Is Bone Marrow Good For You

According to a 2-week study in 23 men, taking 5.6 grams of CLA per day effectively decreased levels of specific proteins involved in inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor alpha and C-reactive protein ( 17 ).

Bone Marrow: Nutrition, Benefits, and Food Sources

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Bone marrow is an ingredient that has been enjoyed worldwide for thousands of years.

More recently, it has become a delicacy in gourmet restaurants and trendy eateries alike.

It has also started gaining traction in health and fitness circles, due to its stellar nutrient profile and multitude of benefits.

This article reviews the nutrition and benefits of bone marrow and tells you how to add it to your diet.

Is Bone Marrow Good For You

Bone marrow is a type of spongy tissue in the center of bones. It’s most concentrated in the spine, hip, and thigh bones.

It contains stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, which are involved in oxygen transportation, immune function, and blood clotting (1).

The bone marrow of animals like cows, lambs, caribou, and moose is commonly consumed in many types of cuisine.

It has a rich, slightly sweet flavor with a smooth texture and is often served alongside toast or used as a base for soup.

Bone marrow can also be used to make bone broth or spread over bread, roasted vegetables, or meat dishes.

Summary

Bone marrow is a type of tissue found in bones. The bone marrow of animals is often served alongside toast, used as a base for soup, or spread over a variety of foods.

Bone marrow contains a good amount of calories and fat, as well as small amounts of nutrients like protein and vitamin B12.

For example, one tablespoon (14 grams) of raw caribou bone marrow provides ( 2 , 3 ):

  • Calories: 110
  • Total fat: 12 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Vitamin B12: 7% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Riboflavin: 6% of the RDI
  • Iron: 4% of the RDI
  • Vitamin E: 2% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 1% of the RDI
  • Thiamine: 1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin A: 1% of the RDI

Bone marrow provides a small amount of the B vitamins pantothenic acid, thiamine, and biotin, which are needed for important bodily processes, including energy production ( 3 ).

It’s also rich in collagen, the most abundant protein in your body. Supplementing your diet with collagen is thought to promote skin health and reduce joint pain ( 4 ).

Moreover, bone marrow produced from cows, goats, sheep, and moose contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that could decrease inflammation and enhance immune function ( 5 , 6 ).

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Though more research is needed, bone marrow is also thought to provide several other key compounds, including glycine, glucosamine, and chondroitin ( 7 , 8, 9 ).

Summary

Bone marrow is high in calories and fat. It also contains protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin, collagen, and conjugated linoleic acid.

Though no studies directly evaluate the effects of consuming bone marrow, plenty of research on the health benefits of its components is available.

In particular, collagen, glycine, glucosamine, and conjugated linoleic acid have been studied extensively for their potential effects on health.

Supports joint function

Several compounds in bone marrow are thought to optimize joint health.

For example, glucosamine is a compound found in cartilage that’s often used as a natural remedy for osteoarthritis due to its ability to reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain ( 10 ).

Collagen can support the production of joint cartilage to help maintain joint function as well ( 11 ).

In one 6-month study in 147 athletes, supplementing with 10 grams of collagen per day significantly decreased activity-related joint pain ( 12 ).

Decreases inflammation

Although short-term inflammation is a crucial part of your body’s defense system, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer ( 13 ).

Glycine, a type of protein found in bone marrow, has shown powerful anti-inflammatory properties in multiple test-tube studies and may help reduce inflammation in your body ( 14 , 15 , 16 ).

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another compound in bone marrow, has been found to reduce several markers of inflammation in the blood as well.

According to a 2-week study in 23 men, taking 5.6 grams of CLA per day effectively decreased levels of specific proteins involved in inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor alpha and C-reactive protein ( 17 ).

Bone marrow also contains adiponectin, a type of protein hormone that has been shown to play a central role in regulating inflammation and immune function ( 18 , 19 ).

Promotes skin health

Collagen is a type of protein found throughout your body that plays an integral role in skin health.

One 8-week study in 69 women found that supplementing with 2.5–5 grams of collagen helped improve skin elasticity and hydration ( 20 ).

Similarly, a study in mice observed that treatment with collagen for 8 weeks increased collagen content and antioxidant activity in the skin, which could help protect against skin damage and aging ( 21 ).

Limited studies on bone marrow consumption

Note that all of the studies above were performed using supplements containing concentrated amounts of individual compounds found in bone marrow.

More research is needed to determine whether consuming bone marrow itself may provide similar health benefits.

Summary

Though research is limited on the health effects of bone marrow itself, studies show that many of its components could support joint function, decrease inflammation, and promote skin health.

What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Bone Marrow?

Ham bones for making broth at home

Currently, there is no scientific evidence supporting claims that eating bone marrow soup has health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and gut-healing qualities.

Image Credit: javi_indy/iStock/GettyImages

Bone marrow food, such as bone broth or bone marrow soup, is an essential component of several popular diets. However, the true benefits of bone marrow food are still being investigated, with some research showing that bone broth is a poor source of calcium and magnesium.

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Tip

Currently, there is no scientific evidence supporting claims that eating bone marrow soup has health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and gut-healing qualities.

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones of animals such as cows, fish or poultry in water for hours and hours, until a thick liquid forms. It may be sipped straight, or augmented with vegetables and herbs.

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Benefits of Bone Marrow

A November 2017 article in the Journal of Renal Nutrition describes bone broth as a traditional food source that has been used for centuries and is now popular within the health food segment. It is particularly lauded by those who follow the Paleo diet, which promotes foods of the pre-agricultural era such as sustainably-sourced meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits and does not include legumes, dairy, refined sugar, cereal grains and processed foods.

Read More: Why Go Paleo?

Bone broth is touted as being able to heal everything from the common cold to osteoarthritis. Proponents of consuming bone broth claim it is high in collagen and various vitamins and minerals. They also tout it as an aid for sleep, anti-inflammation, gut-healing and weight loss.

There have been no conclusive scientific studies that show that bone marrow soup has real health benefits, despite its rise in popularity. Still, it is a source of protein, about 6 to 12 grams per cup, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Disadvantages to Bone Broth

A study published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Food & Nutrition Research highlights one disadvantage to eating bone marrow soup — bones store heavy metals, particularly lead. This means that lead may be released during the process of cooking bone broth.

However, the study concluded that the amounts of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium present in commercial bone broth and soup are very low, with concentrations in the range of a few micrograms per serving

When looking at the calcium and magnesium levels in homemade or commercial bone broth, the study found that found them to be just a minute fraction of the daily requirements. Broth is not a good source of daily calcium and magnesium doses.

In terms of nutrition, the nutritional content of bone broth depends on how much fat is left in the broth, the amount of sodium and whether or not it contains vegetables.

Make Bone Marrow Soup

Whether you drink bone marrow soup for a health boost, or simply want a hearty, warm bowl of comfort to sip on winter afternoons, it’s simple enough to make bone broth. (Alternatively, many grocery stores now stock bone broth, and restaurants often sell bone broth that you can purchase to take home.)

Start with 4 pounds of beef bones and a few vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery. You can roast the meat and vegetables beforehand, which will give a greater depth of flavor to the broth. Roast the bones at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half hour. (The vegetables may be roasted for 10 minutes.)

Place the bones and vegetables in a large soup pot and cover with water. Herbs such as bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic may be added as well. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer, skimming off the fat and foam as it comes to the surface. The broth should be simmered for a minimum of 3 hours, and up to 2 days, before being put through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids. Bone marrow soup may be incorporated into heartier soups, reduced or thickened to make gravy or eaten on its own.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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