A: Hey there, Ruby! Thanks so much for sharing your super question about collagen protein vs bone broth.
You’re absolutely right, collagen protein is buzzing like a bumble bee right now. (For many good reasons, which I talk about in this article all about collagen.) Truth be told, bone broth isn’t trailing too far in the popularity contest. It’s also hotter than a kettle.
What are Collagen Peptides? And What are the Benefits?
Believe it or not, one of the reasons bone broth has become so popular in recent years is because of collagen protein. So, let’s dig into this discussion of collagen protein vs bone broth.
As you know, bone broth is made by slowly cooking animal bones, skin, tendons, and cartilage in liquid. The simmering process extracts the collagen (and other nutrients) found in these animal connective tissues.
The collagen is slowly turned into gelatin, which is the cooked form of collagen, that dissolves in the broth. It’s the gelatin that causes bone broth to turn into “meat Jell-O®” (as I like to call it) when refrigerated.
Gelatin and collagen are quite similar.
For example, they share a similar amino acid profile. In particular, they both contain high levels of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.
It’s this amino acid profile that makes collagen so unique. In fact, collagen is the only source of protein that provides hydroxyproline. It’s this trio of amino acids that serves as the building blocks for our bodies’ connective tissues.
Gelatin is obtained when collagen (found in skin and bones, for example) is partially hydrolyzed, or broken down into smaller pieces. It’s the next step where the real magic happens when gelatin is further hydrolyzed into smaller, highly digestible peptides called collagen peptides.
What are the Differences Between Collagen Protein vs Bone Broth?
As I discussed in this article about the basics of collagen, hydrolyzed collagen peptides (also known as collagen hydrolysates) are bioactive collagen building blocks. These are highly digestible, easily and readily absorbed, and distributed throughout the body.
Collagen peptides are particularly awesome because they have a dual-action mechanism of collagen-boosting action: 1) They provide individual amino acids that serve as the building blocks for collagen (and elastin) fibers in the body. And 2) They directly trigger the body to produce more collagen.
Not only that, collagen peptides stimulate the body’s production of hyaluronic acid. This fluid is important for both hydrating skin and lubricating joints.
Altogether, research shows some promising benefits with collagen peptide supplementation for:
- Body composition
- Gut health
Unfortunately, we can’t extrapolate the research on collagen peptides to bone broth because of the differences between collagen peptides and gelatin.
Why Collagen Protein Sources Matter?
Of course, research has also revealed some exciting joint health benefits thanks to supplementation with native collagen, particularly type II collagen from chicken bones, which is undenatured collagen that has not been processed by heat or chemicals. Once again, however, even if your bone broth is made from chicken bones, it’s not providing this very specific type of collagen.
Speaking of types, another key difference in the collagen protein vs bone broth discussion is that bone broth is typically only derived from a single source (such as chicken or beef). Why does that matter?
Well, at least 28 different types of collagen have been identified, with the three most common being types I, II, and III, which account for 80 – 90% of the collagen in the body. These various types of collagen are important to note because they serve different functions.
For example, types I and III, which you can get from beef-based bone broth, are found in our skin, bones, and tendons. Along those lines, they’re typically associated with “beauty from within” benefits like skin and nail health.
Meanwhile, type II collagen, which you’ll find in chicken bone broth, is almost exclusively present in the cartilage between bones. Along those lines, type II collagen is the go-to option when it comes to supporting joint health.
Sorry if that Roman numeral soup is confusing. The point is if you want to support healthy levels of collagen throughout your body and reap the broad range of health benefits, then you’ll need to make sure you’re getting multiple types of collagen. And you can only get multiple types from various sources. In the collagen protein vs bone broth debate, this is a major downside to single-source bone broth.
What are the Downsides of Bone Broth?
Of course, bone broth tastes like, well, bone broth. That means it’s very limited in how you can consume it. No one wants bone-broth-flavored coffee or protein shakes…YUCK!
And it you’re thinking about using—or already using—a bone broth protein powder, then there’s at least one more drawback to consider. Gelatin (like that in bone broth) will only dissolve in hot water. And of course, it jellifies when cooled.
On the flipside, collagen peptides, which are virtually tasteless, are soluble in both hot and cool liquids, so they can be mixed with anything.
Can You Use Bone Broth AND Collagen Protein?
Now, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water in the debate between collagen protein vs bone broth. There’s nothing wrong with bone broth. On the contrary, there’s a lot right.
Bone broth is as healthy as it is savory and delicious (and a good bone broth is mighty tasty). And the last person I’d want to pick a fight with is Grandma, who always knows best.
Personally, I drink bone broth on the regular. Weekly, I make a whole chicken in my Instant Pot®, which yields an instant batch. Plus, I save the bones, which I toss in the Instant Pot® at a later time (along with some onions, carrots, garlic, salt, and water) for a full batch of chicken bone broth.
While the gelatin in bone broth may not be the same as collagen peptides or native, undenatured collagen, it is still a robust source of those all-important amino acids (glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline) most of us don’t get enough of.
For example, most people consume a disproportionate amount of methionine relative to glycine. Ideally, those two amino acids should be balanced for many reasons (for example, supporting detoxification and healthy levels of inflammation). And bone broth is a great choice for leveling the playing field.
And we can’t overlook the fact that bone broth is a nutrition powerhouse, as it is also a vehicle for other key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals (like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur), and glycosaminoglycans (like glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), which perform various vital functions in the body.
All that is to say that there’s no question bone broth is mighty awesome—when it comes to taste and nutrition. However, when it comes to supplements, I’d put my money on collagen peptides and native, undenatured type II collagen, which are supported by a respectable and growing body of scientific research.
On the other hand, there’s little to no research on bone broth. Its most outspoken advocates base (sometimes outlandish) claims on individual components (such as amino acids, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin), which may or may even not be present in the amounts or forms as the research on which the claims are based.
Here’s how I’d sum up the collagen protein vs bone broth answer: Drink homemade bone broth, and if you’re going to supplement, which I think is a great idea, go with collagen peptides and native undenatured type II collagen.