Bone broth is the clear, protein-rich liquid obtained by simmering meaty joints and bones in water. It distinguishes itself from stock due to its lengthy cooking time. Much like stock, it can be used as a base for soups, stews and risottos.
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Bone broth is associated with collagen, a structural protein found in skin, cartilage and bone. When boiled, the collagen in connective tissue is broken down into gelatine and various other health promoting amino acids for example glycine and glutamine.
Gelatine is the most abundant protein in bone broth. Once in the digestive tract, gelatine is able to bind with water to support the healthy transit of food through the intestines.
Emerging scientific research suggests that gelatine, alongside other amino acids found in bone broth, may have therapeutic potential in inflammatory bowel disease.
Not only is the small intestine the primary site for nutrient absorption, it is also the first line of defence in our immune system. If the gut barrier becomes damaged or ‘leaky’, this can disrupt immune function. The amino acids found in bone broth may exert a protective effect.
A recent study concluded that intravenous supplementation of the amino acid glutamine was able to support intestinal barrier function in critically ill patients. Similarly, supplementation with glycine was able to increase intestinal immunity and microbial diversity in mice.
Consuming 300ml of bone broth has been shown to increase plasma levels of the precursor amino acids glycine and proline that are required to form collagen.
In clinical trials supplemental collagen was able to improve the hydration, elasticity and appearance of wrinkles in human skin. Collagen also increased the bone mineral density in post-menopausal women.
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Collagen has also proved successful as a weight loss aid. In postmenopausal women, collagen supplementation combined with resistance training improved lean muscle mass and increased fat loss. It has also been able to improve body composition in elderly men.
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Studies suggest that collagen derived from chicken cartilage is effective at improving pain, stiffness and join function in patients with osteoarthritis.
Gelatine may also be beneficial for injury prevention and tissue repair. A 2017 study found that supplementation with gelatine alongside vitamin C improved collagen synthesis post exercise and was able to repair tendons.
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The amino acid glycine, present in bone broth, has multiple functions in the body including supporting healthy sleep patterns. Research shows dietary glycine has proved effective at improving the sleep quality of patients with insomnia. It is thought that glycine exerts its effect by regulating our internal body clock and lowering our body temperature to prepare us for sleep.
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Bone brothis simple to make. The exact amount of beneficial amino acids that can be obtained from bone broth is likely to vary depending on which bones are used and how long they are boiled for. For the best results, select joint bones such as knuckles and feet. Cooking ‘low and slow’ and with an acidic ingredient will enhance nutrient extraction. Vegetables and herbs can be added during the last hour for added flavour.
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This article was published on 30th September 2020.
Rachel Philpotts is a registered nutritionist and mental health specialist. She is an accredited member of British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Rachel works privately with high-achieving clients to improve their mood and combat stress. Find out more at re-nutrition.co.uk.