Teach Me

Bone Broth: A Nutritious Elixir or the Latest Gimmick?

If you believe everything you read on the internet, bone broth might be the solution to all your problems. You’ll see claims that it aids digestion, fights inflammation, improves joint health, helps with weight loss, and improves nerve function. But how much is true and how much is just hype?

Tyler Florek, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Banner Del E Webb Medical Center in Sun City West, AZ, says that to make sense of bone broth’s health claims, it helps to know a little about how it’s made and what’s in it. To make bone broth, you boil animal bones—usually chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. Boiling extracts collagen, gelatin, and minerals.

Collagen and gelatin contain essential amino acids, which are amino acids you need to get from your diet. They also contain other amino acids that some people with certain health conditions can’t get from their diets. “Most of the potential benefit of bone broth comes from the amino acids it contains,” Florek said. Those potential benefits could include:

  • Better gut healing. One of the amino acids in bone broth, called glutamine, may help your gut cells regenerate. And collagen may help reduce inflammation and symptoms of irritable bowel disease (IBD).
  • Fewer symptoms from osteoarthritis. One study found that the amino acids found in bone broth reduced arthritis symptoms.
  • Healthier skin, hair, and teeth. Skin, hair, and teeth all contain a high percentage of collagen. Some animal studies have found that collagen supplements lead to more collagen production.

Bone broth also contains important minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. “All of these minerals are essential and important,” Florek said. They help support your metabolism, maintain healthy bones, and keep your nerves functioning properly.

Does bone broth deserve the credit for these potential health benefits?

“The problem with the potential benefits of bone broth is that the benefit is seen from the individual components found in bone broth, not the bone broth itself,” Florek said.

Bone broth does contain amino acids and minerals that have known health benefits. But the studies used much higher amounts of amino acids than you would find naturally in bone broth. So, it is unlikely that it contains enough of them to lead to these health gains.

Plus, not all bone broth is the same. “There is a lot of variability in the way bone broth is made, so there is no guarantee of what and how much of the potentially beneficial components it may contain,” Florek said.

What about bone broth for weight loss?

Bone broth is low in calories. So, when you consume it, it’s easier to eat fewer calories overall and to lose weight. But you could get the same results from any low-calorie food or drink. “To date, there is no quality research showing a benefit from bone broth on weight loss,” Florek said.

Florek doesn’t recommend supplementing your diet with bone broth, since there’s not enough evidence to support it. “I would caution you against purchasing any expensive premade bone broths, especially those making health claims, given the lack of research,” he said.

But if you like bone broth and you feel like you benefit from it, you have his support. “Make your own bone broth because you enjoy its warmth and flavor. If you’re already drinking bone broth and you believe it helps you, keep doing it,” he said.

Would you like help building a nutrition plan that helps you meet your health goals? Schedule a visit with a Banner Health dietitian today. Visit bannerhealth.com to get started.

To learn more about the pros and cons of foods and supplements, check out these articles on milk and milk alternatives, cod liver oil, caffeine, prebiotics, and kicking the soda habit.

Nutrition Wellness