What’s the deal with bone broth?

What’s the deal with bone broth?

The surprising truth

In recent years, bone broth has become wildly popular.

Proponents say it strengthens your bones, cures colds, detoxifies your liver, and keeps your skin supple. But is the hype justified? And what about the possibility of heavy metal contamination?

This article from the Food Revolution Network provides you answers.

Bone broth has become popular. You may have seen the
countless blogs and media outlets touting its many presumed health benefits.

Marketing for bone broth claims it’s a high-protein comfort
food for on-the-go lifestyles. It’s also considered a magical elixir that
can cure leaky gut — and help with all manners of ailments
from arthritis to a weak immune system.

Restaurants now serve bone broth, food delivery services
offer it, and lifestyle celebrities and athletes endorse it. You can even find
a bone broth to-go chain in New York City and a line of bone broth made
especially for dogs and cats.

But what’s the truth about bone broth? Is
it the magical elixir it’s claiming to be?

What Is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is a broth made by boiling the roasted
bones and the connective tissue of animals for a long time

The long cooking time — ranging from eight to over 24 hours
— draws gelatin and minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, out of the
bones and into the broth.

Some recipes may use apple cider vinegar or red wine, which
help extract nutrients. And sometimes it will include vegetables, such as
carrots, onions, and celery. Once cooked, the liquid is strained, the solid
parts discarded, and the remaining broth seasoned.

Why Is Bone Broth So Popular?

Bone broth advocates say it can relieve joint pain and
osteoarthritis, detoxify the liver, aid in wound healing, prevent aging skin,
support digestive health, balance hormones, increase energy, strengthen bones,
improve quality of sleep, alleviate symptoms from certain autoimmune
conditions, and boost immune function.

Praised for providing all these health benefits, bone
broth also provides enormous profits

The retail sales of shelf-stable bone broth products increased
from $5.83 million in 2016 to $17.54 million in 2017. According to a report by
Global Market Insights, Inc., analysts predict the global bone broth market will surpass
$2.8 billion by 2024
. Also, one of the foremost bone broth advocates, Dr.
Josh Axe, recently raised $103 million from investors to expand his own
bone broth business.

What Does the Research Say About Potential Bone Broth

There’s a growing interest in bone broth due to the long
list of purported benefits. But what does the science say? Does bone
broth measure up to these claims?

Claim #1: Bone Broth Is a Nutritional Goldmine

Bone broth gets a lot of attention for its “unique”
nutritional profile. People praise it for being a low calorie,
high-protein food,
 and providing minerals, such as calcium,
phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium

The earliest study to mention bone broth is from 1937, which
looked at the nutritional value of bone and vegetable broths. Both were common
ways of nourishing infants at the time. The researchers concluded that
while neither was a very good source of nutrition, the
broths that provided the highest mineral content contained the most vegetables

Far more recently, in 2017, a study in the journal Food
and Nutrition Research
 analyzed bone broth and found that
it was not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.

While marketers tout bone broth for its mineral
content, it seems the vegetables used in the cooking process — not the
bones — may provide many of the helpful nutrients.

An average cup of bone broth contains zero to 19 mg of
calcium and six to nine grams of protein. But when you compare it to
some other sources of these nutrients, the protein content isn’t terribly

  • Collard greens: 1 cup = 150 mg calcium

  • Navy beans (boiled): 1 cup = 126 mg calcium

  • Baked beans: 1 cup = 14 grams protein

  • Unsweetened soymilk (Edensoy): 1 cup = 12 grams

  • Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons = 7 grams protein

So yes, bone broth does provide some calcium
and protein. But so do many, many other foods

A cup of cooked kale contains ten times as much calcium as a
cup of bone broth. A cup of baked beans contains nearly twice as much protein
as a cup of bone broth. And most Americans may be getting too much protein
(at least from animal sources)
, anyway.

Claim #2: Bone Broth Will Strengthen Bones, Relieve Achy
Joints, and Keep Skin Youthful

Collagen is the main protein in your body. It
protects your organs, joints, and tendons; holds together bones and muscles,
and maintains the lining of your gut. Plastic surgeons like it because it
promotes skin elasticity.

Your body makes its own collagen, but as you age, you won’t
make quite as much of it. So, much of the marketing says that, because bone
broth contains collagen, it will help your body make morecollagen.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that eating collagen is directly
helpful to your body.
 Many experts agree that because your body doesn’t absorb
collagen in its whole form, the idea that eating collagen helps bone
growth isn’t borne out in reality
. Your body breaks collagen down into
amino acids. So in the end, it’s just another form of protein.

You’ve probably seen collagen supplements sold for skin
health. Some research suggests that collagen
supplements may help to reduce visible signs of aging
 — like wrinkles
and cellulite — but the collagen in supplements is hydrolyzed, or broken down to make it more usable for the
body. The collagen in bone broth is not hydrolyzed and
does not have the same effects in the body

If you want to help your body build collagen,
the best way is to eat a diet rich in leafy green vegetables
plants offer rich sources of the phytonutrients your body
needs to make collagen.

These phytonutrients in plants include:

  • The vitamin C found in citrus fruits, dark leafy
    greens, bell peppers, kiwi, berries, and broccoli. Vitamin C is a
    powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin
    , inside and out.

  • The vitamin E is present in sunflower seeds, almonds,
    wheat germ, spinach, and broccoli. Vitamin E works with vitamin C to promote
    collagen synthesis

  • The vitamin A that’s found in carrots, sweet
    potatoes, winter squash, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, and apricots.

  • The amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine found in
    dark leafy green vegetables, soy, nuts, seeds, and

  • The sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onion, and
    members of the cabbage family, may also promote collagen

The bottom line is that many vegetables and other
plant foods can be powerful allies in keeping your skin young, your bones
strong, and your joints healthy

Claim #3: Bone Broth Can Cure Your Cold

At some point in your life, you probably had a bowl of
chicken noodle soup while sick. It might have even helped you feel better.

Some older research studied the ability of chicken stock to
ease common cold symptoms. And many people say bone broth has (or should have)
a similar effect.

While there are no published studies about bone
broth and illness in peer-reviewed medical journals
, a few have looked
at the effects of chicken soup.

A 2000 study in the journal Chest found that
chicken soup could prevent white blood cells from migrating — thus preventing
the worsening of upper respiratory infection symptoms.

But it also found that the vegetables in the soup —
not the chicken alone — offered inhibitory effects when it came to battling
. The researchers concluded that chicken soup likely contained
multiple substances with medicinal properties.

Would vegetable soup have been just as effective? Or more
effective? We don’t know. But it seems clear that the vegetables, at a minimum,
played an important part.

The other chicken soup study, published in 1978, concluded that
hot chicken soup was superior to cold liquids in the management of upper
respiratory infections, namely in loosening nasal mucous. This sounds
impressive — but then again, it’s entirely possible we could say the
same thing about any hot liquid, including vegetable broth 
even hot water).

Bone broth may warm your belly, but there’s no evidence
that it will cure your cold
. If there are immune-boosting effects, they
could come from the vegetables used in its preparation.

Check out these articles for proven ways to boost immunity
with food and beverages.

Claim #4: Bone Broth Is Good for Your Gut

Advocates claim bone broth is good for digestion and
therapeutic for leaky gut syndrome — a condition in which substances can leak
from your intestines into your blood.

They say the gelatin will bind water in the digestive tract,
protecting the lining of your intestines. Some studies show that
potential in rats, but this doesn’t mean bone broth can do the same for humans.
We have very different intestinal lining than do rats. It’s possible it could
help. But at this point, all we have is a theory.

What’s not a theory, because it’s been well documented, is
that you can support your gut health with a variety of fiber-rich
plants foods
, including fermented
, which help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. For more ways to
support digestive health with foods, see this article.

Claim #5: Bone Broth Can Detoxify Your Liver

Bone broth contains the amino acid glycine. There are a few
animal studies that suggest glycine supplements can benefit the
liver of alcoholic rats, but none have looked at the impact of bone
broth on human livers

It’s doubtful that any single nutrient has the power to
detoxify the liver by itself
. The best way to protect your liver, and
to protect your body from toxins, is by eating a diet that’s high in the entire
array of phytonutrients found in whole plant foods.

Check out our article on using phytonutrients to detox your
body, here.

It’s also helpful to steer clear of absorbing toxic heavy
metals in the first place. And that brings us to what may be the most
significant problematic fact about bone broth.

Lead — A Serious Concern with Bone Broth

It’s well known that lead exposure can be seriously harmful to
humans. It’s been shown to have adverse effects on nearly every organ
system in the body
. Symptoms of chronic exposure range from memory loss and
constipation to impotence and depression. The data suggests that there
is no such thing as a “safe” level of exposure to lead

Lead can build up in body fat and attach itself irreversibly to
neurons. This is especially dangerous for children as it increases the risk of
behavioral problems, hyperactivity, impaired growth and hearing, anemia, and
lower IQ, even at low levels.

Now, here’s the thing: Lead and other heavy metals
build up in the bones. And that’s not just true of human bones.

Boiling animal bones for a long period of time turns out to
be a great way to leach lead out of them — even if the animal bones come from
organically fed animals.

In a study published in
the peer-reviewed journal Medical Hypotheses, researchers
looked at broth made from organic chicken bones and found that the
broth had lead concentrations that were up to a 10-fold increase
to the water before the bones were added to it. The samples came from organic,
free-range chickens.

Today, many health enthusiasts are drinking bone broth by
the case, hoping to detoxify their liver of heavy metals. Sadly, in the
process, they could be inadvertently exposing themselves to dangerous levels of
lead and possibly other heavy metals.

Ethical Concerns with Bone Broth

Many of the most popular bone broth brands come from
the bones of animals raised in factory farms
. These animals may have never
seen the sun or a blade of grass in their lives. They were fed an utterly
unnatural diet and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.

Those aren’t practices that I want to support. And
they don’t create products that I want to take into my body, either.

What Are Some Healthy Alternatives to Bone Broth?

If you’re interested in trying the broth trend for yourself,
and you want some warm nourishment for your tummy, but your favorite flavor
isn’t “bone,” there are many other options.

Some people are creating vegetarian and vegan broths, using mixtures of seaweed, mushrooms, miso,
and various vegetables instead of bones.

Plant-based broths offer a lot of flavor and nutrientsMushrooms contain
selenium, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Seaweed contains iodine, which is an essential
nutrient for healthy thyroid function. Fermented foods, like miso paste, or anti-inflammatory
agents, like ginger or turmeric, are often added as well.

The next time you hear bone broth touted as a magical
cure-all, remember this: The science behind the claims about bone broth
is murky at best.
 But the science behind the health benefits of
vegetables is massive, coherent, and compelling.

In short, veggies rock.

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Rod Stone
Publisher and Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
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