence of the various nutrients found in the bone broth which suggests drinking it might be a good idea. But does it live up to all of the claims health gurus have given it?

What’s the difference between regular broth and bone broth?

Broth is traditionally made by simmering meat, often with vegetables and herbs, in water for a relatively short amount of time, usually under two hours. It is a thin, flavorful liquid used in soups, sauces, and

braises or can even be sipped on its own.

Broth differs from bone broth in both the way in which it is made and the ingredients it uses.

Bone broth is usually used for sipping or drinking as a hot beverage and not for cooking. It is a clear liquid made by simmering vegetables and bones derived from any animal, though typically chicken bones, beef bones, or a combination of the two. 

The bones may have connective tissue and some meat on them. These ingredients are simmered anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. This lengthy cooking time results in a thick consistency due to the collagen-rich, protein gelatin derived from the bones. The longer the bones are simmered, the greater the collagen concentration in the broth. This gradual conversion of

collagen into gelatin imparts most of the nutrients.

Potential Bone Broth Benefits

Because of the high collagen content bone broth has, it is targeted at athletes, people with joint pain/problems, and those who want to stay looking and feeling youthful. 

Collagen is what gives elasticity to our skin and provides cushion and mobility for our joints. There are 28 different types of collagen. Many of the supplements on the market incorporate only one or two types of collagen, and often the type they use isn’t able to be used by our bodies. If the collagens structure is too large, our bodies cannot break it down so we don’t get the benefits from it that we intended to. 

So bone broth, being a food form from animals (as opposed to a supplement), it is thought that we might be able to use and extract more benefits from this type of collagen dose.

In addition to collagen, if people boil the bones with herbs, they get additional health benefits like

Potential Risks of Bone Broth

Along with the hidden ingredients or lack thereof (such as actual bones) in bone broth, there are a few things to keep in mind when consuming bone broth.

Histamine intolerance

Bone broth is a high-histamine-containing food due to the longer cooking times of the bones. If you have histamine intolerance, bone broth may make you feel worse.

Heavy metals

Bones store essential minerals and metals, but can also store toxic metals, such as lead. The long cooking time has the potential to release lead into the bone broth.

Glutamate sensitivity

Bone broth is high in glutamate and some people who are sensitive to this may experience anxiety, depression, or restlessness.

Gut Health Benefits of Bone Broth

Studies have shown some benefits of the consumption of bone broth on gut health in several different areas.

Ulcerative Colitis

Bone Broth, rich in amino acids, has anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract in mouse studies. This data has made preliminary speculations that the same results may translate to people suffering from ulcerative colitis. 

Therefore, bone broth may be a natural alternative for alleviating symptoms of UC and other bowel diseases.

Leaky Gut

Glutamine is a specific amino acid that is readily derived from bone broth. In our bodies, intestinal epithelial cells and activated immune cells consume glutamine for cellular energy. However, glutamine is very beneficial for intestinal health as well. It helps to maintain the gut barrier function, thereby preventing a leaky gut.

Research and Scientific Evidence of Bone Broth Benefits

Overall, the research on the gut benefits of bone broth is lacking, with few studies, only performed on mouse models. However, this does not mean there are no health benefits of bone broth. 

Bone broth does contain protein and amino acids such as glycine and proline which your body uses to make its own collagen. There are a lot of benefits of collagen for the muscles, bones, skin, hair, and joints. 

In the gastrointestinal realm, however, there is still further research to be made to definitively state that there are gut benefits from bone broth.

Considering this, a plant-based diet, high in polyphenols would be the better option for gut health than bone broth. 

Vast amounts of research have found that a plant-based diet, rich in polyphenols can fuel the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that strengthens the gut lining and reduces inflammation.

How to make Bone Broth Gut Friendly

One way to get the overall benefits of bone broth and the digestive benefits of polyphenols is to add herbs and vegetables to the broth. 

Lots of colorful vegetables can be simmered. Plus infusing the broth with the herbs or adding them as a garnish will add a good dose of polyphenol benefits to the bone broth. In addition, the mineral content increases, making it a more nutritious and filling food.

What to look for when buying bone broth

As with most foods, it is always good to make your own bone broth, if possible, to know exactly what is going into the recipe. However, there are good options for buying out there, but you must do a little due diligence because not all bone broths on grocery store shelves are created equal. 

Below are some tips for what to look for when buying bone broth.

  • Bones listed in the ingredients
  • Opt for organic ingredients
  • Check to make sure there are no fillers or contaminants
  • Avoid broths that list additives such as sugars and gums

Overall, bone broth is a great source of some major nutrients and is a healthy option in which to get these nutrients. However, when it comes to gut health, there is not enough research to definitively state that there are major benefits at this time. I wouldn’t say that bone broth is a superfood when it comes to gut health, but I wouldn’t say it was a super fad either due to the other nutritional benefits from it. So go ahead and sip away!