If you’ve been paying attention to recent health trends, you’ve probably noticed the growing popularity of bone broth.
This kind of broth is usually made from the bones of beef, chicken or ham which release collagen—the most abundant protein in the body—into the broth.
Researchers are finding that when you consume collagen, whether in a broth or from collagen supplements, you can reap some remarkable health benefits.
Building Block For Muscles, Tendons and Connective Tissue
The body uses collagen as a fundamental building block for tissues, tendons, ligaments and muscles. In fact, doctors frequently use it in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery as a scaffold for new skin to grow in patients who’ve suffered from burns or from chronic, non-healing wounds.1
However, when you consume collagen by mouth, its effects can go beyond helping the body rebuild its tissues and heal.
For instance, a study in Spain shows that collagen from broth can keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthier. The Spanish researchers explained that during cooking as well as within the digestive process that takes place in your intestinal tract after you consume the broth, the collagen proteins from the bones are broken down into smaller compounds called peptides.2
Acts as a Powerful Antioxidant and Artery Opener
These collagen-derived peptides act as antioxidants that defend cells from damage while they also push back against the harmful activity of enzymes that are related to various diseases.
In the Spanish study, researchers found peptides from ham bones blocked enzymatic activity that contributes to cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, they found that boiling bones to make broth not only releases bioactive peptides from the bone’s collagen, but also liberates beneficial proteins from hemoglobin in the ham bones.
Along with this research, a study in Japan found that taking collagen supplements twice a day, once with breakfast and then again with dinner, can lower the risk of blocked arteries that occur during atherosclerosis. This six-month investigation also found that collagen supplements helped ease the stiffness of arteries, a condition which can contribute to heart disease.3
Supports More Weight Loss From Exercise
Yet another benefit of collagen, according to a study in Germany, is boosting muscle building in older people who engage in strength training.
This research involved more than fifty men in their late 60s and early 70s who were taking part in a three-month weight-lifting program. Researchers found the program was significantly more effective for restoring muscle mass for those who took collagen peptide supplements compared to the results experienced by placebo-takers.4
Along with building extra muscle, the men taking collagen also lost more fat tissue than the men who didn’t have the benefit of collagen.
Help For Arthritis
Other research indicates that collagen may help control the pain of osteoarthritis.
A six-month clinical study at the University of California-Davis found that people suffering osteoarthritic knee discomfort suffered significantly less pain when they took collagen supplements, and their knees functioned better, too.5
Other studies have produced similar findings: An exhaustive review of research into the effects of collagen performed by scientists in Mexico found abundant evidence that collagen helps relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.6
It seems pretty likely we’ve just scratched the surface of the health benefits of collagen and there will be more good news about these nutrients in the future.
Replacement For Sutures During Minor Surgery
Hospitals may soon start putting collagen to work to replace sutures. Research at George Washington University demonstrates that applying collagen powder to a skin biopsy wound after doctors perform what’s called a punch biopsy helps heal and close the wound as effectively as sewing up the wound with sutures.7
If that holds up, it will be a remarkable discovery.
The researchers point out that collagen produces cellular signals that control and stop bleeding, recruits immune and skin cells to the wound site that speed healing, stimulates the formation of new blood vessels and, when applied to cuts and wounds, doesn’t cause irritation and does not stimulate the growth of infectious bacteria.
“Using topical collagen powder for punch biopsy wounds may be easier on the patient, not requiring an additional visit for suture removal and yielding an equivalent or possibly better wound healing outcome,” says researcher Adam Friedman.
If you want to make your own collagen-rich bone broth, many bone broth aficionados recommend cooking the bones for about twenty hours or more. There are also recipes you can find online for cooking bones in a pressure cooker or instant pot for as little as three hours.
Don’t want to do-it-yourself? You can buy collagen supplements or purchase bone broth at a supermarket or health food store.