Harvard Women's Health Watch

What's the scoop on bone soup?

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Broths made from meat bones have been touted as foods that soothe arthritis, boost immune function, and smooth your skin. But the claims often exceed the evidence.

In the last couple of years, bone broths have become so popular they are being hailed as "the new coffee." While bone-broth shops aren't about to replace Starbucks outlets any time soon, some people are drinking mugs of the soup not just at noon, but also at break time throughout the day. Media coverage of the bone-broth phenomenon is filled with testimonials to the soups' purported health benefits—as bone builders, immune boosters, and even wrinkle removers. However, there is scant scientific evidence to support those claims.

What are bone broths?

Bone broths are as old as the ages. Most cooks know them as chicken stock or beef stock—soup bases made by simmering bones in water with seasonings for as long as two days. Bone broths are a staple of the Paleolithic, or Paleo, diet—an eating plan based on the foods thought to have been consumed by hunter-gatherers who roamed the earth more than 10,000 years ago. The Paleo diet is heavy on meat, poultry, and fish, along with fruits and vegetables, but excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, alcohol, and coffee. Although it has many proponents, it doesn't align with the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which promote whole grains and legumes and advise limiting consumption of red meat.

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