Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Bone Broth Bad For You?



Short answer

Bone broth is not inherently bad for you and offers several potential health benefits due to its content of proteins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. However, concerns such as heavy metal contamination, notably lead, and high sodium levels in some preparations need consideration. The benefits of bone broth can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, but mindful sourcing and preparation are crucial to mitigate potential risks.



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Long answer

Nutritional Components of Bone Broth

Bone broth, a traditional food that has seen a resurgence in recent years, is often touted for its extensive health benefits. But to truly understand its impacts on health, we must delve into the nutritional components that make up bone broth. It's essential to note that the nutritional content can vary significantly depending on the type of bones used, cooking time, and additional ingredients. However, there are some key nutrients typically found in bone broth that warrant attention.

  • Collagen: When bones are simmered, they release collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body and a vital component of connective tissues.
  • Protein: Bone broth is a modest source of protein, providing amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. Glycine and proline, for instance, are notably present.
  • Minerals: Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium are leached from the bones into the broth, offering an array of essential nutrients.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Known for their role in joint health, these compounds are found in the cartilage that often cooks off the bones into the broth.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Marrow found in bones contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, crucial for cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.

While these components have individual health benefits, it's the synergy of all these nutrients working together that may make bone broth beneficial. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the levels of these compounds can vary widely. For example, the study found that calcium levels in homemade chicken broths ranged from 6 to 9 milligrams per 100 grams, far less than in a glass of milk, but the bioavailability may be higher in broth form.

It's worth mentioning that bone broth is also low in calories yet can be quite satiating due to its protein content. This can potentially make it a good addition to a weight management diet. Another benefit comes from the amino acid glycine, which has been shown in studies, such as those published in the Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research, to promote better sleep quality.

However, there are also considerations when consuming bone broth. Bones can accumulate heavy metals, and there's some concern about the presence of lead in particular. A study in the Medical Hypotheses journal found higher levels of lead in broth made from organic chicken bones. While this has raised questions about the safety of regular consumption, it's essential to balance these concerns with the understanding that such minerals are naturally found in many foods we consume regularly, and the body has mechanisms for managing low-level exposure.

For those monitoring their dietary intake, it's also relevant that the sodium content in bone broth can be quite high, especially in store-bought options that are pre-seasoned. Overconsumption of sodium is linked to elevated blood pressure and other health issues, so moderating intake is advised.

In sum, bone broth contains various nutrients that can confer health benefits, particularly proteins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Nonetheless, variations in preparation methods and source materials can lead to a wide range in the nutrient profile, and there are potential concerns to be aware of, such as heavy metal content and high levels of sodium.

The Truth About Bone Broth and Heavy Metal Toxicity

Concerns regarding the safety of consuming bone broth often center around the potential presence of heavy metals, such as lead. These apprehensions arise from the understanding that bones, the primary component of broth, can store heavy metals absorbed during the animal's life. To understand the potential risks, it is critical to consider the evidence available and consult expert opinions on the matter.

One key study that triggered the debate was published in the journal "Medical Hypotheses" in 2013. Researchers found that bone broth made from chicken bones had a detectable concentration of lead, which is a neurotoxic heavy metal with no known safe level of exposure. The study indicated that the levels of lead in the broth were several times higher than those in the water with which the broth was made.

However, it's essential to contextualize the findings of this study and consider broader research. Although lead was present, some experts argue that the levels detected in this particular study were still below the maximum allowable levels for drinking water set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States.

Further research also suggests that the presence of heavy metals in bone broth can depend on various factors, including:

  • The environment in which the animal was raised, with those raised in polluted areas potentially having higher levels of heavy metals in their bones.
  • The type of bones used and the animal's diet, as bones from different parts of the body and from different animals can accumulate metals at different rates.
  • The duration and method of cooking, with longer cooking times potentially leading to more substantial leaching of minerals and metals from the bones.

While these factors can influence the concentration of heavy metals, it is also worth noting that the nutritional benefits of bone broth are often cited to outweigh the potential risks. Bone broth is rich in minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients that are beneficial for joint health, digestive function, and the immune system.

In terms of countermeasures, some experts recommend sourcing bones from organically-raised, free-range, or grass-fed animals as a way to potentially minimize exposure to heavy metals. Additionally, they advise consuming bone broth in moderation as part of a balanced and varied diet to mitigate any potential risks.

Ultimately, while the presence of heavy metals in bone broth is a valid concern, it is important to weigh these risks against the broader context of dietary exposure to heavy metals and the nutritional benefits of bone broth. Consulting with healthcare practitioners or dietitians, considering individual health circumstances, and making informed decisions based on a variety of dietary sources are crucial steps for those considering including bone broth in their diet.

For individuals still concerned about potential toxicity, a proactive approach would be to select bone broth from reputable sources that test for heavy metal contamination or to make homemade bone broth using bones from trusted suppliers.

Bone Broth and Its Effect on Digestive Health

Digestive health is a cornerstone of overall wellness, and the foods we consume play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy gut. Bone broth, a rich liquid obtained from simmering bones in water, is often touted for its potential benefits to digestion. Here, we delve into the relationship between bone broth and digestive health.

Gut Lining Support

Bone broth is a source of gelatin, which is derived from the collagen in animal bones. When consumed, gelatin may aid in reinforcing the protective lining of the digestive tract. A 2014 study from the "Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology" suggests that gelatin, alongside other amino acids found in bone broth, assists in the growth of connective tissue, potentially benefiting those with intestinal permeability or 'leaky gut syndrome'.

Rich in Amino Acids

Bone broth boasts a profile rich in amino acids like glutamine, glycine, and proline. Glutamine, for example, has been shown to improve the integrity of the gut wall and to support the growth of intestinal cells, according to research published in "Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care".

Beneficial for Certain Diets

People following diets aimed at gut health restoration, such as the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet or a low-FODMAP diet, often incorporate bone broth as a staple. Its easy digestibility and nutrient density make it desirable for individuals with compromised digestion or those managing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Hydration and Electrolytes

Hydration is crucial for digestive health, and bone broth can contribute to fluid intake. Additionally, the natural electrolytes found in bone broth, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, are essential for muscle contraction including those in the digestive tract.

However, while bone broth has its positives, there might be concerns for certain individuals:

  • High Sodium Content: Commercially prepared bone broths can be high in sodium, which when consumed in excess, might lead to increased blood pressure and fluid retention, potentially exacerbating conditions like heartburn or acid reflux.
  • Glutamate Content: For those sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG), it's important to note that glutamate is a naturally occurring substance in bone broth. Although not the same as added MSG, those with sensitivities may still experience similar symptoms.
  • Heavy Metals: Bones can accumulate heavy metals, and a few studies, such as one published in "Medical Hypotheses", have raised concerns about the levels of lead in bone broth. However, subsequent research indicates that lead levels are typically low and likely not a significant health risk when bone broth is consumed as part of a balanced diet.
  • Certain Health Conditions: Individuals with specific health conditions like histamine intolerance may react negatively to bone broth since it's a histamine liberator. Caution is advised when incorporating it into the diet.

In conclusion, bone broth may offer several benefits for digestive health, including support for the gut lining, a rich supply of amino acids, and easily digestible nutrients. However, individuals should consider their own health conditions and dietary needs when incorporating this traditional remedy into their meals.

Histamine Levels in Bone Broth: Concerns for Sensitive Individuals

Bone broth has garnered attention for its rich nutrient profile, potential health benefits, and culinary versatility. However, a concern often overlooked is its histamine content, which may pose issues for individuals with histamine sensitivities or intolerances. Histamine is a naturally occurring compound that serves as a neurotransmitter and a component of the immune response. It can affect gut function, blood vessels, and nervous system signaling.

The process of making bone broth involves prolonged cooking times. This slow simmering can cause proteins in the bones and meat to break down into amino acids, some of which can then convert to biogenic amines, such as histamine. The longer broth simmers, the higher the potential histamine content. For those with histamine intolerance, consuming high-histamine foods like bone broth can lead to symptoms such as headaches, hives, runny nose, or gastrointestinal upset.

Factors Contributing to Histamine Content in Bone Broth:

  • Cooking Time: Longer cooking results in more histamine release from amino acids.
  • Temperature: Histamine can increase as temperatures rise during the cooking process.
  • Bone and Meat Quality: The histamine level can also depend on the initial histamine content of the bones and meat, which is influenced by the animal's diet and stress levels at slaughter.
  • Storage: Histamine levels can rise in bone broth when stored improperly, especially if kept warm or at room temperature for extended periods.

Individuals with histamine sensitivities face a dilemma since bone broth is praised for its healing properties, especially for the gut. However, this same property could trigger unpleasant reactions. Studies have shown that even gut-healing foods can exacerbate symptoms in conditions such as mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) or histamine intolerance due to their histamine content.

To accommodate sensitive individuals while still harnessing the benefits of bone broth, several strategies might be recommended:

  • Reducing cooking time to minimize histamine formation
  • Regardless of cooking duration, immediately cooling and freezing broth to halt histamine development
  • Using fresh, high-quality ingredients known to be low in histamines
  • Seeking commercially available bone broth tested for low histamine levels
  • Incorporating histamine-degrading enzymes into the diet, like diamine oxidase (DAO), which may help manage the histamine load from foods

It's vital for those with known histamine intolerance to consult with a healthcare provider or a dietician before incorporating bone broth into their diet. Through discussions about symptoms and possibly dietary journaling, individuals can determine their specific threshold levels and whether bone broth may fit within their threshold of histamine tolerance.

Emerging research provides new insights into histamine intolerance and the effects of biogenic amines in food. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism examined the impact of dietary histamines on health and recommended guidelines for the identification and management of histamine intolerance. As more is understood about this condition, individuals may receive more personalized dietary advice to balance nutrient intake with symptom management.

Finally, it's important to note that each person's histamine response can vary widely. While some may not notice adverse effects from consuming bone broth, others with sensitivities may consider approaches like those listed above to enjoy its benefits without the associated discomfort.

Commercially Prepared vs. Homemade Bone Broth: Safety and Nutrition

The contrasting qualities between commercially prepared and homemade bone broth can be significant when it comes to safety and nutritional content. Understanding these differences is crucial for individuals who prioritize their health and dietary choices. Let's delve into the distinctions between these two forms of bone broth to help you make an informed decision about which might be better for you.

Ingredients and Additives:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: Although convenient, some store-bought bone broths may contain added preservatives, artificial flavors, or excessive salt to enhance shelf life and taste. Always read labels carefully. For example, the addition of monosodium glutamate (MSG) may be a concern for some individuals, although research on its health effects is mixed.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: When creating your own bone broth, you have full control over the ingredients, ensuring that only high-quality bones, vegetables, herbs, and water are included. This absence of unnecessary additives makes for a more natural and potentially healthier option.

Nutritional Value Comparison:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: The nutrient content of commercial broths can vary widely depending on the brand and preparation process. Some may be lower in essential nutrients if they have been diluted or if the simmering time was insufficient to extract all the minerals and collagen from the bones.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: Making bone broth at home typically ensures a richer nutritional profile, as you can simmer the broth for a longer period (24-48 hours), which is believed to extract more nutrients from the bones.

Quality of Bones:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: Commercial options may not always use bones from organically-raised, grass-fed animals, which can affect the broth's quality, nutrient density, and the presence of unwanted substances like antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: By choosing bones from trusted sources such as local butchers or farmers who raise grass-fed, organic livestock, homemade broth proponents can ensure a cleaner product, free from potential contaminants.

Contaminant Risk:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: Store-bought broths run the risk of containing heavy metals and other contaminants due to mass production and less stringent sourcing of ingredients. The risk may be minimal with reputable brands that test for contaminants, but this is not always standard practice.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: The risk of contaminants can be reduced when making broth at home by meticulously selecting high-quality, organic bones and other ingredients.

Food Safety Concerns:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: Safety regulations require commercial broth to be pasteurized and packaged under strict standards to avoid microbial contamination. Though these processes are designed to ensure safety, they can also impact the taste and nutrient profile.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: When preparing broth at home, food safety rests in the hands of the cook. Proper cooking, handling, and storage are essential to avoid bacterial growth. Always ensure that the broth is brought to a rolling boil and then simmered, and store it in the refrigerator or freezer within a couple of hours after cooking.

Environmental Concerns:

  • Commercial Bone Broth: Packaging waste is an environmental consideration with pre-made broths. Those who are environmentally conscious may prefer homemade options to reduce the use of plastics and other packaging materials.
  • Homemade Bone Broth: Making broth at home typically results in less waste, particularly if you are using leftover bones from other meals, which also reflects a nose-to-tail eating philosophy that is more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

When weighing the options of commercially prepared versus homemade bone broth, consider the implications for safety, nutritional density, and environmental impact. While convenience may attract some to store-bought varieties, the potential benefits of homemade broth, including better control over ingredients and a higher likelihood of a superior nutrient profile, might tip the scales for those committed to optimizing their health through dietary choices. As always, sourcing ingredients consciously and preparing foods safely are paramount, regardless of the choice made.

Potential Risks of Excessive Bone Broth Consumption

While bone broth is often touted for its numerous health benefits, including support for joint health, digestion, and skin due to its high collagen content, it is essential to consider the potential risks that may arise from consuming it in excessive amounts. Moderation is key in any aspect of diet, and bone broth is no exception. Here, we delve into the potential risks associated with excessive consumption of bone broth:

Heavy Metal Accumulation

One concern is the accumulation of heavy metals. Bones can store heavy metals such as lead, which can potentially leach into the broth during the cooking process. A study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggested that bone broth made from chicken bones may contain notable amounts of lead. While the levels may not pose a significant health risk when consumed in moderation, excessive intake could lead to lead accumulation in the body, potentially resulting in lead toxicity.

High Sodium Content

Another risk factor is the sodium content in bone broth, particularly when it includes added salt or is made from pre-packaged broths. High sodium intake is associated with increased blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Individuals with hypertension or pre-existing heart conditions should be especially mindful of their bone broth intake and opt for low-sodium versions when possible.

Glutamate Sensitivity

For individuals sensitive to glutamate, consuming large quantities of bone broth may cause adverse reactions. As the bones break down during cooking, natural glutamates are released. Glutamate is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter and can act as a flavor enhancer. However, in sensitive individuals, it might cause symptoms such as headaches or other reactions similar to those in monosodium glutamate (MSG) sensitivity.

Imbalanced Nutrient Intake

Relying on bone broth as a primary food source can also lead to an imbalanced intake of nutrients. Although bone broth contains a variety of minerals and beneficial compounds, it lacks sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, and essential fats. Therefore, excessive consumption without a balanced diet might lead to macronutrient deficiencies.

Digestive Discomfort

Some individuals might experience digestive discomfort when consuming bone broth, especially if they are not used to high levels of collagen or certain fats that can be found in the broth. Overconsumption can lead to an upset stomach, bloating, or other gastrointestinal issues.

It's important to balance the consumption of bone broth with other nutrient sources and to listen to your body's response to it. If you choose to include bone broth in your diet, do so in appropriate moderation and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any existing health conditions or concerns.

Frequently asked questions

Bone broth can be beneficial for skin health due to its high collagen content. Collagen provides the building blocks for healthy skin, improving its elasticity and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Consuming collagen-rich foods like bone broth may support your skin's hydration and overall health.

Vegetarians and vegans can derive similar benefits from plant-based broths made from high-collagen vegetables, seaweeds, and certain mushrooms like shiitake, which contain compounds beneficial for gut health and the immune system. However, these broths will not contain the same type or level of amino acids, minerals, and collagen found in traditional bone broth.

Yes, the nutrient content of bone broth can vary depending on the type of bones used in the preparation. Different bones have different concentrations of minerals, collagen, and other compounds, which will affect the broth's overall nutritional profile. For instance, marrow bones are rich in essential fatty acids, while joints and knuckles provide more glucosamine and chondroitin, which are beneficial for joint health.

Individuals with heart disease should be cautious with bone broth consumption, especially commercial varieties that may have high sodium content. Opt for homemade bone broth with no added salt, and consult with your healthcare provider to ensure it fits into your heart-healthy diet.

Ask a question about Bone Broth and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • upset stomach
  • headache
  • high blood pressure
  • lead exposure

Possible long-term side effects

  • lead toxicity
  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • nutrient deficiencies

Ingredients to be aware of

  • sodium
  • glutamate
  • heavy metals like lead
  • histamine


  • supports joint health
  • aids digestion
  • promotes healthier skin
  • provides collagen and protein
  • rich in minerals
  • may enhance sleep quality
  • supports gut lining
  • hydrates
  • offers electrolytes

Healthier alternatives

  • low-sodium broths
  • organic ingredients
  • grass-fed animal bones
  • freshly made broth
  • broth tested for low histamine levels

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Kettle & Fire Bone Broth

  • 100% grass-fed beef
  • Compliant with Whole30
  • Gluten-free
  • Rich in nutrients
  • Convenient 16.9 oz size
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-18-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-18-2023

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