The Health Benefits of Bone Broth

March 8, 2012 in Categories: , by

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Bone broth is a flavorful liquid made by boiling the bones of just about any vertebrate you can think of (typically poultry, beef, bison, lamb, or fish) in water for an extended period of time (typically anywhere from 4 hours to 40 hours!).  Often vegetables and herbs are added (typically carrots, onion, celery, garlic and I like to add bay leaves too).  The bones from mammals need to be sawed open, whereas fowl and fish bones don’t. The used bones and vegetables are strained from the liquid and typically discarded.  The resulting liquid is called “broth” or “stock” and is rich in numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (especially calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which are essential for bone health) .  Most importantly, bone broth is also particularly rich in two very special amino acids:  proline and glycine.

Glycine and proline are two key components of connective tissue, the biological “glue” that holds our bodies together.  There are many types of connective tissue and these two amino acids feature prominently in most of them, from the cartilage that forms our joints to the extracellular matrix that acts as a scaffold for the cells in our individual organs, muscles, arteries etc.  Without these two amino acids, we would literally fall apart.  So, it is no surprise that we need these two amino acids to heal, not only gaping wounds, but also the microscopic damage done to blood vessels and other tissues in our body caused by inflammation and infection. In fact, glycine is known to inhibit the immune system and reduce activation of inflammatory cells in your body.  Whether you are trying to heal from an infection, address an auto-immune disease, or reduce inflammation caused by neolithic foods or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, high levels of dietary glycine are critical.

In addition, glycine is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and many proteins in the body.  As such, it plays extensive roles in digestive health, proper functioning of the nervous system and in wound healing.  Glycine aids digestion by helping to regulate the synthesis and of bile salts and secretion of gastric acid.  It is involved in detoxification and is required for production of glutathione, an important antioxidant.  Glycine helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from proteins in the liver).  Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland.  This wonderful amino acid is also critical for healthy functioning of the central nervous system.  In the brain, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters, thus producing a calming effect.  Glycine is also converted into the neurotransmitter serine, which promotes mental alertness, improves memory, boosts mood, and reduces stress.

Proline has an additional role in reversing atherosclerotic deposits.  It enables the blood vessel walls to release cholesterol buildups into your blood stream, decreasing the size of potential blockages in your heart and the surrounding blood vessels.  Proline also helps your body break down proteins for use in creating new, healthy muscle cells.

Now, let’s be clear:  proline and glycine are not technically essential amino acids.  Your body can actually make them if it needs more than is supplied by your diet.  But building our own amino acids is much less efficient than consuming them from foods, and scientists believe that we probably can’t make proline or glycine efficiently enough to keep up with our body’s demand in the absence of dietary sources.  And while meat of all kinds does supply both of these amino acids, you just can’t beat the quantity or absorbability of proline and glycine in bone broth, hence bone broth’s superfood status.

See my recipe for chicken bone broth.


As a person who wants to heal her gut, support her aging skin, and prevent the reoccurrence of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, how can I reap the benefits of bone broth if my digestive system can’t tolerate it? Every time I make it, I get diarrhea. Do you know what I could be reacting to? I understand some people have high histamine, but the only symptoms that could be related to this condition is a rash I get around my eyes and mustache area. I also understand taking a gelatin supplement can also cause digestive problems. Do you think a collagen supplement is somehow easier on the system? If so, is there any particular brand you recommend or type of collagen (1,2 or 3) you’d recommend?

Kristin have you looked into whether or not it’s your liver having trouble processing the fat in the broth? I’m under the care of a naturopath experienced in gut healing and she has advised that I need to take dandelion tea during the day to allow my liver to excrete the bile I need to process the fat. Not sure if this is the answer for you but something worth considering. Good luck!

Hi! I’ve been looking for the answer to this question: how much bone broth should be consumed daily to help with healing the gut? Is there a recommended minimum amount? Is there a max?

Thank you! And thanks for this incredible site you provide us with!

Hi! Thsnks for your reply. I’ve been looking for something concrete or substantial. My doc wants me to drink at least a quart a day and says less won’t do much. I’m looking for a backup for that statement. If rather just drink that 1 cup!

You can certainly try that much and see how you do, or start with a smaller amount and work your way up. In my opinion, any bone broth is better than none! :) – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

[…] First off, bone broth is high in collagen. Collagen is fantastic for your skin, hair, nails and joints. I’m sure you’ve seen all those fancy facial creams that contain collagen and make claims about how they’ll make you look 10 years younger and all that jazz, but the fact of the matter is that the collagen particles are too large to be absorbed by the skin. So don’t waste your money on facial creams and make bone broth (which is practically free) instead. I can personally attest to improvement in the texture and strength of my nails, hair and skin since I started incorporating bone broth into my diet on a semi regular basis. Additionally, Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods, explains how collagen also helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite because it helps support cell structure. Second, bone broth aids digestion and helps repair the intestinal lining because of its gelatin content (source)- gelatin is a derivative of collagen. With the amount of damage done to the gut lining by modern day “foods,” everyone could use a little (or a lot) of the gut healing effects of bone broth, especially those suffering from autoimmune diseases (like me!). It also contains bio available nutrients (meaning they are easy for our bodies to assimilate) such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and more (source) which are essential for bone (and overall) health. Lastly, bone broth is high in the amino acids proline and glycine which have several critical functions in the body including, but not limited to building connective tissue, synthesizing DNA and RNA,  production of glutathione (an important antioxidant), and aiding in digestion (source). […]

Hi! So, I have made my second batch of bone broth, and this might seem like a silly question, but after it cools in the fridge and the fat separates and solidifies at the top…should I break up that solidified fat and heat it to consume it with the broth? Or is that the scum I’m supposed to discard? Thank you!

If you used grass-fed or pastured bones, you can drink the fat in the broth or srape it off and use it for cooking. If you used conventional bones, most people throw the fat away. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Hello Sarah!
I have been listening to the podcast for a number of months now and it has been an excellent resource for me. I am a health care professional, so I have an understanding of the science, and yet it is hard to find much around without digging into the papers, which I don’t have time for right now. So THANK YOU for being awesome and doing that for us all!
I have been diagnosed with SLE (Lupus), and have been over the last few months working more diligently to heal my gut. I have been paleo for a few years, and that helped, but over the last year (thanks to an increase in stress largely) my symptoms have worsened. In digging further, I found your podcast, as well as Chris Kresser’s, and a few other excellent resources. I started introducing bone broth about 6 weeks ago. Over the last 3 weeks I have introduced coconut kefir and fermented veggies. I am working on my first batch of kombucha!
I have noticed that every time I eat the bone broth, I get quite a lot of rather smelly gas within a few hours. It took me a few weeks, and a break in between, to figure out it was the broth. In doing a bit of digging, it seems that a lot of people are adamant that you not cook your bone broth for more than 4 hours, due to the degradation of amino acids beyond this point. And that this degradation can often give sensitive tummies GAS and/or bloating. I have yet to try my first batch of bone broth at a shorter cooking time, however there seems to be a number of different sources that say this.
I am wondering if you have heard about this, or can confirm this is the case? Maybe a Science with Sarah segment!??! :) Esp since Stacy loves her broth so much! I too have it as a breakfast soup – thanks for the idea!
Thanks so much for your help!

Unfortunately, here in Adelaide (Australia) I am hard pressed to find a doctor or rheumatologist that has any interest or knowledge in this area. I have travelled this road largely alone for the last few years, reading and learning from anywhere I can.
I have tried broth cooked for 5hrs (instead of 50) and so far so good. Just thought Sarah might know something about or be interested in the mechanism behind this. Thanks.

I have an autoimmune disease that specifically targets cartilage and connective tissue. It is called relapsing polychondritis. Many of us use the autoimmune protocol nutrition approach as an adjunct to the treatments we endure.

A fellow sufferer recently asked the question: is there a concern about an immune response to the collagen in bone broth for those of us who have an immune response to cartilage?

I’m curious if there is any science that can answer this question?

I just made my first batch of bone broth and I have a question: when you say to strain it after cooking, do you just strain it through a sieve or do you add cheese cloth or kitchen paper to the sieve to absorb some of the fat. I don’t like the taste of fat and the broth is a bit to fatty for my liking but I don’t want to lose the glycine etc. either.

[…] are several sites that talk about the health benefits of eating bone broth; here’s a great one. I found a crock-pot broth recipe from The Nourished Kitchen that was simple to prepare (took me 20 […]

My biggest issue (and thus my question) is that most of the sites I’ve read about bone broth say you have to drink it within a few days of making it. Is there anything that can be put into it to make it last longer? When I make it, I usually make it in a 6-quart pressure cooker, so I fill up about 4 1 pint jars (or 8 8-oz jars). I’ve ended up throwing out more than I drink, because I don’t get it drank “within a few days”.

If it helps to gauge the timeframe, my fridge is set to between 32 and 38, and the broth is gelled.

I tried putting it in ice cube trays. It stuck to the tray, so now I have bone broth cubes that I have to thaw out to get out of the tray. LOL I ended up freezing five of the 8 oz jars, and used three of them yesterday. I cooked a corned beef, and used the broth as part of the liquid in the slow cooker.

[…] The health benefits we find most convincing come from the collagen that is contained in bones and joints. The collagen in the bones becomes gelatin in your broth. The main amino acids in gelatin are glycine and proline, both of which are incredibly important to your health. Among other uses, glycine is important in healing wounds, building joints and building muscle and proline helps to clear plaque from arteries. The Paleo Mom goes into more detail here. […]

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