Gelatin is generally not bad for you. Supplements containing gelatin support bone health; they have been shown to help alleviate joint pain and osteoarthritis. However, there are some concerns about transmitting animal diseases through gelatin consumption.
Gelatin is a fairly common protein made from animal compounds—specifically, bones and skin from cows and pigs. Most widely known as a gelling agent used for culinary purposes, gelatin can be traced all the way back to the 1400s. Historic documents from Medieval Britain note that the hooves of cattle were boiled to produce a gel-like substance used for cooking.
Today, gelatin is used to produce many different kinds of food (most notably Jell-O), makeup, pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter supplements.
Why would anyone take gelatin as a drug or supplement?
Gelatin is derived from collagen and largely comprised of the amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein, but many people don’t get enough of them from diet alone. This is because they are primarily found in animal bones, fibrous tissues, and organs—parts that most of us here in the 21st Century just don’t eat. Gelatin, however, is made almost exclusively from them.
Because of their unique composition, gelatin supplements offer many health benefits. Most notably, collagen and gelatin are thought to relieve symptoms of bone disorders like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It works like this: as we age, the natural collagen in our bodies breaks down, leading to joint stiffness, reduced mobility, and pain. Gelatin helps promote natural collagen production, reducing inflammation and alleviating discomfort.
A 2012 clinical trial published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that people taking gelatin saw reduced pain and inflammation of the joints compared to those taking placebos. In fact, some even showed improved athletic capabilities.
Gelatin supplements offer other health benefits as well. They can help improve stomach health, enhance sleep quality and even elevate your mood and cognitive skills.
While gelatin seems to do a lot of good, it is also worth noting that there have been many concerns regarding the transfer of animal illnesses through gelatin products. Since 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stringently monitored the risk of spreading mad cow disease. It is still thought to be possible, but no cases have ever been reported. And today, most gelatin manufacturers follow the Quality Management System—specifically put in place to minimize the transfer of animal-borne sicknesses.
In terms of side effects, gelatin is generally safe for consumption. They can mildly upset the stomach, leading to stomach discomfort and gas. Allergic reactions are rare, but they do happen. For this reason, you should talk to your physician before adding gelatin foods or supplements to your diet.
Possible short-term side effects
- upset stomach
- allergic reaction
Commonly found in
- gummy candy
- fruit snacks
- pill capsules
- supports bone health
- helps alleviate joint pain and inflammation
- improves sleep quality
- promotes cognitive function