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Should We be Drinking Bone Broth?

Should We be Drinking Bone Broth?Bone broth has become a major trend over the past year or so. Bone broth is promoted as having a wide variety of benefits in terms of both the nutrients it provides, and improving overall health.
Photo: juan-calderon flickr cc

So what is bone broth? Broth, or stock, is a liquid made from boiling water with animal or bird bones, meat, and/or vegetables. Types of broth vary based on what is included in making them – for example, chicken broth vs. beef broth vs. vegetable broth. Bone broth is made from boiling water with bones of animals or birds, with or without their meat and other vegetables.

Where do the benefits of bone broth come from?

Bones contain several vitamins and minerals that, when boiled, may transfer to the broth and become available for human absorption. Similarly, tissues within and surrounding bone also contain specific properties and nutrients which may be transferred to bone broth.1

Does the evidence support it?

First, let’s look at the nutrient content. Lawrence Dubois submitted his reader research to Alive.com comparing nutrients in different batches of broth2. We compared his findings (water vs. bone broth boiled with vegetables for 24 hours) to other popular sources of calcium: cow’s milk and almond milk (1 cup of each), and the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for men (M) and women (W):

Calcium (mg/L) Copper
(mg/L)
Iron
(mg/L)
Magnesium
(mg/L)
Manganese
(mg/L)
Potassium
(mg/L)
Sodium
(mg/L)
Zinc
(mg/L)
Protein (g)

Water

29.5

0.032

0.034

1.2

0.004

2.90

45.3

0.05

N/A

Bone Broth

27.2

0.035

0.245

14.7

0.004

668.0

1060.0

0.158

118.6

Cow’s Milk

305.0

ND

0.07

27.0

ND

366.0

107

1.02

8.22

Almond Milk

516.0

ND

0.92

18.0

ND

176.0

186.0

0.18

1.55

RDA3
(mg/day)

1000 (M) 1200 (W)

0.9

8 (M)
18 (W)

320

2.3 (M)
1.8 (W)

4700

1500

9.4 (M)
6.8(W)

0.8g/kg

While bone broth does contains more of some minerals – iron, potassium, sodium, and zinc –  as a percentage of the total RDA, these minerals are not present in high amounts. The exception here is sodium, which is not challenging to get from other places in our diet.

Protein is also very high in bone broth; in fact, this protein content is higher than most people would require from their overall daily intake! A 60 kg woman (130 pounds) and 80kg man (175 pounds) would only require 48g and 64g, respectively, of protein daily to meet their needs. However, it’s important to remember that protein deficiency in North America is extremely rare.

Beyond the Nutrients

Since broth is made with bones and surrounding tissue, including cartilage, gelatin, and collagen, it is suggested that these components also work to provide healthful benefits and aid in certain conditions. Some examples of suggested benefits to surrounding bone tissue include1:

Cartilage

Gelatin

Collagen

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Immune Support

 

  •  Allergy symptoms
  • GI Health
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Calcium & Iron deficiency
  • Osteoporosis
  • Wound healing
  • Soft tissue injury (including surgery)
  • Cartilage + Bone injury

 

Of these three, collagen has some potential to provide health benefits4. Collagen makes up 25-35 percent of the body’s total protein and is used to build healthy bones, cartilage, skin, arteries, and other body structures. Collagen gives flexibility and structural consistency to tissues (like bones and skin) and joints, and helps to slow down negative effects of aging, for example dry skin and brittle bones. Collagen gained interest as a potential therapeutic management of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis because of its potential to provide strength and suppleness to bones. However, more research is needed on collagen as management option for these conditions and on benefits of cartilage, gelatin and collagen in bone broth on general health and longevity before they are recommended.

The Takeaway

Bone broth provides nutrients and may have a purpose in treatment of skeletal conditions for its collagen content. Research is not strong enough in this area to make any recommendations. As for the healthy population, bone broth does not provide significant amounts of any nutrient that cannot be reasonably found from other sources a balanced diet. If you already include bone broth in your diet, no harm done – you may want to dilute it with hot water to tone down the protein and sodium content – but no need to bend over backwards to include bone broth into your overall diet.

posted by Lauren Knipping, MSc RD

1Siebecker A. Traditional bone broth in modern health and disease. Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients (2005). Feb/March, 74-81.
2Dubois L. (November 5, 2014). Bone broth analysis: Reader research.  Alive Publishing Group Inc. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.alive.com/health/bone-broth-analysis-reader-research/
3Health Canada. Dietary reference intake tables. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/index-eng.php#rvv
4Daniel KT. [date unknown]. Research reveals little calcium in bone broth. Austus Media LLC. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/bone-broth-calcium/

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