Why Bone Broth is basically Bad for You.

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Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional about before trying out new home therapies or changing your diet.

~

About a year ago, patients started coming into my office and asking me questions about this new miracle cure-all.

One patient heard it could cure his arthritis.

Another told me her daughter swore it would make her hair shinier. She said she’d been drinking it for three days straight and asked if I could see a difference. I did not. But then, I’m no hair expert.

A third patient wanted to know if I thought he should buy a $45 canister of powdered bone broth that promised to help him lose weight.

And finally, one of my favorite patients, Mira, a 93-year-old grandmother of seven, told me she’d been making her grandma’s recipe for bone soup for the last 60 years. She swore it kept her a “hot item” (her words, not mine) in the dating pool because it helped her get rid of cellulite!

So I did what any self-respecting doctor would do: I asked Google.

Research versus Buzz. 

I Googled the term “bone broth” to see what the buzz was about. I came up with hundreds of blogs and articles all about its history as an age-old, catch-all remedy. And, many health sites seemed to be selling new bone broth products claiming it’s rich in nutrients to help fend off inflammation, fix leaky gut syndrome, heal skin, and even improve general digestive health.

But it turns out, there’s not much research to back up those claims. However, before deciding whether or not something’s truly healthy, it never hurts to ask, ” Just what is it, exactly?”

For starters, bone broth is made from—that’s right—bones.

Basically, people cook the bones at low heat for a really, really long time. The broth can be made from the bones of any animal. The most popular broths are made with beef or chicken. In some cases, recipes even call for heads and feet.

On top of it all, there’s no real tried and true recipe. But, there are a lot of questions when it comes to boiling bone broth: 

>> What animal should be used?

>> At what temperature should the broth boil?

>> What about adding onions, garlic, herbs?

>> Do varying ingredients or cook times change the nutritional value?

>> How long should it cook?

Now depending on how the broth is made, the nutritional value can actually change. So if we were to use a processed broth product, how do we know what we’re getting? The answer is…we don’t.

But, is it good or bad for our health?

Well, any broth aficionado will say the secret to a successful bone broth is in how long it’s left to simmer. Thing is, the process must take a long enough time for all the connective tissue to dissolve so the minerals can make their way into the broth. 

If it’s a beef bone broth, at least a day is necessary to make sure all of the cartilage dissolves. But the problem with cooking a bone for so long is that a serious amount of glutamic acid will be released into the broth. Glutamine is the molecule responsible for the savory, satisfying flavor known as umami.

Now, glutamic acid is the most common non-essential excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. (1) Simply put, a neurotransmitter is like a little messenger that runs information between a nerve and the other cells in our bodies. And an excitatory neurotransmitter increases the chances the carried information will stimulate an action potential—or a tiny explosion of electrical activity. (2)

Now, glutamate happens to be an excitotoxin—in other words—a substance able to bind to certain receptors in the brain and body, and destroy neurons. (3)

And again, when it comes to glutamic acid, we could be doing some real damage. Dr. Russell Blaylock states:

“Scientists have learned from many studies that certain parts of the brain are especially sensitive to excitotoxins. High concentrations of these chemicals in the blood affect the brain.” (4)

Is leaky brain possible?

It turns out, glutamic acid is monitored by the brain. Lately, it seems leaky gut syndrome is being talked about all over the web. This is when the protective lining or barrier of the gut becomes compromised due to an imbalance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. (5)

Believe it or not, our brains have a similar barrier. And it’s possible a large intake of glutamic acid could increase brain barrier permeability—in other words, it might cause perforations or small holes in the brain barrier. The result is similarly called “leaky brain.”

An excess of glutamine might contribute to some troublesome, recognizable signs of leaky brain which include the following:

>> Leaky gut

>> Headaches

>> Anxiety

>> Insomnia

>> Mood swings

>> Bedwetting

>> Blurry vision (6)

But, there are even more disconcerting possibilities when it comes to bone broth. For example, if the bones used come from the wrong animals, those consuming the broth could become overexposed to lead. Turns out, lead can build up in plants and animals in a contaminated habitat.

Lead build up in animals.

Most often, lead build up can be traced to animals raised in the developing world.(7) Now, not all animals are contaminated, of course. But widespread use of the metal has unfortunately caused serious environmental contamination in many places throughout the world.

For instance, in Alberta, Canada, case histories of pasture-raised cattle have suggested that lead poisoning occurred as a result of the cattle eating soil where crankcase oil had leaked from discarded batteries in the field. (8)  And that’s just one example!

So, we can never be too careful. It’s best to research where meat comes from and stay away from regions in which mining, smelting, manufacturing, and recycling activities, use of leaded paint, leaded gasoline, and leaded aviation fuel are prominent. (9)

Now nature’s smart, animals naturally store lead in their bones. It’s a sort of biological self-defense mechanism. So if the meat or bones used in a broth come from a polluted environment, they could be very high in lead.

Also, lead can affect any organ in the body. The best known cases explore effects on the nervous system, kidneys, and bones. (10)

In fact, cattle are susceptible to lead poisoning because tools made of lead (or containing lead) are quite often found on and near farms. Anything like batteries, discarded oil filters, crankcase oil, and old paint cans can cause contamination.

In certain instances, lead exposure in cattle has even impaired their nerves, digestive tracts, muscular systems, and caused depression, colic, ataxia, and blindness. There have even been cases of lead poisoning of cattle from ingesting silage in the United States. (11)

In a recent study, broth made from contaminated bones was significantly higher in lead content than from the tap water used to make it. (12)

Even more to be concerned about.

In addition to the whole lead issue, there’s Neu5Gc to consider. Found in red meat and pork, Neu5Gc is a sugar molecule that’s linked to serious health issues (including the formation of tumors, heart health issues, and inflammatory concerns). (13) Not only that, but the concentration increases as the molecule is cooked—not good news when it comes to simmering broths for over 24 hours.

More research needs to be done in order to decipher whether or not there is a significant amount of Neu5Gc in the bone itself, but until we know more, I highly recommend staying away from beef bone broth.

Tips when drinking bone broth.

Furthermore, when considering adding bone broth to a healthy diet on a regular basis, we’ve got to do our best to:

>> Research the sources of the meat we eat.

>> Try to use pasture-raised sources.

>> And, as always, drink in moderation (by which I mean, once or twice a week at most).

Does this mean all bone broth benefit claims are bogus?

Well, there’s likely some truth to certain claims about bone broth.

For example, a study of 15 people found that sipping hot chicken soup increased the flow of mucus much better than sipping either hot or cold water. (14) So, I can buy the claim that chicken soup helps clear out sinuses.

But for instance, when it comes to claims about restoring collagen with bone broth, NPR recently reported, “Since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinking.” (15)

That’s William Percy’s take. He’s an associate professor at the University of South Dakota’s School of Medicine. He just doesn’t think broth can do much of anything for our skeletal systems.

So while some research does support bone stock having certain benefits, like a mild anti-inflammatory response, the possible negative side-effects might be reason enough to monitor bone broth intake.

The takeaway.

The lesson here, for those who choose to consume bone broth, is to please allow the time to do some research first. Then if bone broth still seems worth a try, please limit consumption to a cup once or twice a week.

And again, try to avoid beef, lamb, or pork bone broth at all costs.

Remember, these particular meats are likely to have a higher concentration of lead contamination, and beef and pork are sources of potentially harmful Neu5Gc.

Remember, not all health trends are created equal. Most come and go. Be ready for this craze to fade into the background too, giving way to the next wave of marketing madness.

If you’ve given bone broth a try, did you seem to see noticeable results? Did you like the taste? Or did you just feel like you were drinking plain old soup? I’d love to invite you to share your comments and thoughts below or on Facebook.

~

Sources:

(1) PubChem.

(2) Neuroscience for Kids.

(3) Peeling Back the Onion Layers

(4) Insurance & Wellness in the Rockies

(5) National Center for Biotechnology Information

(6) Peeling Back the Onion Layers

(7) The World Health Organization

(8) The National Center for Biotechnology Information

(9) The World Health Organization

(10) Cite Seer X

(11) RST2 – Stem Projects

(12) National Center for Biotechnology Information

(13) UC Davis Health

(14) American College of Chest Physicians

(15) NPR

 

Author: Dr. Steven Gundry

Image: Courtesy of author

Editor: Deb Jarrett

 

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Steven Gundry

Dr. Steven Gundry is a cardiologist, heart surgeon, medical researcher, and author. During his 40-year career, Dr. Gundry has performed 10,000 surgeries and developed patented, life-saving medical technology. After discovering how diet could help his patients avoid surgery, he wrote the book, “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution,” in 2008 which outlines his unique nutrition plan for wellness. In 2017, he released his second book, “The Plant Paradox”, that further refines this revolutionary eating plan. www.gundrymd.com

Tim Rowland Oct 4, 2018 6:21pm

I'm interested to know if anyone has heard or read anything about a relatinship between bone broth and seizures. A friend of ours recently began using bone broth and is very pleased with the results with decreased joint pain and more energy. My wife and I began drinking it 2 days ago. She has a sezure disorder (AVM) and takes meds for it. She has been seizure free for many months. Today, two days after starting to drink bone broth she had a seizure. I'm trying to find out if it was simply coincidental or if there could be a connection. This article seems to give me reason for concern. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Karen Steitz Sep 14, 2018 9:10pm

Cindy Ostrom I actually gave been drinking beef bone broth for a lil while and am having some heart and kidney issues which it seems to be worsening them. But I'm auto immune and it has stopped hair loss extensively. Wouldlo vd to have him as my dr 😀

Michele Michele LeBelle Aug 5, 2018 12:48am

Agree.

Michele Michele LeBelle Aug 5, 2018 12:46am

My mom has ischemic colitis and was on a boullion clear liquid diet at the hospital. Organic, pasture or grass fed raised Chicken bone broth and turkey bone broth from the load bearing bones is best. Also the best beef bones for broth are load bearing bones. My mom's digestive system is settling down and she is satisfied eating it every two hours for now. Slowly, we will introduce bland veggies like squash, carrots, sweet potatoes. The stupid doctors want her on Ensure and other crap filled with sugar, like gatorade, crackers, jello. She's getting enough fats from ghee, no dairy, and some carbs from the veggies in the broth and organic brown rice and organic oatmeal. No fruits. She is withdrawing from refined sugars and gluten on day 4 now...she's a crotchety old lady~ At least she's not starving.

Roe Geron Mar 27, 2018 4:13pm

I feel the same way. I feel wonderful and drink it daily 2 or 3.times a day. It makes me feel energized and focused. I understand the scientific explanations why bone broth would not be good for us joe ever I wonder just how many studies have been completed on the outcomes of the use of bone broth.

Cindy Ostrom Mar 21, 2018 7:49pm

Actually, Dr. Gundry is my doctor and he thoroughly studies all things regarding health. He really has nothing to gain in this but to help people seek the best healing possible. He sells Vital Reds which is a polyphenol drink for healing but never pushes it at all. He doesn't even sell it in his offic believe it or not. I actually have been drinking bone broth protein powder for two years and going to refrain for the time being after seeing this article. Who knows how it is truly sourced? I tend to trust his judgement, his research and his knowledge on this for now anyway!

Travis May Jan 28, 2018 12:38am

It isn't an article about how it's made. It's about how it's bad for you.

Sarah Coleman Jan 27, 2018 8:04pm

This article is junk with some truths mixed in, railroading the reader to believe that bone broth is dangerous. Yes organic. Yes Grassfed. Yes collagen for healing intestine. Yes cook for shorter times if you are sensitive. No to steering the reader for your own agenda. Bone broth has been a wonderful food and remedy since before this guys grandmother was even born. And I'm sure she made it and was wise to its healing. Opinionated Science is so misleading. How annoying.

Lauren Scherger Jan 26, 2018 9:19pm

Shame on elephant journal for allowing this scare tactic of an article to be published on your page. It was laughable and ridiculous the lengths at which this man grasped at straws. “One time a cow was poisoned randomly, so we now all could get poisoned....”.

Alana Guarino Jan 9, 2018 10:19pm

thanks for this Dr. Gundry, your work is amazing!

Margaret Gail Tyree Nov 5, 2017 9:14pm

I have to disagree with this particular point. I've been making bone broth for naerly 10 years, all from grass-fed animals (not fed any grain or soy). I've visited the farms where we buy our bones and meat from, and they are the cleanest operations we've found here in Florida. My husband and I test oursevles for heavy metals about every two years, and our lead content has decreased to negligible numbers (including lead) over the past 7 years. For further information regarding bone broth, check out the Weston A. Price Foundation. In addition to bone broth and healthy meals, you can sources for raw, unpastueuized, non-homogenized milk in your state, which often includes sources for A-2 milk and other raw dairy products.

Andre Ratoni Oct 30, 2017 4:27pm

Melody Beethe whatever you do don't get a 50-year-old cookbook people, are dying from cardiovascular diseases from the food that came from those cookbooks. Do a search on Blue zones. These are areas in the world where people live the longest healthiest lives free of modern-day diseases. If you're looking a healthy way of living look at their diets and culture, and follow them. Also I'm pretty sure they don't consume bone broth. As far as the latest research is concerned, search TMAO. There appears to be significant evidence that shows that people with high levels of TMAO are at greatest risk of cardiovascular diseases which is the amongst highest, or the highest cause of deaths due to diet in the US. As far as the whole bone broth thing is concerned, there haven't been enough appropriate studies done on it to make a decision based on them. What they do know for certain is that animals store lead in their bones to keep it away from important organs. So there is a real risk of lead contamination with bone broth. There's plenty of information on the Internet that says that just drinking warm or hot water is good for you, maybe it's just the water in the bone broth that's actually the thing that's good for you, however with hot water there's a significantly lower risk of lead contamination.

Sarah Lou Viau May 30, 2017 1:40am

I always drank bone broth I guess, because it tastes good. I make my soup this way. It makes the best soup. I simmer it on low in a crock pot over night, then I add my veggies and what not in the morning after I take out all the bones. I've had it all my life, no lead poisoning, I think my neurotransmitters are sort of ok. They get their job done. Lol I guess it could be possible, but I don't think it's likely. I say enjoy your soup, or whatever you call it.

Debra Rb May 14, 2017 3:16am

Dr Gundry is amazing and I really appreciate his honest and highly informative responses when asked important questions. Thank you

Bill Thomas Mar 19, 2017 8:55pm

Melody Beethe eat a good variety of anything you want. True food allergies are rare, but watch out for those. Skip the clickbait fad diets, and get a 50 year old cookbook at a used bookstore.

Bill Thomas Mar 19, 2017 8:53pm

Very odd an article like this from a "DR" who uses ancestral eating habits to cure disease. I have eaten 1000's of bowls of soup in my life made with bones in them, IT IS NOTHING NEW FOLKS, its a fad coming around again, and again it will. This article was waaaaaay tooooo looong to be so inaccurate.

Nika Fox Mar 18, 2017 7:26am

Ugh. He's not offering all the information of being holistic in his approach towards it. He seems like an interesting guy but I don't buy what he says. Here is some more on the arguments he's putting forward, but digging a bit more deep than he is in my opinion. www.thepaleomom.com%2Fbroth-hidden-dangers-in-a-healing-food%2F&h=ATP-NYbfMpeVr9AnEt7ULtblVVSLRxBChoFlNK6aSakXKrCniqTp7LAz4AGzzLVQ8MoldGdFr9UEpAdt6CWGzR-hp8Dmd0EIG4kmiFOuN_blQqtFCInLxF_haLfNyOQ

Miss isst Mar 17, 2017 9:29am

Thank you for this article!

Betty Copping Mar 16, 2017 5:19am

I take exception at the use of a misquoted and therefore miscontrued statement from a paper on lead poisoning in 738 (total number of animals) cattle between 1966 and 1989 in Alberta, Canada as evidence that there is a danger of excessive lead showing up in bone broth made from the bones of beef, grassfed or otherwise, Alberta raised or otherwise! Any animal showing symptoms of lead poisoning would not have ended up in the human food chain even vack in 1989 in Canada.

Subira Choudhuri Dukes Mar 15, 2017 7:29pm

I love bone broth made out of grass-fed marrow bones! I cook oatmeal in it, it is delicious, and I definitely notice a difference in my skin when I have bone broth than when I don't.

Tracy Hovde Mar 15, 2017 1:31pm

I make bone broth from our grass fed, Scottish Highland beef bones so I know the source. Since I began incorporating home-made bone broth into my diet a few times a week & use it for cooking- and adding more fat (beef, chicken, lard from pastured animals) I have gradually, over the course of 3 years, reduced my thyroid medication from 185 mcg T4 & 45 mcg per day to 55 mcg per day. Diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, a chronic & degenerative disorder, over 10 years ago I no longer have nodules or any other evidence of Hashimotos, just a mildly underactive thyroid which continues to improve. I cannot isolate these improvements to my health to the addition of bone broth to my diet but I am personally convinced that it is at least part of the picture.

Paul Beard Mar 15, 2017 12:15pm

You lost me when say something stupid like "crankcase oil leaking from batteries"!

Holly E. Mullin Mar 15, 2017 8:42am

He just seems to try and discredit everything to make himself look good. It's weird. I can't trust a person like that. Tell us what is good and stop making out everything is bogus. It's a projection! You're bogus.

Holly E. Mullin Mar 15, 2017 8:40am

This guy worries me. I think he's a troll.

Jennie Gage Mar 15, 2017 4:16am

Bone broth I ab not a trend but has in fact been a staple in the diets of almost every culture on the face of the planet for countless generations. Thousands of years of broth consumption can hardly be labeled a fad.