Bone broth (stock) is a liquid made from simmering bones in water over a period of time. Drinking bone broth on its own, or using it as a base for soups and other dishes, is a great way to get its health benefits. Bone broth contains many important nutrients, including amino acids, collagen, and protein. (11) Scientific evidence suggests that the nutrients in bone broth may support digestive health, joint health, a healthy immune system, and more.
Keep reading below to learn about bone broth benefits, and how to make your own bone broth at home.
5 bone broth benefits
Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins in our cells and tissues, are one of the main components of bone broth. Proteins are used within the body to perform many bodily functions as well as repair, build, and grow bodily tissues. (7)(15) Research indicates that the components of bone broth can benefit the body from head to toe, from mental health to skin health.
1. Brain health
Bone broth is a good source of the amino acid glycine, which plays a key role as a neurotransmitter (messenger between nerves and cells), influencing brain development, motor skills, and behavior. (4)(11)(18) Glycine also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.Research demonstrates that glycine can decrease neurological (brain and spinal cord) damage related to oxidative stress in mice. (22) Cellular damage related to oxidative stress can negatively affect the nervous system, potentially playing a role in the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. (19)
2. Gut health
Beef bone broth is rich in the amino acid glutamine, the most abundant and widely used amino acid in the body. (7)(11) About 30% of total body glutamine is used by the digestive tract to support intestinal health. Its functions include supporting a healthy inflammatory response, maintaining the intestinal barrier, and regulating intestinal cell death. (10) In gut health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, glutamine levels are significantly lower than healthy individuals. (8) Regularly drinking bone broth may help increase glutamine levels to support digestive health. (11)
3. Immune health
Not only is glutamine a key nutrient for a healthy gut but also a healthy immune system. Leukocytes (white blood cells) require glutamine for proper function. During illness or injury, glutamine is used by the immune system just as much, if not more, than glucose (sugar), the main source of energy for the human body. Glutamine can be created within the body, but levels are often insufficient during times of illness. Research indicates that supplementing with glutamine before or after a major health event, such as bone marrow transplantation, radiation treatment, or surgery, may be beneficial for immune health. (7)
4. Joint health
Joint pain related to osteoarthritis (joint damage) is one of the most common causes of chronic pain, affecting millions of North Americans. (6)(17) Osteoarthritis occurs when joint cartilage (tough, flexible tissue) degrades, causing bones to scrape against each other as the joint moves. This can eventually cause pain and negatively impact all areas of connective tissue, including bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. (5)(13) Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues, such as cartilage. Collagen can be synthesized in the body using amino acids, or obtained from dietary or supplement sources. (23) Consuming more collagen and collagen-building amino acids and nutrients may be one way to promote bone and joint health. (2)(17)
Bone broth is a good dietary source of collagen and collagen-building amino acids. (11) Clinical and animal research has demonstrated that supplementing with collagen extract derived from chicken bones, like that from chicken bone broth, may be effective for decreasing joint pain. (12)(20)
5. Skin health
Skin, the body’s largest organ, contains up to 70% of collagen, which plays an important role in maintaining skin structure and elasticity. (3)(21) Aging reduces collagen production within the body, which can weaken skin elasticity and strength, causing the skin to become thin, dry, and wrinkled. (3) Research suggests that collagen is a major component in the “anti-aging” of skin. (21) Bone broth collagen may be just what your skin needs for a youthful glow.
Bone broth precautions
Bone marrow is the fatty, soft, spongey tissue found in the center of most bones. Marrow bones (e.g., femur) are good choices for bone broth as they contain high amounts of collagen and amino acids. As a fatty tissue, bone marrow is also a rich source of vitamin D, which is stored in fat. One reported case has noted that regularly drinking high volumes of bone broth, notably beef bone broth, may lead to hypervitaminosis D (excess vitamin D). (16) Hypervitaminosis D can lead to hypercalcemia (excess blood calcium) which can cause serious health complications, including fragile bones, fatigue, and vomiting. (14)
In addition to the important amino acids and key nutrients found in animal bones, there may also be trace amounts of heavy metals, such as lead. However, research indicates that the levels of heavy metals present in bone broths are not considered dangerous, falling within the Maximim Residue Limits (MRLs) established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (9)
Homemade bone broth recipe
Making bone broth at home on the stovetop or in a slow cooker is the best way to get its amazing health benefits. A study reported that store-bought bone broth was found to be lower in all amino acids than the self-prepared varieties. (1) While it may sound daunting, making your own bone broth is actually fairly simple.
The bottom line
The health benefits of bone broth come from its rich nutrient content, including the protein collagen and its related amino acids. Consuming bone broth may support a variety of health facets, including mental health and joint health. Bone broth is mostly considered safe, but may contain trace amounts of heavy metals and can lead to vitamin D toxicity if consumed in excess. Sourcing high-quality animal bones and making bone broth at home is one way to limit toxin exposure and increase the nutrient content. If you’re a patient, consult with your integrative healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet.
- Alcock, R. D., Shaw, G. C., & Burke, L. M. (2019). Bone broth unlikely to provide reliable concentrations of collagen precursors compared with supplemental sources of collagen used in collagen research. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 29(3), 265–272.
- Alcock, R. D., Shaw, G. C., Tee, N., & Burke, L. M. (2019). Plasma amino acid concentrations after the ingestion of dairy and collagen proteins, in healthy active males. Frontiers in nutrition, 6, 163.
- Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T., & Prawitt, J. (2015). The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: Evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 14(4), 291–301.
- Avila, A., Nguyen, L., & Rigo, J. M. (2013). Glycine receptors and brain development. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 7.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Osteoarthritis (OA). https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Joint pain and arthritis. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/pain/index.htm
- Cruzat, V., Macedo Rogero, M., Noel Keane, K., Curi, R., & Newsholme, P. (2018). Glutamine: Metabolism and immune function, supplementation and clinical translation. Nutrients, 10(11), 1564.
- He, F., Wu, C., Li, P., Li, N., Zhang, D., Zhu, Q., Ren, W., & Peng, Y. (2018). Functions and signaling pathways of amino acids in intestinal Inflammation. BioMed research international, 2018, 9171905.
- Hsu, D. J., Lee, C. W., Tsai, W. C., & Chien, Y. C. (2017). Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1347478.
- Kim, M. H., & Kim, H. (2017). The roles of glutamine in the intestine and its implication in intestinal diseases. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(5), 1051.
- Mar-Solís, L. M., Soto-Domínguez, A., Rodríguez-Tovar, L. E., Rodríguez-Rocha, H., García-García, A., Aguirre-Arzola, V. E., Zamora-Ávila, D. E., … & Castillo-Velázquez, U. (2021). Analysis of the anti-inflammatory capacity of bone broth in a murine model of ulcerative colitis. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 57(11), 1138.
- Mobasheri, A., Mahmoudian, A., Kalvaityte, U., Uzieliene, I., Larder, C. E., Iskandar, M. M., Kubow, S., … & Zuscik, M. J. (2021. A white paper on collagen hydrolyzates and ultrahydrolyzates: Potential supplements to support joint health in osteoarthritis? Current Rheumatology Reports, 23(11).
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2019). Overview of osteoarthritis. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoarthritis
- National Institutes of Health . (2020). Hypercalcemia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000365.htm
- National Institutes of Health . (2021). Amino acids. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm
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- Schauss, A. G., Stenehjem, J., Park, J., Endres, J. R., & Clewell, A. (2012). Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 60(16), 4096–4101.
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- Ullah, R., Jo, M. H., Riaz, M., Alam, S. I., Saeed, K., Ali, W., Rehman, I. U., … & Kim, M. O. (2020). Glycine, the smallest amino acid, confers neuroprotection against D-galactose-induced neurodegeneration and memory impairment by regulating c-Jun N-terminal kinase in the mouse brain. Journal of neuroinflammation, 17(1), 303.
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