What is Bone Broth, and Should You Be Drinking It?
The bone broth trend has conveniently benefitted from whole collagen craze. The magical elixir of the wellness community, bone broth has been associated with everything from ‘curing’ IBS and gut issues, to weight loss and wrinkle smoothing. But can a cup of liquid distilled from water and bones really do all of that?
And what about bone broth nutrition – is bone broth high in protein? Does it make a filling, muscle-building snack?
What is bone broth?
You can either make bone broth yourself, or buy it powdered or fresh. Making it involves simmering the broth for hours – bone broth is cooked for a lot longer than most soups, allowing more nutrients to leach out of the bones it’s made of. There’s no real recipe for bone broth – people use chicken bones, beef bones, or whatever bones they can get their hands on. The bones are usually roasted, then made into a broth with herbs, spices, vegetables, and sometimes meat.
Bone broth tends to be somewhat higher in calories and protein than your typical canned broth.
What nutrients does bone broth contain?
Bone broth typically contains some protein, from the bones, tendons, and ligaments used to make it. The proteins include collagen, chondroitin, and hyuralonic acid. The amount of protein (and other nutrients, too) in the broth varies widely – I’ve seen some with 6g per cup, others with 20g per cup. This is because of the different ingredients and cooking methods used by different brands.
Especially if you make your own bone broth or, you buy it from a small store that makes it, it’s tough to know which nutrients are in the broth and in what amounts.
Minerals such phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, and sodium, all seem to be mentioned repeatedly as being plentiful in bone broth, but according to an analysis, the only vitamins/minerals that it’s truly high in seems to be manganese, B6, and vitamin C.
Bone broth claims.
I didn’t want to make this post a review of KellyAnn Petrucci’s Bone Broth Diet, but here we are, unfortunately. It’s just that she seems to be the most prolific bone broth diet person on the planet, with her ads popping up absolutely everywhere. I’ve gotten so many people asking me to do a Dr. KellyAnn review, because not only is her diet all over the place, but the claims around it are massive.
As in, just unbelievable.
Here’s a page from the Dr. KellyAnn website, outlining the magic of bone broth and what it can do for your body:
These claims are fairly consistent with what other bone broth salespeople are saying. Needless to say, there’s more than a couple red flags here.
Case in point, bone broth.
Dr. Kellyann has an entire line of bone broth products that she sells, using these sorts of claims. She even has a new lemon lavender bone broth, which sounds very unappetizing.
She’s clearly making a sh*t-ton of cash from her grift *ahem* sales:
Please note that Dr. Kellyann is a naturopath, not a medical doctor. And although she has gotten a lot of press around her work, this in no way should determine the credibility of what she’s claiming her broth and diets can achieve. Dr. Oz had his own TV show, and we all know how that’s going. He’s a big fan of Dr. Kellyann, which in itself is a RED FLAG
Also: please don’t @ me to say that naturopaths are trained the same as medical doctors, because they aren’t. Not even close.
The interesting thing about Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet is that it combines bone broth with a low-carb, 5:2 intermittent fasting plan, which in itself for many people, is going to cause weight loss. Bone broth has nothing to do with that, even though it seems as though she’s making it the basis for her claims.
Dr. Kellyann has done three studies on her bone broth diet, but none of them have been published, and they’re all faulty AF. According to this post, the studies had no control groups, didn’t report average weight lost, and had no follow-up to see if people kept the weight off.
All of these things are important, when assessing the effectiveness of the Dr. Kellyann Bone Broth Diet.
Let’s go through some of her claims, and claims around bone broth in general.
As an aside, Dr. Kellyann has a few different bone broth diets and cleanses. I’m looking at her 21 day diet, but I think it’s safe to assume that the same info applies to all of the stuff she’s selling *cough*
Bone broth and wrinkles.
A lot of the claims around bone broth and signs of aging in skin are based on the collagen content of the broth. Collagen is what gives our skin support and elasticity. As we age, the collagen in our skin breaks down, leading to skin that’s less elastic, which results in wrinkles and sagging.
It’s natural to think that consuming something that our bodies seem to need, will help turn back the clock. Unfortunately, the human body is not that simple. Also: NOTHING ‘REVERSES THE SIGNS OF AGING.’
Aging is a natural process that’s ONE WAY ONLY – forwards. Anyone telling you different is lying.
So, what’s with the collagen and skin claims?
What’s the evidence behind collagen, anyhow? Read my post about it here.
Collagen, like every other protein, is made up of amino acid chains.
These amino acid chains are broken down into individual amino acids by the body, reconfigured, and sent to wherever they’re needed. Your body doesn’t distinguish the proteins from collagen versus those from chicken or any other protein source.
Yes, collagen protein does contain glycine and proline, amino acids that are used especially to make collagen. But again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your wrinkles are going to disappear.
There’s no conclusive evidence at all that shows that consuming collagen in any form has a significant effect on skin. A lot of the evidence around collagen and skin is industry-sponsored, anecdotal, or subjective. Collagen protein is also not complete, having a limiting amino acid (tryptophan), and it takes more than just amino acids to make collagen in the body – vitamin C and zinc are also required for that.
In other words, a complete and varied diet can probably get you all the collagen you need.
Dark green and orange vegetables, berries, fish, citrus, eggs, nuts, and garlic are among the collagen-boosting foods that you’re hopefully already eating. If you want to drink bone broth for your skin, go right ahead, but just don’t expect to wake up looking 19 again.
Bone broth detoxifies.
Can we not keep talking about detoxification of our bodies by one specific food? That’s. Not. How. Your. Body. Works.
There is absolutely nothing in bone broth that would detoxify your body, even if your body needed help with detoxification…which of course, it doesn’t. If it did, you’d be in the hospital.
Bone broth doesn’t ‘detoxify.’ Let’s throw this myth into the garbage, where hopefully it stays. Forever.
Bone broth heals leaky gut and helps with bloating and IBS symptoms.
The term ‘leaky gut’ seems to be abused by certain healthcare practitioners (I wrote about leaky gut here).
Mainstream medicine calls leaky gut, ‘increased intestinal permeability,’ and seems to acknowledge the condition associated with certain diseases. We don’t know if increased intestinal permeability is the result of conditions, or the other way around. Regardless, none of the alternative ‘cures’ that are touted all over the internet – often including bone broth – have any scientific evidence to support them.
Bone broth won’t ‘heal and seal the gut lining’ – literally, I am taking that word for word from an alternative site. It’s not plastic wrap, nor is it glue. That’s just not how your body works.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it if you want to, but I seriously doubt it’s going to seal up leaky intestines – especially since intestinal permeability appears to be mediated by a protein called Zonulin, which bone broth isn’t going to change.
The improvement of IBS symptoms and bloating due to bone broth is nonsensical, especially when it’s purportedly because of the Dr. Kellyann Bone Broth diet. Here’s why:
When you take ultraprocessed foods and entire food groups out of your diet and integrate more whole, high-fibre foods, you’re probably going to see a change in bowel habits and gastrointestinal symptoms. This is not because of bone broth.
Do I need to say it again for those of you in the back?
THIS IS NOT BECAUSE OF BONE BROTH!
In fact, here’s a list of foods you aren’t allowed to eat on the Dr. Kellyann Bone Broth Diet:
First of all, you’re taking out a lot of foods that may cause bloating. Beans? Sugars? Sodas? Artificial sweeteners? Dairy? Soy? Those can all bloat – but bloating after eating (if it’s not constant, and associated with pain and other GI symptoms) isn’t necessarily a bad thing – especially when it’s the result of eating legumes and grains. Often, bloating means that your good gut bacteria are having a party in your gut, which is something you want.
Feeling bloated? Here’s what might be causing it.
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to cut any of the above foods out of your diet altogether. In fact, I think cutting out beans and legumes, potatoes, grains, and dairy is a wellness trend that’s harmful, not helpful. These are nutritious foods that most people can tolerate, and any diet that removes them as a blanket recommendation is immediately suspect.
This is also a great time to address Dr. Kellyann’s claim around weight loss, which is probably a given if you’re taking out 50% of the food in your diet AND intermittent fasting at the same time.
THIS WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT BECAUSE OF BONE BROTH.
Are we all beginning to see a pattern here?
Once you stop the Dr. Kellyann diet, you’ll likely gain the weight right back. That’s what happens with diets, and hers isn’t anything different from anyone else’s. Even with the bone broth.
Bone broth supports autoimmune conditions and gets rid of inflammation.
I see claims all the time of an ingredient, or supplement, ‘supporting’ X condition or bodily process. This is an intentionally vague claim that has little to no merit, since the average person can’t prove or disprove it.
Let’s put it this way: lots of people say they’re ‘inflamed,’ but how are they measuring that?
Regardless, weight loss can improve inflammatory markers, and presumably, may improve symptoms of some autoimmune diseases (arthritis, for example) IF a person’s weight is causing them issues.
Yet again, bone broth doesn’t really play a part in this – it’s the diet being low in calories causing weight loss.
Bone broth and the Dr. Kellyann Bone Broth Diet, in short.
If you love drinking bone broth, go right ahead. If you believe that it’s helping you, that’s great! It’s probably not hurting you, if you don’t count what it’s doing to your wallet. Ouch!
The Dr. Kellyann is a fu*ktangle of low-calorie, low-carb, intermittent fasting diets which may cause (temporary) weight loss, but has little to no science behind it. And hey – bone broth does none of what she’s claiming it does. Take a pass.
Also: anyone who’s selling a diet with crazy claims AND a line of supplements/other products to go along with it, is a HUGE RED FLAG.
Like with all popular diet fads, it’s important to have realistic expectations. It’s also important to consider how something – food or supplement – may interact with your body. Bone broth seems safe, so you shouldn’t have to worry. But again, don’t expect miracles.