Adrienne Youdim MD, FACP

Bone Broth – Healing or Hype?

The latest in an endless list of nutritional buzzwords

Bone broth is the latest in an endless list of nutritional buzzwords guaranteed to make us lean, healthy and disease free.

But is it truth, or all hype?

Bone broth, which is made from simmering animal bones (with or without the meat, skin and vegetables) has been consumed for centuries and touted as a traditional remedy for anything from joint pain to blood disorders.

The believed nutritional benefits of bone broth come from the assumption that the broth will contain the same degree of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus as the bone it is derived from and to contain other bone making substances such as chondroitin and glucosamine. The degree to which these minerals and matrix proteins are present in bone broth is uncertain. Some critics argue that the lead content of bone broth can also be high as the boiling process will extract the lead present in bones as it does other minerals. For the average consumer this is likely not a significant harm if bone broth is consumed in moderation. Nonetheless, without making any health claims, bone broth is likely a reasonable supplement to the diet.

Many in the health and fitness world advocate for bone broth to be used as a meal replacement. A meal replacement it certainly is not. A true meal replacement must not only have nutrients but also protein. In fact, the protein requirement for dieters is 2-3 times the RDA or recommended dietary allowance in order to mitigate the loss of muscle while restricting calories.

Preserving muscle is not only essential to optimal body composition, but also important in preventing loss of metabolism or metabolic rate. Bone broth has only 3 amino acids which are building blocks of protein synthesis and only 2 of them are essential – those that cannot be made by the human body and must be derived from diet. In the absence of adequate protein the body will break down muscle or protein to provide the necessary energy source.

Therefore, use of bone broth consistently, particularly during dieting or fasting can result in a deficiency of appropriate amino acids and ultimately in protein/muscle loss.

Finally, you must know your bone broth source. At $10 for a 4 oz shot, it behooves the consumer to be certain the tonic is true to its name and not an artificial surrogate.

To be clear, bone broth remains a natural age old supplement when used as an extender, not a meal replacement in a healthy diet.

 

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