Vitality

Bone Broth Is All The Rage, But Does It Live Up To Its Reputation?

Bone Broth
Bone broth reportedly helps with weight loss, reducing wrinkles, and digestive function. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Ramen burgers and cronuts epitomized food crazes last year, and exemplified the direction in which contemporary cooking and baking might go. While that direction may still be taken, the latest food craze is taking it back to grandma’s house — or great-grandma’s house — with bone broth, a variation on the chicken broth so many of our grandmothers used to feed us on a cold winter afternoon. Yeah, it may seem counterintuitive to bring back such a staple during a time when all these new foods are coming out, but this time it’s all about the health benefits that come with it. Or so they say. Is bone broth as beneficial as it’s cracked up to be?

The short answer is no. But that’s not to say the supposed magical elixir isn’t good for the body. First, though, let’s cover what it actually is and what its benefits are supposed to be. “Bone broth isn’t all that different from the regular broth or stocks you see in recipes and soups,” nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH, author of the best-selling book The One One One Diet: The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, told Medical Daily in an email. “The main difference is the time it’s spent simmering … for up to 48 hours.” The bones, which can be anything from chicken to beef to fish, essentially disintegrate during this process, releasing whatever vitamins and minerals are inside.

All those vitamins and minerals have been said to go beyond the immune system-boosting benefits of chicken soup. Stores of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are supposed to be good for the bones and teeth. Meanwhile, all the gelatin and collagen — considered the main protein holding the body together — are supposed to improve digestive health; improve skin health; and strengthen joints, ligaments, tendons, hair, and nails. Some even suggest the broth could help reduce cellulite.

Of course, all of this sounds too good to be true because it is; staying healthy just isn’t that easy (sorry guys). “As of now, there is no clinical evidence that suggests bone broth provides any additional health benefits beyond normal broths,” Batayneh said. For one, many of the nutrients the bones contain lose their healthful benefits as the broth simmers, NPR reported. And even if they don’t lose those benefits, Batayneh said there’s a good chance your typical health-conscious broth drinker is already getting the same nutrients through several other healthy foods.

The same can be said about gelatin and collagen. “Simply eating collagen won’t improve the health of the collagen already in your body, just as consuming tendons doesn’t improve the health of tendons in your body,” Batayneh said. Instead, the collagen will be broken down into amino acids, which are “put to work in the body where they’re needed most — not necessarily to improve your complexion or heal an injury.”

Despite the fact many of these health benefits may just be hype, broth made with chicken bones, aka chicken soup, has been shown to boost immune health. A study from 2000, published in the journal Chest, found that participants who ate chicken soup experienced a slight reduction in their bodies’ inflammatory responses to upper respiratory tract infections. The reason: the chicken soup inhibited neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, from responding. This reaction may be attributed to carnosine, a compound in chicken soup that’s been found through another study to affect the immune system — not only did it inhibit inflammation but it also prevented the virus from replicating.

In addition to its immune-boosting effects, bone broth may be most useful as a post-workout drink. All the aforementioned nutrients, plus potassium, make it a “convenient post-exercise electrolyte replenishment drink,” Batayneh said. It’s in this way that bone broth can contribute to a person’s overall health. Exercise and a balanced diet, which includes replacing all those candy bars and other unhealthy snacks with bone broth, reduces calorie intake and builds a strong healthy body.

So, while bone broth isn’t a cure-all, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it. Just be sure to make it yourself; it’s cheaper that way. Or, if you don’t want to have a pot on the stove for 48 hours, “spend your money on evidence-based nutrition guidelines,” Batayneh said, such as “more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and fewer processed foods and sugars.”

 

  

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