Nation-wide Delivery Now Available!

Is Bone Broth the Fountain of Youth?

If you google “bone broth benefits,” you’ll find a gazillion posts claiming bone broth is a magic elixir. It’s supposed to give you younger looking skin, heal arthritis, cure digestive diseases and induce restful sleep. 


Like most things on the internet - don’t believe what you read. (Except from me, of course! 😂). 

Very little research has been done about the health impacts of bone broth, per se. However, lots of evidence shows that the nutrients in bone broth have important health benefits, especially the amino acids that make up collagen, the major protein component of bone broth. In order to create the gold standard of replicable, double blind studies, researchers standardize doses and administration of supplements of these amino acids, so they can isolate the impact from the amino acid under scrutiny while diminishing the effect of other variables.

There are two reasons why this is difficult to do for bone broth:

  1. Bone broth doesn’t standardize very easily since the amount of collagen (and its building block amino acids) can vary depending on the bones used.

  2. It’s very difficult to create a double-blind study since the participants will know if they are drinking bone broth or something else, creating a complication of the placebo effect.

The next time you read or hear someone say that bone broth has been proven to cure all of your ailments, be sure to run away fast.

At this point you may be confused. After all, I make and sell bone broth, and I started drinking bone broth for health reasons. I was told by a health coach that it would reduce the inflammation that was engulfing my thyroid (and millions of other post-menopausal women). As bone broth became part of my regular diet, I started to feel better. Was this the placebo effect playing games with me? I think not - despite the lack of science about bone broth – because the research about the component amino acids is sufficient enough to infer that bone broth is a damn good item to include in a healthy eating plan.


While it’s important to be very careful about health claims, I think it is safe to say that bone broth is good for you - especially if you are aging, achy, recovering from an injury or surgery, a postpartum mother, an endurance athlete, or under a lot of stress (this one covers most of us!) The benefits come from collagen and its component amino acids.


What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies (about 30%) and is the foundation of muscle, skin, bone, tendon, ligaments, and other connective tissue. With age, the production of collagen decreases. Amazingly, you don’t have to be very old to start the decline. After the age of 25, production decreases about 1% per year. By age 40, it takes a nosedive. Post menopausal women and everyone over 60 have difficulty making enough collagen. This is partly why it takes longer for older people to recover from stress or injury. We have to work harder to make the collagen that repairs the damaged tissue.

Structure of Collagen Fibers.

Bone Broth and Collagen

When bone broth is made with a long, slow simmer, the result is a collagen-rich broth. Unfortunately, collagen is not absorbed whole by the body and must be broken down into amino acids that are then used as the body needs. When you drink bone broth for health, it’s these amino acids that are really giving you the benefits, particularly glycine and proline. In addition to these components of collagen, bone broth contains glutamate, among other amino acids, which has significant health benefits as well.



Does bone broth promote gut health?


One of the most often claimed benefits of bone broth is that it helps “gut health” and soothes digestion, particularly “leaky gut,” known to doctors as “increased intestinal permeability.” The lining of our intestines can get compromised allowing small particles to enter directly into the bloodstream - like microorganisms, fungi, and food proteins. One molecule that is of particular concern is lipopolysaccharide or LPS, considered toxic to humans. When this happens, it can cause inflammation and a strong immune response. Since the lining of the small intestine is mostly collagen, it stands to reason that more collagen could help relieve the problem.


While we don’t know if bone broth helps with leaky gut, there is lots of evidence that glycine, glutamine, and gelatin, all abundant nutrients in bone broth, can tighten the little holes in the intestines, soothing irritation and inflammation and reducing the presence of LPS in the blood. There’s also research to show that glycine helps ease other digestive issues like IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.


Does bone broth ease joint pain?


Since cartilage is two-thirds collagen, you might think that drinking bone broth could ease arthritis pain that comes from wearing down cartilage. There is some research to support the idea. Again, none of this research was done with bone broth but with standardized doses of nutrients in bone broth. 


One study  found that using gelatin (a cooked form of collagen) with vitamin C can augment collagen production and ease joint pain. Another study found that 10 g per day of collagen peptides relieved joint pain. That would be about the equivalent of one to two cups of bone broth. Note that both of these studies combined the supplement with specific exercises. Since moving your joints through a full range of motion increases synovial fluid, it is hard to tease out exactly how much benefit came from the collagen itself.


Does bone broth reduce inflammation?


Stress can induce inflammation and causes an increase in hormones like cortisol, which can decrease the production of collagen. It stands to reason that increases in collagen might help reduce that inflammation.

 

We have already seen that glycine, gelatin, and glutamine can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Studies also show that glycine has anti-inflammatory properties in the lungs, and that it could help prevent insulin resistance and associated inflammatory diseases. Many studies have shown that glycine reduces pro-inflammatory markers. 


Another finding is that glycine can help the liver recover from alcoholic injury, giving some credence to the “bone broth detox” idea. 


Does bone broth strengthen bones?


It’s made from bones, so it must be good for your bones - right? Not exactly. Here’s a fun fact - bone broth contains almost no minerals, certainly not enough for bone health. The minerals contained in the bones do not leach into the broth - even if you simmer it for days and days or if you add vinegar to the broth while simmering. You would have to soak the bones in a vat of acid to access any of the minerals. 


Does bone broth aid sleep and energy levels?


One of the most surprising claims about bone broth is that it can help provide restful sleep. I was skeptical when I first read this one, but it seems that glycine does impact sleep. Several studies have found that administering glycine can ease falling asleep and leave participants better rested. Researchers are not certain how glycine impacts sleep, but it is possible that it decreases the body’s core temperature which facilitates sleep.


The Upshot


Bone broth is not a cure for anything. However, some evidence exists to show nutrients found in abundance in good quality bone broth provide many health benefits, including reduced inflammation, digestive relief, ease of joint pain, and even better sleep. 


Many customers ask me “how much bone broth should I be drinking,” as if there is a simple dose-response effect from bone broth. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. 


The best approach is to make bone broth a regular part of a healthy diet, just like leafy greens or good quality fats. Keep in mind that you won’t feel an immediate shift. Instead, long term, regular use of bone broth, combined with a real food diet, could help you start to feel better and keep you healthy. 


One caution - not all bone broth is the same. In order to get the full benefits, look for a bone broth that actually has bones in the ingredient list. Sounds silly - but boxes from the shelf can be called bone broth and not actually be made by simmering bones. Instead, they are made with “natural flavorings.” Might taste ok (if a bit too salty from all the preservatives) but won’t help you in your health goals. 


Mountain Meadow Bone Broth is made by simmering bones and veggies. The 18-hour simmer guarantees a high collagen content and a rich, satisfying flavor. Why not do your own scientific experiment? Try adding bone broth to your diet for a month, at least 5 days per week by either cooking with it or sipping it by the cup (lots of ideas here) to see how you feel. You might just be less bloated, have better digestion, experience reduced joint pain, sleep better, and recover from stress and injury faster. 

i