Bone Broth benefits or myth?
Bone broth from bone marrow, has become increasingly trendy, and there are lots of claims that proteins from the bone marrow mean that it is incredibly nourishing, healing and can even boost your immunity.
How is it made?
Bone broth is made by boiling animal bones in water, and is just like a transitionally prepared stock. Some advocates say that the bones are boiled for longer in bone broth and therefore release more nutrients.
What there any evidence of bone broth benefits?
There is no convincing evidence that bone broth is particularly nourishing. Yes it contains proteins derived from the bone marrow, but these are denatured (permanently unravelled) by cooking, and so would likely have no greater benefit on immunity than eating a piece of protein, just in liquid form.
What about boosting immunity?
While many immune cells are manufactured in the bone marrow, these are not transferable, nor promote immunity, and would be killed by cooking.
Equally, there is no evidence that it improves gut health, or the lining of your gut.
Does it contain lots of collagen?
Bone marrow does contain lots of connective tissue including collagen. You have probably heard how important collagen is for keeping skin looking plumped and youthful. Studies on oral collagen supplements have found that while they appear safe, the results are mixed. There are a number of reasons to be cautious, including the trials are over very short time frames, often sponsored by nutraceutical companies, and don’t control for what the participants are eating. Also there is no plausible mechanisms as to how you could eat collagen and it be transported to your skin. Every thing we eat is broken down into tiny building blocks in the gut before we can absorb it. So every protein, collagen included is broken down into amino acids. Once absorbed by the gut it is then transported straight to the liver, where is is further broken down/metabolised. This is called first pass metabolism. Those tiny amino acids are a long way from formed collagen molecules in the skin.
Are there any risks associated with bone broth?
Instead, there is concern of a theoretical risk of heavy metal contamination leaching out of the bones when they are cooked for so long.
What this means for you
Therefore, I’m afraid the evidence that I’ve seen and from my training as a paediatric blood and cancer doctor (with lots of exposure to the finer details of bone marrow), suggests that bone broth is just an expensive stock by a different name.
By all means use it to make delicious sauces, stews and curries, but don’t expect it to be more nourishing that eating protein from any other source.
Barati, M., Jabbari, M., Navekar, R., Farahmand, F., Zeinalian, R., Salehi-Sahlabadi, A., et al. (2020). Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 45(11), 1787.
Spiro, A., & Lockyer, S. (2018). Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend? Nutrition Bulletin, 43(1), 10–45. http://doi.org/10.1111/nbu.12304
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