A Bone to Pick - Benefits of Bone Broths

Coming from a Cantonese family, no meal came without a bowl of piping hot bone broth soup that was boiled with vegetables and herbs for hours. Many Chinese (and ancestries of many other races, for that matter) have been slow-simmering bones in liquid for generations, and they have a good reason for doing so.

Bone broths are easy to make and are a natural healing remedy for many aliments. Simmering bones help to release compounds such as glycine, proline, glutamine and collagen and make it more bio-available for easier digestion. Furthermore, it contains a wealth of nutrients needed for daily living - calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and some essential amino acids!

Bone broths are an amazing way to attain dozens of different nutrients that cannot be obtained easily from commonly eaten foods. This is perhaps why bone broth has been so sought after for its incredibly healing properties.


Studies have shown that it helps improve:

1. Sleep Quality

Insomnia remains a largely under-diagnosed and under-treated problem. In Singapore, there is a reported prevalence of 15.3% of the population who suffer from insomnia. Insomnia and poor sleep can be extremely frustrating and could result in problems such as sleepiness, mood disruptions, cognitive inefficiencies, impaired attention and memory deficits.

Prevent transient and short-term insomnia from snowballing into a chronic one. A neurology studied done in 2012 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328957/> showed the effectiveness of glycine in improving sleepiness and fatigue induced by sleep restriction by improving sleep quality. This is where bone broth comes in handy - bone broth contains glycine which is found abundantly in gelatin, connective tissue and bones.

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that the body can make on its own. Approximately 45g of glycine is synthesised by the body. However, ingesting glycine through the diet has shown sleep improvement as it helps increases vasodilation and decrease the core body temperature, which may result in an improvement in sleep quality.

2. Joint Health

As bone broth simmers, collagen from bones and other animal parts leaches into the broth. This collagen is readily absorbed to help restore cartilage, which diminishes as we get on with age.

Collagen hydrolysate has long been a nutritional supplement that gives an anabolic effect on cartilage tissue (building of cartilage), and appears to be beneficial to individuals with osteoarthritis.

However, bone broth is not only great for the aging population. A 24-week placebo-controlled, double-blind study was done on athletes <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885>, and results showed that athletes who supplemented with collagen hydrolysate had reduced joint pain.

The results of this study shows that collagen hydroslate could reduce the risk of joint deterioration and support joint health for the general masses; and in the athletic group, results suggest reduced joint pain which in turn results in a positive impact on athletic performance.

3. Gut Health

The gastrointestinal tract is vital in absorption, digestion and exchange of nutrients in the body. It is also the largest organ in the immune system, where under ordinary conditions, there is a good balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory cells. Dysregulation of this balance could result to pathological conditions such as an inflammed bowel or leaky gut syndrome, where toxins, microbes and undigested food particles can escape your intestine and into your bloodstream, which could mount an immune response that can lead to a variety of conditions from irritable bowel syndrome to lupus.

Gelatin, that can be found abundantly in bone broths, have been shown to support intestinal health and integrity, as published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. <http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=29119>

Gelatin is an easily digestible protein with no cholesterol, odour or flavour. It contains 84% - 90% collagen protein that can increase serum concentrations of collagen - important for building tissue that lines the colon and entire gastrointestinal tract.

On a side note, there is also a tremendous added benefit of cooking bone broths with vegetables due to the presence of tannins in vegetables. Vegetable tannins have been popularised for its diverse biological properties and potential for disease prevention through their antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

To sum it up, amping up your immune system could be as simple as including vegetable-infused bone broths into your diet to maintain gut integrity and reduce permeability and inflammation.

4. Skin Elasticity and cellulite reduction

Hydrolysed collagen (or collagen peptide) supplements have been known to help make elastin and other compounds in the skin that are responsible for maintaining youthful-looking skin. Cellulite reduction is also seen when sufficient collagen is consumed, due to sufficient connective tissue being formed and thus preventing the skin from losing its firm tone.

A 2013 study by Proksch. E et al.<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208>, showed collagen to improve skin elasticity and thus slow down the signs of aging.

In the study, a double-blind, placebo-controlled test was done to investigate the age-defying properties of collagen. Results showed that 2.5-5g of collagen hydrolysate used once daily for eight weeks amongst women aged 35-55 improved skin elasticity, moisture and roughness with no notable side effects.

One thing to note - gelatin contains partially hydrolysed collagen that doesn't have the full effect of hydrolysed gelatin. However, it remains a good natural source of collagen that could benefit the skin in the long run.

5. Liver Function

Although only studies have been done on rats <http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/286/2/1014.full>, glycine supplementation has shown to help remove dangerous elements from the liver and thus improve recovery from alcohol-induced fatty liver.

The water from the broth could also help with re-hydration to assist in getting rid of nasty hangovers.

Ken Tan