So here it is: everything you need to know about bone broth benefits by Chris Kresser

In traditional cooking, people often use meat bones as a base for delicious stock. Aside from being the secret to great cooking, bone broth is also incredibly nutritious and has scores of health benefits. Read on to learn more about bone broth benefits and why you should make this amazing drink a staple in your diet.

The Weston A. Price Foundation and advocates of the Paleo and Primal lifestyles favor bone broth for its wide array of nutrients that are difficult to find in any other food source. In her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has made bone and meat stock the foundation of the GAPS protocol because of its ability to heal and seal the gut lining and reduce overgrowth of harmful microbes. Broth made from chicken bones may also reduce the migration of immune cells during sickness. These are just some of the many reasons to love bone broth.

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Bone Broth in Traditional Cultures

A South American proverb says, “Good broth will resurrect the dead.” While this is certainly a stretch of the imagination, the ability of broth—and chicken broth, in particular—to treat the common cold has long been touted as ancient folk wisdom. Scientists at the University of Nebraska sought to test this folklore in 2000 and found that in vitro (in a Petri dish), some components of chicken soup were able to inhibit the migration of innate immune cells called neutrophils, effectively acting as an anti-inflammatory that could, in theory, reduce symptoms of illness. Whether this effect occurs in vivo (in a living organism) is still unclear, but this preliminary data suggests that our ancestors may have been onto something.


The Global Appeal of This Superfood

Eggs mixed with lemon are commonly added to chicken broth as a traditional remedy for colds and digestive upset. Chicken soup in Hungary usually included organ meats, like chicken liver and heart, while in Vietnam and the Philippines, beef bone marrow was used as the base for making beef bone broth. In India, chicken soup is popularly sold by roadside vendors in the winter and takes on many different forms.


Unlocking Bone Broth Benefits With Nose-to-Tail Eating

A core component of functional medicine is using whole foods to nourish your body and get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Traditional cultures achieved this by practicing nose-to-tail eating and consuming all parts of the animal, including the:

  • Skin

  • Cartilage

  • Tendons

  • Other gelatin-rich cuts of meat

This provided a balanced intake of all the amino acids necessary to build and maintain essential structures in the human body. Some anthropologists have even suggested that in some regions of the world, early humans were scavengers rather than hunters, using tools to crack open the bones of carcasses left by lions and other large predators to expose the rich bone marrow. Unfortunately, many modern cultures have lost the practice of whole-animal eating. The age-old tradition of having a hot pot of bone broth constantly cooking on the hearth has been lost in favor of modern convenience, microwaves, and highly processed canned soups.

Bringing bone broth back into the modern diet offers an easy and delicious means of obtaining the nutrition from parts of the animal that traditional cultures prized.

A Nutrient-Rich Gold Mine

Bones contain an abundance of minerals as well as 17 different amino acids, many of which are found in bone broth as proteins like collagen and gelatin. Though the exact nutritional content varies based on the bones used, cooking time, and cooking method, the following nutrients are consistently found in most bone broths.

Collagen

With 28 different types, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the protein in your body. It’s the main component of connective tissues like:

  • Cartilage

  • Ligaments

  • Tendons

  • Bone

  • Skin

It is also present in the blood vessels, cornea, and the lens of the eye. The name collagen comes from the Greek “kolla,” meaning “glue,” and the suffix “-gen,” which means “producing.” In fact, early glue was made from collagen more than 8,000 years ago, likely by boiling the skin and sinews of animals. In addition to providing structure, collagen also plays an important role in tissue development and regulation.


Skin Health

Skin is composed of two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, or upper layer, is made of keratinocytes and is largely responsible for skin barrier function. Underneath is the dermis, which is a dense matrix of collagen and GAGs that provides structural and nutritive support. Keratin, collagen, and GAGs are abundant in bone broth, particularly if the skin from the animal is included in the cooking process.

Multiple studies have shown that collagen and gelatin, which are both found in bone broth, can benefit your skin’s health. In a 2014 randomized and controlled trial, collagen consumption significantly improved skin elasticity and tended to improve skin moisture content. Collagen scaffolds are widely used in medical applications to promote tissue regeneration and heal wounds. One study in mice found that supplementing the diet with gelatin was even able to protect against UV-induced skin damage. GAGs also offer additional skin benefits. The GAG hyaluronic acid has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, which improves the skin’s hydration. Dermatan sulfate has been shown to aid in cell turnover and wound repair.


Muscles and Performance

Glycine is also important for the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which transport oxygen throughout the blood and muscle tissue, respectively. Glycine also increases creatine levels, which leads to an increase in anaerobic (high-intensity) exercise capacity and stimulates the secretion of human growth hormone, which may enhance muscle repair. Recent evidence suggests that proline may play a role in regulating the mTOR cellular signaling pathway, which integrates signals from nutrients, growth factors, stress factors, and cellular energy status to affect cell function and growth. Proline, together with other amino acids, activates mTOR, resulting in enhanced muscle protein synthesis. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical form of energy in the body that can be used to perform work. Phosphorus is required for the formation of this compound, and ATP cannot be biologically active unless it’s bound to a magnesium ion. Phosphorus nutrient deficiencies have been shown to reduce muscle performance. Both phosphorus and magnesium are present in bone broth in modest amounts.


Bones and Joints

It should be pretty obvious that the best way to get the nutrients necessary to build bone is from consuming bone-based foods. Drinking bone broth provides all of the raw material for building healthy bones, including:

  • Calcium

  • Phosphorus

  • Amino acids

A deficiency of the raw materials for building bone can result in a number of different conditions. For example, osteoporosis is associated with reduced levels of collagen and calcium in the bones. Of course, to keep your bones healthy, you’ll also need the nutrients required to support the building process, like vitamins D, K2, and C.