When a seemingly ageless celebrity like Halle Berry or Salma Hayek shares her fountain of youth, it’s no wonder people want in. Both have revealed their love for bone broth, which is a stock made from simmering animal bones.
The trendy soup makes a lot of big claims: it promises to give you youthful skin, protect your joints, boost your metabolism, improve your gut health, and be a good source of nutrients.
But just because a celebrity is hyping something on Instagram doesn’t mean it’s true. “We have a natural food and alternative food and diet industry that makes a lot of money promoting different fads that’ll come and go,” says nutrition specialist Dr Joel Fuhrman.
To figure out where the benefits of bone broth stand in science, we went to the experts to figure what it can and can’t do for your body.
What is bone broth exactly?
“Bone broth is essentially animal bones simmered in water for extended periods of time-often 24 hours or more,” says dietitian Allison Webster. “The long simmer time helps release collagen and gelatin from bones, which gives the broth a thicker, richer texture than broths that aren’t simmered as long,” she explains.
In addition to the collagen and gelatin, all that simmering leaves behind some amino acids and minerals, too.
Does bone broth live up to its hype?
Collagen, amino acids and minerals are all great for your body-but just because they’re present in bone broth, doesn’t mean drinking it translates to a tangible effect on your health. “That’s oversimplifying things,” says Dr Fuhrman.
“Many popular claims of its benefits are unsupported at best and misleading at worst.”
While there’s a lot of research on the benefits of things found in bone broth, like collagen, very few studies have been done on the benefits you might score from actually drinking bone broth itself. It’s not as easy as saying, “collagen is good for my body, so therefore drinking a ton of it will be good for my body.”
Translation: as of right now, all the hype around bone broth is totally unproven-and the experts are skeptical about the benefits. “There is almost no research on its health effects, so many popular claims of its benefits are unsupported at best and misleading at worst,” says Webster. Here’s what we do know when it comes to the biggest bone broth myths:
Myth #1: Bone broth will make your skin glow
Many proponents of bone broth point to the benefits of collagen-a key part of keeping skin hydrated and firm. But there’s just one tiny problem: “Just because you consume collagen doesn’t mean your body will use its amino acid particles to plump and protect your skin,” says dietitian Perri Halperin.
In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism recently concluded bone broth wasn’t a significant source of the amino acids needed to effectively boost your body’s collagen, especially compared to other dietary sources. On top of that, the preliminary research on the benefits of collagen supplements probably doesn’t even apply to bone broth.“Supplements deliver more collagen and in a different form than bone broth does,” Halperin explains.
Want glowing skin? Produce is your best bet, says Dr Fuhrman. “The body breaks down collagen for protein and has to reassemble it again,” he explains. To do this, you need the minerals found in veggies-but not present in significant amounts in bone broth.
Myth #2: Bone broth will protect your joints
The collagen in bone broth-along with glucosamine (a compound found in your cartilage)-is also said to benefit your joints.
But the evidence isn’t quite there: glucosamine sulfate supplements have been shown to help relieve arthritis pain, but whether or not the supplements actually improve the health of the cartilage in your joints or reduce inflammation is still inconclusive.
More importantly, “no research has been conducted on bone broth’s effects on joint health in humans,” Webster says. “Like with collagen, drinking glucosamine doesn’t mean that more will be present in the body. Joint protection is multi-faceted, and things like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a nutrient-rich diet are crucial factors.”
Myth #3: Bone broth is a good source of protein and calcium
This benefit isn’t totally false-there is protein in bone broth. But it’s not a significant enough amount to really impact your health unless you are protein deficient. “Most of the people eating bone broth are already eating meat and other forms of protein, so they’re not really benefitting from the protein that’s in the bone broth,” Dr. Fuhrman says.
The calcium claims tied to bone broth are similarly tricky. One of the very few studies done on bone broth itself published in Food & Nutrition Research concluded that there’s only a tiny amount of calcium in both homemade and store bought bone broths-less than 5 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium. “Some bone broths highlight their calcium or magnesium content as a benefit but in reality, their contribution may be very low,” Webster says.
Myth #4: Bone broth is good for your gut
Another major claim of bone broth is that the gelatin it contains can help heal leaky gut syndrome, which is linked to autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, and celiac disease. “Leaky gut is a syndrome in which tiny holes in your intestinal tract allow food and other substances to leak into the bloodstream,” Halperin says. “When your body recognises things in your bloodstream that shouldn’t be there, it can cause your body to mount an immune response.”
Researchers have long wondered whether your diet can help heal a leaky gut, but the verdict is still out. “There is no evidence to support any effect of bone broth on gut health,” Webster says.
Myth #5: Bone broth will help your body detox
Like a lot of trendy miracle foods, some proponents of bone broth claim it can help your body “detoxify” by speeding up the processing and disposal of harmful things in our diets. As Webster explains, processing the junk and tossing out the toxins, is the role of your liver and kidneys-not food.
“Science has yet to prove that anything we eat or drink can make the liver more efficient at detoxifying,” Halperin explains. “One thing that can be helpful, however, is getting enough fluid, and bone broth is a source of fluid.” So technically, yes, bone broth can help you detox-“but that isn’t bone broth magic,” Halperin says, “it’s just simple hydration.”
Are there any benefits to drinking bone broth?
It’s not that bone broth is bad or unhealthy-it’s just not a miracle food. “Drinking bone broth is one way of getting nutrients like amino acids and some minerals into our diets, but it’s certainly not the only way,” Webster says. “Foods like meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, soy, and beans are rich in protein as well as other beneficial compounds. Whole foods, including fruits, vegetables and grains provide vitamins and minerals just as well as bone broth-and in many cases, provide higher amounts.”
There is one case where bone broth really is a health booster: “If you’re choosing bone broth over sugary beverages that we know are nutritionally empty, you’re likely to reap nutritional benefits,” Halperin says.
And there’s nothing wrong with drinking bone broth if you’re into it. “If you like bone broth, go ahead and drink it,” says Webster. “It provides some nutrients and can be a warm, comforting drink if you’re feeling like switching things up from tea or coffee.”