A Medical Mystery - Bone Broth and Collagen Proteins

A Medical Mystery - Bone Broth and Collagen Proteins

You may have noticed all of the marketing hype around “bone broth” and “collagen” proteins. One of the brands of bone broth is “Dr. Axe”, and you can find it at Whole Foods so it must be good for you, right? Same for "Vital Proteins," also at Whole Foods. Not so vital.

We sent a container of the plain bone broth off to Covance Labs some months ago to get the amino acid profile. We then calculated the protein quality score based on the results from Covance. It calculates to be about 28, or lower, out of 100.

In other words, this is low quality protein with low value to your body. It has only 28% of the value, or perhaps a lot less, compared to whey protein isolate or milk protein isolate.

New cases of Pellagra? A medical mystery? Pellagra is caused by a cellular deficiency of niacin, resulting from inadequate dietary nicotinic acid and/or its precursor, the essential amino-acid tryptophan. Symptoms are the "3 D syndrome": dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia. It is rarely encountered (in North America).

Yet at one session at Obesity Week (includes American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery) this year, a case study was presented of a patient 15 months after a revision of RNY gastric bypass to a duodenal switch. The patient presented with multiple medical problems, including a tryptophan deficiency. Why? It’s almost unheard of in the US.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, a precursor of niacin and other neurotransmitters needed to keep the GI tract healthy. Bariatric surgery may impair tryptophan absorption and affect the integrity of the bowel to absorb nutrients. Symptoms of tryptophan deficiency can occur at intakes as little as 25% below the RDA of 4 mg/kg body weight.1

At the meeting, UNJURY's Nutrition Advisor, Dr. Mary Litchford, offered a possible explanation: the new popularity of bone broth and collagen proteins. Here's why: bone broth protein is low in tryptophan, an essential amino acid, and collagen typically has zero tryptophan.

As noted above, if you don't take in enough niacin (Vitamin B3), your body can make niacin (nicotinic acid) from tryptophan IF you are taking in a sufficient amount of tryptophan...but if you rely on bone broth or collagen, you might well be deficient in tryptophan.

Be wary of all the hype around new (usually cheap to make) proteins. Often, they are inferior. At UNJURY we use only the very highest quality, purest whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate, with a PDCAAS of 100.


1 Moehn, S, et al. Lessons Learned Regarding Symptoms of Tryptophan Deficiency and Excess from Animal Requirement Studies The Journal of Nutrition,2012. 142(12), 2231S–2235S.

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