5 Bone Broth Benefits to Support Your Skin, Brain, Joints & More

September 28, 2022

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. 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. 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.

2. Gut Health
Beef bone broth is rich in the amino acid glutamine, the most abundant and widely used amino acid in the body. 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. In gut health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, glutamine levels are significantly lower than in healthy individuals. Regularly drinking bone broth may help increase glutamine levels to support digestive health.

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.

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. 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. 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. Consuming more collagen and collagen-building amino acids and nutrients may be one way to promote bone and joint health. Bone broth is a good dietary source of collagen and collagen-building amino acids. 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.

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. Aging reduces collagen production within the body, which can weaken skin elasticity and strength, causing the skin to become thin, dry, and wrinkled. Research suggests that collagen is a major component in the “anti-aging” of skin. 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). Hypervitaminosis D can lead to hypercalcemia (excess blood calcium) which can cause serious health complications, including fragile bones, fatigue, and vomiting. 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 Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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 nutrient content. If you’re a patient, consult with your integrative healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet.