Bone Broth: all its cracked up to be?!

If you’re anything like me, you have been bombarded with all the benefits of this elixir, particularly over the last couple of years. We all know the ‘grandma’s chicken soup’ association, but it seems there has been a kick up in health claims associated with Bone Broth, particularly when it comes to improving the all sacred gut health (click here to understand why this really does matter for a growing baby’s development)

Question is: is there anything really behind the Bone Broth wonder claims?

Answer: its actually not particularly simple.

But here is what you should know:

I first really started to take it seriously when I came across it from the work of Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride - a very well respected doctor focused on neurology and nutrition. She is a big proponent of the link between our digestive health, neurological and behaviour issues and she founded the very successful GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) looking at how diet could be used to treat neurological and mood disorders.

She argues that:


‘As more than 90% of everything toxic floating in our blood (and getting into the brain) comes from the gut, healing it will drop the level of toxicity in the body dramatically’.

Translation: the gut does much more than just digest our food. It generates hormones (specifically Serotonin a neurotransmitter also known as the ‘happy hormone), is a key player in our immunity and crucially it acts as the filter between our body and the outside world. When that filter is compromised and things that shouldn’t get in do we get problems - especially during the most vulnerable times of rapid development (pre/post natal and early years). Click here to learn much more - but the bottom line is: if the gut isnt healthy - we will have problems.

One of the biggest claims around Bone Broth is its apparently wonderous qualities for ‘healing our guts’.

True or False?

This is where it gets a touch more complicated:

Dr Campbell Mc-Bride talks about this - but - she talks about it in the context of meat stock vs bone broth. (Yeah… I know, I didnt realise there was a difference either….but apparently there is and this is important).

So - here are the quick and dirty differences between meat stock and bone broth.

Meat stock is essentially raw meat, in water with certain veggies, brought to the boil and then simmered for 2-3 hours. Bone broth is made more traditionally with bones and is often cooked for as long as 24hrs.

What’s the ‘real’ difference?

Whilst they both have their own qualities (specifically providing key amino acids which are powerful for gut health and maintaining the filter functionality) Dr Campbell-McBride argues that the meat stock is more gentle (so is probably the best bet when it comes to conception, pregnancy and a baby).

Ok, so, what does the science say?


Actually - in this case there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t benefits, it just appears that there hasn’t been a huge amount of real clinical research done so far. So, from a strictly scientific standpoint it is difficult to say. Although one study done did show some benefits from an anti inflammatory stand point and we know that too much inflammation in the body is doing no one any favours (see more on why inflammation is bad here).

So what could the other benefits be?

Well, there are certainly some potential beneficial elements present around this type of stock/meat as it does contain are some very helpful amino acids.

  • Collagen

  • Proline

  • Glycine

  • Glutamine

  • Gelatin

Why should you care about these?


These amino acids help with the production of glutathione which is one of the body’s best lines of defence (see more here) and something I am a huge advocate of building up wherever we can. Further, Glutamine specifically is something where considerable research has been done, particularly around gut permeability (ie. how good it is at filtering). Clinical research has in fact suggested a benefit when it comes to improving the gut’s lining (and therefore barrier) concluding that:

‘clinical and experimental studies demonstrated its importance as a dietary supplement in maintaining gastrointestinal mucosal barrier function….Hence Glutamine is an essential nutrient for gut mucosal epithelial cell growth, differentiation, mucosal integrity and barrier function.’

Translation: Glutamine is key when it comes to making sure your gut lining is in tip top shape and preventing any nasties getting through.

Its a relatively dense study but for the nerds out there here it is:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369670/

So. In theory this could be good stuff….

One caveat: when it comes Bone Broth specifically, it is worth just being aware of a study published recently which raised concern around lead being found in bones of cattle. Isnt lead a neurotoxin? Well yes - particularly in enough quanity and it does in fact accumulate and get stored in bones….

Hmmm….So should we avoid Bone Broth then after all?

Now, this study has been disputed by some and the ‘increased levels’ shown by this particularly study are still below recommended guidelines. However, it did understandably raise concern as the last thing we want is to have more heavy metals in our system particularly if we are, want to get pregnant or are breastfeeding (click here for a reminder why).

Conclusion:

There hasn’t been enough ‘hard clinical research’ on bone broth/meat stock specifically. However, there are enough reasons to suggest that many of the components within it can have a real and beneficial impact. The only negative that I have seen is in regards to the lead content if you’re having a lot of Bone Broth, so, in light of that and to err on the side of caution it is perhaps worth sticking to the Dr Natasha route and going with Meat Stock - particularly when it comes to our purposes: conception, pregnancy and for your baby. I make a batch once a week for myself and for my son and if I (the worlds worst cook can do it) then you definitely can. Hard to mess up cutting up some veg and putting it in to a pan of water for a few hours...if nothing else, the stock  it's super useful for cooking veggies, grains and even fish in so why not give it a try and see how you feel.


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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.