Bone broth has been around for a while. Journalists, friends and fitness enthusiasts extol its virtues. At Flora Force, we passionately believe in the health benefits of a well-balanced eating plan. So bone broth could hardly fail to catch our attention. We wanted to find out if this paleo-lovers’ favourite could be considered the new ‘superfood’ on the block. Is it really the ultimate mineral-rich soup for improved gut health, joint health and immunity? Or is it just a meaty brew?
What is bone broth, actually?
In a word, it’s stock. Stock that’s made from bones and water. As bones are made principally of protein (notably collagen), minerals and fatty acids, gelatin and vitamins, it’s quite understandable that you’d expect the brew to be really good for you. After all, broth made with bones, especially beef bones, is a must on paleo and low-carb diets. Users claim that the health benefits included reduced joint pain, an improved immune system and smoother skin.
Why is it good for you?
The truth is that few studies have been done to analyse the contents of bone broth, or even to compare them with other mineral-rich foods. It’s a difficult task. For example, there’s no single bone broth recipe. It can be made with different animal bones (some with fatty marrow, some without). Certain versions have added flavours (like onions and herbs); others are simmered for five to 24-plus hours. All of those variables impact the nutritional properties and will give you a different broth.
Let’s look at some of the scientific findings about bone broth on record…
Claims that support bone broth
A 1934 nutritional analysis in The Archives of Disease in Childhood concluded that bone broths are not of ‘great nutritional value’. Later, studies that focused on chicken broth – made with chicken bones and vegetables – revealed that:
Chicken soup helps clear nasal passages
A 1978 study of 15 adults published in the medical journal Chest showed that sipping hot chicken soup increased the flow of mucus notably better than sipping either hot or cold water.
Chicken soup may reduce inflammation
Laboratory tests reported in Chest in 2000 showed that people who drank chicken soup seemed to experience a mild reduction in inflammation that helped reduce symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection.
Bone broth may replace electrolytes after exercise
Certified sports dietitian Rebecca Mohning from Washington, D.C. say bone broth may replace electrolytes and help you recover after a workout, says ‘It’s a nice way to rehydrate the body, because of the liquid, and then replenish the sodium that is lost through sweat during exercise,’ she says. The amino acids may also provide the body with the building blocks it needs to rebuild muscle.
Bone broth is a fairly good source of protein
Caitlin Van Dreason, a registered dietitian and clinical nutrition manager at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, says bone broth is a fairly good source of protein, as it contains 6-12 grams a cup.
Claims unsupported by scientific studies
Bone broth relieves joint pain
Take arthritis as an example. Arthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage from the joints. Cartilage cushions joints and the protein collagen is an important component of cartilage. Although bone broth contains collagen, dietary collagen isn’t absorbed and simply sent straight to your knees or whichever other joints that may be affected by arthritis. Instead, like other proteins, collagen is broken down into amino acids – these become building blocks for body tissues. Professor William H. Percy of the Sanford School of Medicine, explains. ‘Since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinki ng,’ he says.
Bone broth makes skin firmer and smoother
This claim is also based on collagen, which is also an important component of the connective tissue layer that supports the skin. Just as dietary collagen isn’t transported directly to your joints, it isn’t taken directly to your skin, either. Sadly.
There is some evidence that some forms of collagen supplementation may improve skin elasticity. But such studies are usually conducted with supplements made from very specific collagen peptides. Such peptides are either synthesized in laboratories or extracted and concentrated from various different sources, and given in controlled doses of several grams every day. It is not comparable to bone broth.
Bone broth improves digestion
The gelatin in bone broth is said to help digestion. There’s little evidence to support this claim.
Bone broth strengthens bone
Just because a soup is derived from bone doesn’t mean it will build bone or prevent osteoporosis. Although more calcium and magnesium are released when the broth is cooked for a longer period (up to 48 hours), these figures still represent less than five percent of the recommended dietary levels.
The goodness is in the broth itself
To examine the contents of bone broth, Lawrence Dubois, manager of the Canadian wholefood and natural remedy company Salt Spring Natureworks, recently conducted tests on his own. He prepared several bone broth recipes and sent them off to a lab for analysis. ‘Apart from the increased protein content in the liquid, the results of the lab tests were “totally unimpressive”,’ he said. In fact, he discovered that the greatest benefit is found in the bits we usually leave behind – the debris and ‘gravel’ at the bottom of the bowl/cup. That’s where the mineral goodness is concentrated.
So what’s the answer?
Whilst there are many superfoods that can support optimal wellness, there’s no one magic food that’s going to keep you healthy. As Dr Percy says, ‘Bone broth as part of a well-balanced and nutritionally sound diet is probably harmless. But it is not some type of “miracle food source” with the ability to cure a multitude of aches, pains and diseases all by itself.’
Dr Werner Kerschbaumer (Registered Homeopath) emphasises the importance of a balanced, commonsense eating plan. ‘Taking bone broth may have benefits, but only to supplement your food. Drunk as a soup before meals, it’s filling. The liquid “bulks” up your food by increasing fluid intake rather than kilojoules and can thus be helpful in weight management’.
But the important thing to remember, he adds, is that ‘the body is not like a motor vehicle, designed to run on refined liquid fuel. It is designed to break down food by digestion, not to take in the already broken down parts. The digestive process starts when you chew, as enzymes are released in your saliva. Liquid food, like Broths, have their place, but only as part of a good old whole-food, balanced, commonsense diet.’
A note for vegetarians and vegans
This is good news for meat-lovers too. As you know, there are loads of plant sources of minerals. We recommend that, in addition to a well-balanced diet, you look to the full-spectrum, single-source supplement Flora Force DensiMax™ for all your multi-mineral needs. Find it at natural healthcare outlets nationwide, or online at Faithful To Nature.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
- Dubois, Lawrence. Bone broth analysis: Reader research. Alive. 2016. https://www.alive.com/health/bone-broth-analysis-reader-research/
- Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing. What’s the scoop on bone soup? 2015. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/whats-the-scoop-on-bone-soup
- Heid, Markham. Science can’t explain why everyone is drinking bone broth. Time Health. 2016. http://time.com/4159156/bone-broth-health-benefits/
- Hsu, DJ, Lee, CW, Tsai, WC, Chien, YC. Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food Nutr Res. 2017 Jul 18;61(1):1347478. doi: 10.1080/16546628.2017.1347478. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28804437
- McCance, R. A., Sheldon, W., Widdowson, E.M. Bone and vegetable broth. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 1934. 9 (52) 251-258; doi: 10.1136/adc.9.52.251. http://adc.bmj.com/content/9/52/251