Bone Broth: Magic Elixir or Just Healthy?

By Kaya Konopnicki

People have touted bone broth as a magic elixir for everything that ails you (and some things you didn’t even know were problems).

Sadly it’s not true ūüė¶

There is no one ‘Superfood’ that will cure a wide range of diseases and health problems. ¬†Be skeptical of claims and see what’s backing up those claims – don’t just take information at face value. ¬†The internet is a big place where anyone can write down something and say nice words but at the end of the day, they are just words (especially when they are trying to sell you on some health program).

To date there are no specific scientific studies on drinking bone broth.¬†There is, however, clinical evidence for some of the elements found in bone broth to enhance¬†skin elasticity, improve joint health (specifically in arthritic patients), decrease intestinal permeability (‘leaky-gut’) and decrease inflammation. ¬†Below is a limited review of some of the nutrients found in bone broth and some of the related clinical studies¬†(which by no means should be taken as exhaustive).

GLUTAMINE

Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino-acids in our bloodstream.   Amino-acids are the building blocks from which proteins are constructed.  Glutamine is found in bone broth.

This is described as conditionally essential amino-acid. ¬†This means our body can (generally) synthesize enough of it for our needs. ¬†Under stress, illness or injury conditions our bodies can’t keep up with demand. ¬†This is where our diet plays an important role in providing glutamine¬†[1].

One major function of glutamine is in the our gastrointestinal lining, in particular the “tight-junction” of the gut [2]. ¬†The “tight-junctions” are a gate-keeper, letting smaller nutrient molecules in and keeping bigger¬†harmful (antigen) particles out. ¬†These larger molecules can include things like bacteria or food particles that can cause disease or inflammation within the body.

Current thinking (and this may be clarified with further research) is that additional glutamine intake in the diet can decrease intestinal permeability and thus decrease inflammation and illness in people, especially those with chronic pathologies [2].  More research is needed in this area to determine under what circumstances and exactly how this works.

GELATIN

You hear a lot about gelatin when you talk about bone broth. ¬†Simply put gelatin is a form of hydrolyzed collagen and is the reason bone broth ‘gels’ when cooled. ¬†Gelatin is high in the¬†amino acids proline and glycine. ¬†Again, these are two conditionally essential amino-acids meaning that our bodies can make them but may not make enough for our needs.

These two amino-acids are the structural building blocks of collagen (no surprise there). ¬†What you may not know is that collagen makes up 25%-35% of the protein in our bodies. ¬†Collagen provides the flexible matrix in our body allowing it to bend and not break under stress. ¬†When you don’t have enough collagen you start to get brittle and inflexible. ¬†Your body just doesn’t handle the ‘stress’ of bending and shocks as well.

This means that you need enough proline and glycine in your body to allow it to build and repair the connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, skin, cartilage) and bones in your body. ¬†The¬†addition of proline and glycine to your body may not immediately ‘fix’ the part of your body you consider most broken (skin elasticity, ‘crunchy’ knees, brittle bones, etc.). ¬†It is the long-term supply of these amino acids that allows your body to heal.

Although there are no specific studies (that I could find) on ingestion of gelatin there are studies that showed collagen (in differing forms) improved joint pain in patients including those with osteoarthritis [3, 4].  Oral collagen hydrolysate ingestion has also been shown in one study to improve skin elasticity [5].

More research is needed to confirm these initial findings, but it is very promising!

GLYCOSAMINOGLYCANS (GAGs)

Glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid to name a few found in bone broth.  GAGs seem to be especially important in joint health, have been shown to stimulate cells to create new collagen in your joints, tendons, and ligaments [6], and play a role in tissue hydration [7].

The strongest clinical evidence is for hyaluronic acid, which plays a critical role in lubricating joints [7].  In a clinical study on osteoarthritis it was shown that supplements of hyaluronic acid had a greater improvement than those given a placebo, especially in patients under the age of 70 [8].  Ingestion of Hyaluron has also been shown to have moisturizing effects on your skin [9].

CONCLUSION

There is much research to be done in this area to show conclusive evidence of specific health benefits of bone broth.  However, as you can see above, there is support for the nutrients found in both broth as part of a healthy diet.

Do your own research of clinical trials and don’t just rely on health-related blogs to summarize for you. ¬†And please (please!) don’t accept anecdotal evidence to support health claims, especially ones where they suggest ‘miracle’ cures for complex health issues.

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