Health Column: Bone broth — fact or fad?

Credit: Creative Commons
Credit: Creative Commons

Sipping bone broth: good or bad for you?

One new trend popping up in some health circles is sipping broth made by boiling the bare bones of chicken and other types of meat.

A quick Google search of “bone broth” describes the elixir as an immune-boosting, digestion-improving, cellulite-busting remedy that will even leave you with a dewy, wrinkle-free complexion — though those benefits can change depending on who you ask.

In an effort to understand the science behind what seems like a magic potion, I reached out to Lara McNeil of East End Nutrition to see if there was any truth to the health claims.

Her response: “People should be skeptical.”

The claim, Ms. McNeil said, is that beneficial amino acids and minerals stored in bones and marrow are released when they are boiled with a bit of acid, such as a vinegar, which helps to draw all the good stuff from the bones.

The thing is, she explained, there is no way to be certain that the beneficial components are actually getting out into the broth.

“They could be,” she said, “but there just isn’t enough research to definitely say for sure. I cannot find that there is any research to back it up.”

There is one component, however, that drinkers can see with their own eyes: fat.

“Bone marrow has a lot of saturated fat in it. When you’re extracting that, you’re basically drinking animal fat, unless you are skimming the fat off the top,” she said.

So, depending on how the broth is prepared, it’s hard to say what the health benefits may be, she said.

For those interested in trying out the remedy, Ms. McNeil recommends placing the broth in the refrigerator to let the existing fat harden at the top, so it can be removed before consumption.

She said she believes the trend may have something to do with the “chicken soup cures the common cold” mentality.

“It’s not really the chicken soup that makes us feel better; it’s the hot temperature that loosens up the mucus or anything that has us clogged,” she noted. Congestion relief limits the amount of time viruses are in contact with the lining of the nose, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The trend — the broth is also a staple of the paleo diet — has taken off so much that packaged bone broth is showing up on grocery store shelves, often placed next to its conventional chicken and beef broth counterparts.

If you’re considering purchasing such items, Ms. McNeil said, be sure to read the product label and pay attention to sodium content.

Miller_HeadshotGot a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at [email protected].