flickr | Lynn Gardner

flickr | Lynn Gardner

Bone Broth - Manny Pacquiao swears by it, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. pays $1,000.00 for a plate of collagen rich oxtail and here at the Lakers, it's no secret (see here, here and here) that we make sure it's always available to our players. Broth from bones is one of the oldest culinary staples and there is booming paleo-driven buzz surrounding it's revival. The question still looms: Beyond the anecdotes, is this so-called joint healthy potion just a fad (as reported by that may as well be called "hot ham water?"

My answer: bone broth is far from the dregs from boiling a canned ham and here are 3 reasons why: 

1. Science. The building blocks of our joints (skin and bones too) is the same super-pack of molecules you extract from low and slow simmering animal bones. Proteoglycans, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans are some of the tongue-twisting group names of the molecules swimming in your broth that serve healthy, high functioning skin, bones and joints. Evidence shows these molecules seem to have an uncanny attraction to unhealthy joint/connective material. 

what's the doc say?

Dr. Cate Shanahan, Director of the Lakers PRO Nutrition Program, explained this fascinating attraction that joint material molecules have toward damaged joints known as tropism

"The building block molecules of joint material that can be found in classically made bone broth appear to have physical instructions to go find the glycosaminoglycan-rich tissues where they are needed most, in overworked and damaged joints."

RELATED: Video on how to make beef bone broth.

Broth skeptics are quick to point to the lack of research that shows a connection between homemade bone broth and it's effects on bone or joint health. However, plenty of evidence and research exists that show various joint material molecules acting as skin, bone and joint superheroes. 

These molecules showed promise in aiding joint health when isolated in research settings. This allows us to safely and reasonably draw the conclusion that they have the potential to be equally, if not more, joint, bone and skin friendly when consumed all together in their natural homemade bone broth package. I was unable to uncover any evidence that hot ham water is up to this challenge. 

RELATED: Slow cooker beef bone broth recipe from Nom Nom Paleo

RELATED: 10 Health Benefits of Bone Broth Protein Powder Supplements

2. Multidimensional. Drinking bone broth like a coffee is a bit extreme, though I have been known to chug it myself. You miss an opportunity for greater nutrient intensity when you indulge in broth this way because it is truly intended to act as a base for sauces, soups and stews. The possibilities are endless when using homemade bone broth combined with other nutrient-intense ingredients to make something like a hearty soup or a lip-smacking sauce. I'm quite certain that hot ham water wouldn't enhance many sauces, soups or stews. 

RELATED: Bone Broth - What You Need to Know About the Latest Health Trend

3. Comfort food. Sauces, soups or stews with a bone broth base are not only an amazing way to get a huge variety of nutrients in one place, but they are comfort foods! Unfortunately, now the art of cooking culinary staples like bone broth low and slow has been pushed out of the kitchen by instant meals or faster, less classic styles of cooking. I'm not sure what your grandmother had on the stove but mine didn't have a canned ham simmering away. 

no bones about it

I commend the authors of "Bone Broth Is Hot Ham Water"! They successfully proved the point that I have made in the past regarding issues with our blind search for a cure-all superfood or the next great fitness fix-all. They are exactly right - bone broth is not by itself a health hero, and this idea is being abused. Then again it's not hot ham water. 

The evidence is encouraging, but we need more on the benefits of boiling bones. Be careful of turning this culinary pillar into something that it's not - it's neither a cure-all trend nor is it hot ham water. It is a nice foundation to a balanced and nutrient-intense approach to eating for health and performance.

RELATED: Video on how to make chicken stock. 


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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge.  He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

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Special thanks to Dr. Cate Shanahan for helping me to understand tropism at the molecular level. 

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