Is There Legitimate Scientific Proof of Bone Broth Health Benefits? Find Out Here

Scientific Proof of Bone Broth Health Benefits

The audacious claims of health benefits drinking bone broth are great, but are they backed by research? This is where things get interesting.

You might find me biased because I make and sell delicious bone broth. Sure I have a vested interest in painting a pretty picture of how it helps you. However, there are brands making audacious and unsafe claims about what bone broth does.

This article will outline these claims and tell you whether each one has research studies, science or merely fluff to support it.

Read if there is actual scientific proof of bone broth below.

Which bone broth is perfect for you? Take the quiz.

Is there scientific research to support bone broth health benefits?

There is very little scientific research done on bone broth alone to test its health benefits. Why? Research is almost always funded by large companies or brands who have a vested interest in the results.

While bone broth is popular, it is not a huge food category. The market is not large enough to warrant companies investing to produce and publish research. The biggest brand simply can't afford or justify the expense because the upside is not there for them to do so.

There is some research in soups made with animal bones, stocks and chicken soup which show promising results. We will dive into these below.

Drinking Bone Broth Benefits

The benefits of drinking bone broth are fascinating and audacious. These include immune system support, joint pain, sleep benefits, gut health skin health, better digestion, blood sugar control and weight loss.

Let's be honest, most people drink it for the weight loss benefits. I'll tell you what the science shows on all of these below.

Proven health benefits of bone broth infographic

What nutrients are in bone broth?

The nutrients in bone broth are highly bioavailable, which means that they are easily digested and absorbed by the body. Much more so than meat protein.

Bone broth gets nutrition from collagen, gelatin, glycine, proline, glutamine, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, proteoglycans, cartilage, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. These are all heavily studied minerals with tons of amazing benefits.

Claim: Rich in Minerals That Support Your Immune System

Bone broth has been used as a treatment for the flu, colds, coughs, and sinus issues for hundreds of years all around the globe. This is because of the trace minerals and electrolytes like potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Research to Support it:

In the 1990s researchers found that chicken soup supports immunity and can help cure health issues like the common cold or infections.

The study found that drinking it blocks white blood cells in our upper respiratory tract. Less white blood cells helps to shorten the duration of a cold. Meaning you heal quicker from the immunity boost.

So what is going on here? The researchers think that two things may be responsible for clearing up a cold or infection.

  1. Glycine - A potent amino acid in bone broth that helps heal your gut and organs.
  2. Carnosine - which may reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with viral infections.

The gut wall and brain are intimately connected and a compromised gut wall can lead to more complex autoimmune issues.

Claim: Nutrition For Gut Health and Digestive System

Perhaps the most cited claim for bone broth is gut health and digestion. People say it helps sooth digestion because of the unique type of amino acids. These proteins helps reduce bloating, poor digestion, upset stomach and leaky gut barrier dysfunction.

Leaky gut in particular is difficult to fix. But the unique amino acids like glycine and glutamine found in bone broth are actually shown to help tighten the little holes or leaks in your gut to eventually fix it.

Also, gelatin, which makes up 90% of the protein in properly made bone broth has hydrophilic properties which makes it great as a digestive aid.

It acts as a lubricant to help move food through your GI tract, easing issues with more hard to digest foods (like vegetables) that can cause common problems like indigestion, heartburn, chronic bloating and IBS.

Research to Support it:

That being said, we are extrapolating what is in bone broth to provide these benefits. There is no research using bone broth on its own to fix real gut or digestive issues.

There is strong research showing glutamine, glycine and gelatin benefits for severe gut issues like IBS, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

They do this by helping to regenerate the mucosal lining of your intestinal wall. This reduces permeability and could potentially aid inflammatory conditions like celiac disease and those above.

Although few modern-day doctors recommend bone broth anymore, prior to World War II and the rise of pharmaceuticals (aka penicillin), doctors were much more open to using food as medicine.

Chicken bone broth powder from Bluebird Provisions

Claim: Healthy Joints and Arthritis Pain Reduction

This health benefit involves using bone broth to help lubricate connective tissue in your body around your joints. This is thought to help with osteoarthritis problems and general joint pain.

Some experts think that the rise in arthritis rates are due to gelatin-rich foods no longer being available in modern diets. We used to eat more gelatin food than we do now. And bone broth is the perfect source.

What people don't cite is that the unique protein in bone broth is used to heal tendon injuries like achilles tendonitis or patellar tendon issues in professional athletes.

Research to Support it:

There is strong research to support using gelatin combined with vitamin C and a specific exercise protocol for healing tendon and joint injuries.

But again, this is assuming that the bone broth you are drinking has enough gelatin in it. There is no direct research using bone broth on its own for joint pain or arthritis.

What we do have is other research using collagen peptides in relief of osteoarthritis and joint pain in athletes on 10 g per day. You need one large cup or mug of broth or 2 tbsp of a quality powder (approximately 350 ml) to get enough collagen.

Benefit: Get Glowing Skin, Healthy Hair, Teeth and Nails

Skin health benefits of bone broth include an improvement in skin elasticity and hydration. Also, it is a good source of hyaluronic acid which is an important nutrient for keeping skin supple, hydrated and smooth looking.

Research to Support it:

There is are no studies that use bone broth to improve markers of skin health or hair, teeth and nails. There are plenty of studies using collagen protein and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin, reduce wrinkles and improve skin's natural elasticity. These are three things that can get you 'glowing...' as they say.

There’s lots of science showing an increase in skin elasticity from taking collagen for eight weeks or more. You need about 10 g per day.

You need it in order to replace the damaged skin cells and collagen layers of your skin. Your body is constantly turning it over, so taking a steady dose seems to help.

The Science of Bone Broth to Improve Sleep

Anecdotally, a mug of bone broth before bed puts me right now. I also see this with with our guests and reviewers. We think it's because of the 3 g of glycine you get per cup.

Glycine is a rare amino acid that has been shown to help decrease core body temperature which helps get you into deeper sleep phases. It's an inhibitory neurotransmitter (like GABA) that helps release anxious thoughts and helps you relax.

Research to Support it:

You will not find any science supporting bone broth to improve sleep quality or duration. Any sleep claims you read are touting what is in the product, not the product itself.

If you are looking for a better nights sleep, make sure you find out how much glycine is in the brand you are using. You need at least 3 g per 250ml or 2 tbsp serving (for powders).

Claim: Using Bone Broth For Weight Loss

One famous internet personality and brand owner claims that you can “lose up to 15 pounds, 4 inches, and your wrinkles — in just 21 days.”

The idea is that bone broth can help you feel fuller for longer. This is because it is all protein and full of gelatin. Gelatin is shown to help with satiety because it creates a gel in your stomach that slows digestion and keeps your satisfied without the cravings.

Research to Support it:

No studies are using bone broth to help with weight loss. Anything you read is bogus anecdotal reports. While these reviews and stories from guests and drinkers are promising, there is no data to support it.

Be careful with anything that promises weight loss. This is the ultimate way to prey on your emotions to sell you something. Always know that you are enough and perfect just the way you are. If you are looking to lose weight for aesthetic reasons, there are ways that you can learn to be happy at any size or shape.

womane with healthy skin looking into mirror

Brain Health Claims

Glycine, which is the main amino acid in bone broth to the tune of 3 g per cup, helps to calm the central nervous system which can help you relax and is good for mental health.

Bone broth also provides marrow and the fat your brain needs for fuel and to help maintain its structure. Broth made with marrow bones will provide the fat your brain needs for fuel and to help maintain its structure.

Research to Support it:

You'll be shocked at this one, but again, there is no research to support these claims. Brands are extrapolating from research done on marrow and glycine supplementation to support the claims they make.

This doesn't mean it won't help, it means that we need someone to step up and fund some research.

Claim: Reducing Inflammation

Collagen-rich foods like bone broth can reduce inflammation in your guy, cells and liver. The liver thing sounds weird, but there is some evidence showing that glycine helps to naturally detox your liver.

It also helps balance out the methionine levels we get from eating too many chicken breasts and steak. Methionine can be bad for you in high levels, so you need collagen rich foods to buffer its negative effects.

Research to Support it:

There are no studies showing bone broth to reduce inflammation. The claims above come from collagen and glycine research.

Claim: Get All Day Energy Without the Crash

Some brand are claiming it will give you steady energy without the dreaded caffeine crash. What goes into this? I think most brands making this statement do it because of the natural electrolytes. Electrolytes like potassium, sodium and magnesium can help stabilize energy levels and assist in general health and wellness.

Research to Support it:

You'll find no studies to back up the idea that it gives you endless energy. Many electrolyte supplements make similar claims. So you have to look at the individual hydration of each product to see if it will help.

For chicken bone broth, look for one that has at least 300 mg potassium per serving (1 cup of liquid or per 13 g for powder). If there is less than 200 mg than it is simply not a traditionally made product.

Claim: Get Strong Bones From Bone Broth

There is no research to support that bone broth gives you stronger bones. This claim is routinely used in Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine historically. Nowadays, you see bloggers, holistic nutritionists and naturopaths spout the same nonsense.

There is almost no calcium in it. Don't believe me? Look at the nutrition label of most brands. There are other things that may help with bones, but we need research to tell us definitively.

What are the potential risks of bone broth?

The potential risks of drinking bone broth are allergic reactions, heavy metals, consuming GMO products full of hormones and antibiotics and glutamate sensitivities.

That being said, there is a bigger risk for your health and that is from drinking fake products mislabelled as real bone broth.

Sadly it is true. Most store bought or online versions (including those in soup) are mislabeled garbage that are more harmful that good.

Closing Thoughts

Bone broth is a wonderful beverage rich in protein, vitamins and minerals for your health and longevity. The sad thing is that there is no scientific research using it specifically to support the lofty claims that many brands make.

That is ok though, eventually, we will get research articles to confirm which claims are legit and which are bogus. Until then, you need to do your own research to find trusted brands.

A great one you can find online or on Amazon Prime is Bluebird Provisions. They make a convenient chicken bone broth protein powder with 3 g glycine, 12 g protein and 300 mg potassium per serving.

Above all else, it uses real ingredients (just pasture raised chicken bones and water) and has a delicious flavor that feels like a homemade version.

Are you frustrated by bands making outlandish claims? Leave a comment with which one does this and I will do my best given my experience to demystify their misleading messaging.

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"Amazing!

Great taste and texture. Will be purchasing this again. Works great on its own for sipping and also in soup!"

Adrienne L