Bone broth: Are the benefits based on science or science fiction?

Move over coffee shops. Bone broth cafes have taken over in many cities as customers pay big bucks for cups of bone broths. Meanwhile those who know their way around the kitchen are simmering pots of bones for up to 48 hours for their own potions. So what’s the fuss all about and is it really a magical elixir?

Believers tout a growing assortment of health benefits of bone broth, particularly beef bone broth, including healing a leaky gut, promoting healthy joints, upping your immune system functioning and even improving the your appearance through younger looking skin to stronger nails. While there may be some potential benefits, unfortunately the craze is based on more science fiction than actual science.

“Unfortunately there are no “miracles foods”, no matter much people want one to exist.”, says William H. Percy, Ph. D., an associate professor at the Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota. Boiling bones does indeed yield collagen, a protein – made up of various amino acids – that decreases in various parts of your body as you age.

Collagen injections are used in the skin to smooth out age lines and wrinkles and also used in patches to improve wound healing. Research on hydrolyzed collagen supplements and joint health, though, has not yielded a consensus as of yet.

But as far as bone broth and its collagen as a cure-all, Dr. Percy debunks those myths. He says, “Since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinking. The amino acids we absorb from digesting collagen in the gut will be used by the body for any biochemical process that needs them as they are not specifically incorporated into collagen production because they came from collagen to start with. That’s just not how the body works.”

He adds, “Compared to eggs, milk or chicken, collagen is actually a pretty poor source of important amino acids like lysine, threonine, leucine and tryptophan. “ As for the leaky gut theory, Dr. Percy states that if there was any merit to bone broth having healing properties for the digestive tract, gastroenterologists would be using it to treat inflammatory bowel disease but they are not.

But maintaining collagen formation through other smart food choices which also lower the odds of your developing other diseases is a route to consider. Here are some examples of nutrients needed for promoting collagen production:

Vitamin C
Go for citrus, berries, peppers and dark leafy greens

Anthocyanins
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and dark skinned plums

Manganese
Nuts such pecans, pine nuts and peanuts, whole grains and pulses like dried beans

Keeping damage to collagen at a minimum is also wise. Steering clear of inflammatory compounds such as trans fats and slashing added sugar intake along with not smoking and using sun protection can all protect your collagen status.

The mineral – toxic metal connection

Many people believe that cooking bones for longer periods will yield greater absorption of the various minerals found in the bones such as calcium and magnesium. And yes indeed, simmering your bone broth can indeed provide some minerals but not in any appreciable amounts. Also consider that researchers warn that along with these paltry amounts of minerals, toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, are leached out of the bones at the same time as bones are a place where they are stored by the body. In other words, don’t look to bone broth for your calcium and magnesium. Go elsewhere.

While bone broth may not bestow miraculous results, don’t put your stockpot away in some hard to access spot just yet. Cooking up some broth or stock can indeed offer you some health benefits – – just different from those you’ve likely heard about.

And finally, in case you’re wondering about the difference between broth and stock. To make broth, you cook up some meat or poultry and vegetables with water while stock is made using mainly bones and yields a more gelatinous result. Whichever your choice, be sure to add some vegetables as they add to the flavor and allow you to use less salt in its preparation.

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Categories: Food Trends

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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