Bone Broth: Good For You, But How Good?


Bone broth. Some say it's the elixir of the gods, with benefits ranging from healthy skin to improved immune function. But how good is it? And what is bone broth anyway?

First off, bone broth is different than stock and regular broth. The most important difference is the length of cooking; stock is cooked up to 2 hours, broth 4-6, and bone broth 24-48 hours. The reason for the long cooking time is to get as much of the nutrients out of the bones as possible. This is believed to be the reason it confers all of the health benefits you'll read about. 

This long cooking time makes the bones leach out high amounts of collagen, the main structural protein in our bodies responsible for making healthy joints, skin, and all other connective tissue including your digestive tract. It's also thought to be a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin, the classical joint support supplements, as well as vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

For these reasons, bone broth is being toted as one of the healthiest things to consume.  

Unfortunately, there really isn't evidence to support many of the claims for bone broth specifically. 

Most of the research you will see investigates individual components included in bone broth, like collagen supplements for example. There is research to show that collagen can improve skin health (123), but no evidence to show bone broth has this ability. There is research to show that collagen, chondroitin, and glucosamine can help with arthritic joint pain (4), but again no empirical evidence to show bone broth does.  Finally, there is also research to show that gelatin may have an effect on human digestive tract cells (5), but again no evidence that bone broth helps in this regard. 

It's not that I don't love bone broth or think it is an extremely healthy food to consume. I do, but I also think there is too much hype - as is often the case with these “superfoods” (see the recent fuss about apple cider vinegar). 

As a naturopathic doctor, I counsel my patients to be realistic. It's not a miracle cure for whatever ails you; it's a great part of a more complete treatment plan, and a really easy way to catch the cooking bug. Whenever I recommend it, I am honest about the benefits; it is a long-term lifestyle change and the benefit may be very subtle yet important. 

Three tips for making your own bone broth:

The key to a good bone broth is choosing the right type of bones; the really cartilaginous bones like knuckles are great since they have a lot of collagen. 

It’s okay to mix the type of bones in your broth - beef, pork, venison, etc. More types, more better!

Add some vinegar or lemon juice and cook for at least 8 hours (24-48 hours is generally recommended) to elevate the pH in your broth [6]. 

If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Oake