Bone broth is all the rage right now. This New York Times article praised bone broths’ “demonstrable nutrition benefits.” Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D. wrote an article on MindBodyGreen called The ONE Trick I Use To Stay Slim: A Nutritionist Explains. Her “one trick” is drinking bone broth. The list goes on.
I wanted to know if bone broth is actually good for you. It seems as if every blogger out there sings the praises of bone broth as a miracle cure for everything from digestive disorders to weight loss … but none of them ever seem to back it up with actual science.
That’s what we’ll do in this article: quickly sum up what actual research says about the pros and cons of bone broth.
Get your spoon ready, because we’re about to dig in …
The (Alleged) Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Here are some of the many health claims I found about the health benefits of bone broth:
- Heal leaky gut
- Overcome foods intolerances and allergies
- Improve joint health
- Reduce cellulite
- Boost immune system
- Make your skin supple
- Reduce cellulite
Unfortunately, there’s zero evidence to back up any of these claims. David Katz, M.D. Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, had this to say:
I recently published the third edition of my nutrition textbook for health care professionals. The book ran to over 750 pages, and roughly 10,000 references (and yes, it was every bit as painful as it sounds; writing textbooks is not for the faint of heart). Nowhere in the mix did I or my coauthors find, or cite, an article about the “demonstrable nutrition benefits” of bone broth.
One of the biggest benefits of bone broth that advocates tout is collagen, a protein found in the connective tissue of animals. Collagen, they say, can help strengthen your bones, protect your digestive tract, and improve your skin.
Again, there’s no clinical data to support any of these claims though. Most scientists will tell you it’s way overblown.
William Percy, an associate professor at the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine, said in this NPR article that:
Since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinking.
In the same article, food scientist Kantha Shelke says if you want to build collagen, you need more than bone broth:
Eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables is ideal. Plants offer richer sources in collagen building blocks and, in addition, provide nutrients not found in sufficient quantities in meats or broth.
The Actual Health Benefits of Bone Broth
There are two health claims about bone broth that do seem to hold up to scientific scrutiny.
One small study from the year 2000 found that chicken broth may help reduce inflammation and cold symptoms when you’re sick (personal anecdote: I always drink hot tea and broth when I’m sick, and it always helps).
Another small study found that bone broth or soups made with bone broth may help replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery.
Other than that, there’s not much credible evidence that bone broth is actually good for you.
The Bottom Line
Like most health fads, take bone broth’s supposed magical elixir qualities with a grain of salt. Drinking salty animal broth may taste good, but it’s not a magic potion. I love making soups and stocks (here are some healthy soup recipes from my other website) but the evidence simply doesn’t justify all the hype they’re getting.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr. David Katz:
The most remarkable thing about the dietary component of lifestyle as stunningly effective medicine is how simple it is. Real food, not too much, mostly plants, to quote Michael Pollan.