For a long time, people believed that chicken soup and other broths made from animals included necessary minerals and other nutrients that nourished both the body and the intellect. In addition, research has demonstrated that classic chicken soup can affect the activity of white blood cells.
The consumption of broths is at an all-time high right now. Numerous articles on the internet advocate drinking bone broth made from a slow simmering process on a regular basis to heal the gut, enhance joint health, and increase immunity.
It’s been said that models drink bone broth to boost their collagen levels and improve their hair, complexion, and nails. The amino acids collagen, gelatin, proline, glycine, arginine, and glutamine are some nourishing amino acids found in bone broth. Other nourishing amino acids include glutamine. Because of this, prominent gut-healing diets like the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet (GAPS), the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Paleo diets and Keto diets all include the consumption of bone broth as an essential element in their meal plans. In addition, you may choose from various of the greatest beef bone broth at our establishment.
Lead in bone broths
A study just published in the journal Medical Hypotheses has raised concerns about the presence of lead in bone broths that are available for purchase in stores. In humans, lead toxicity can induce reproductive and gastrointestinal issues, neuropathy, anemia, stomach pain, cognitive impairment, and depression. In addition, recent studies suggest that even exposure to small amounts of lead can cause difficulties. Thus it is important to avoid even accidental exposure.
Since lead may be found stored in bones, it was expected that the concentration of lead in bone broths would be significantly higher than that found in regular tap water. The investigators looked at three different broths: one created with regular tap water and organic chicken bones; another with meat alone; and a third with skin and cartilage only, all of which lacked the bones. The tap water’s lead content utilized to create the broths was 89 parts per billion. The skin and cartilage broth had 950 parts per billion, whereas the bone broth only had 700 parts per billion. It is important to remember that the legal limit for lead in drinking water is 1500 parts per billion, although this may initially sound scary. Therefore, there is a possibility that the advantages of consuming bone broths outweigh the increased risk of lead exposure.
Nevertheless, the appropriate dosage and each person’s specific circumstances will likely determine this. It is also unknown whether animals grown on pasture, favored in the Paleo Diet, would have lower levels of lead in their bones than animals on a standard grain diet (organic or not). It is especially important for some individuals and groups, such as pregnant women, to take extra precautions to prevent lead exposure.
If you consume bone broths regularly, it is a good idea to have your doctor order a blood test for lead and possibly erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP). These tests will determine whether or not your recent pattern of bone broth consumption has resulted in significant lead exposure. If you consume bone broths regularly, having your doctor order these tests is a good idea.
A brief introduction to lead is provided below for your perusal to appreciate the answer’s significance better. Lead is a neurotoxin that is widely known. According to many studies, children with elevated levels of lead in their blood tend to have difficulties in growth, learning, and attention. Furthermore, studies have found a correlation between high lead levels and the symptoms of neuropathy, hyperactivity, melancholy and anxiety in adults. In addition, because important metals and minerals contend with one another for absorption in the small intestine, exposure to vital metals and minerals through food may result in shortages that influence hundreds of nutrient-dependent biochemical processes and even gene expression. So what’s the takeaway here? The harmful effects of lead can adversely affect an individual’s state of mind, cognitive abilities, ability to deal with stress, rate of growth and development, thyroid function, neurotransmitters and sexual hormones, among other things.
There is evidence, albeit from a limited body of studies, that you can find lead in animal bones:
- Cows who have been inadvertently exposed to lead do, in fact, store it in their bones. In one study, thirteen cows inadvertently exposed to lead were evaluated, and the researchers discovered that elevated blood levels correlated well to buildup in the cows’ bones and other tissues.
- The Veterinary Biomedical Sciences Department at the University of Saskatchewan conducted a sixteen-year retrospective analysis. Among the 2,060 samples they tested from cattle in western Canada, they detected 525 cases of acute lead poisoning in cattle. The study was conducted as a retrospective. According to the researchers’ findings, lead poisoning is one of the “most prevalent” metal toxicities that may be discovered in cattle in the area.
- One study conducted in Brazil found lead and arsenic contamination among cattle and chicken, which the researchers partially attributed to a presence in the feed given to the animals.
Keeping this in mind, we were aware that we needed to conduct some research: We started a pilot study on a modest scale to investigate the amount of lead that was present in three different samples of beef bone broth. We also put one sample of hydrolyzed beef collagen through its paces because we know that time-crunched cooks and smoothie connoisseurs frequently utilize it as a substitute for bone broth in various dishes and drinks.
In addition to that. Are you interested in beef bone broth? No need to look any further! You won’t have any problems using Bone Broth.
It is the most comprehensive analysis of bone broth and collagen powder that we are aware of that has been published to date. In addition to lead, we measured 36 other potentially harmful and essential minerals and metals in our samples. These ranged from calcium to zinc, aluminium to uranium and zinc to aluminium. We can’t wait to tell you what we’ve discovered and to assist you in making sense of everything.
How much lead is in bone broth?
It has been known for a long time that bone broth (or soup) benefits one’s health. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until around ten years ago that the curative impact of bone broth was scientifically tested. For example, it is usually considered that the curative benefit of chicken soup against symptomatic upper respiratory tract infection follows from an increase in nasal mucus velocity or from its modest anti-inflammatory action. These findings have been shown to support this belief. More recently, bone broth has been widely recommended as part of the diets for patients suffering from gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS), which includes those with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Others consider bone broths an important dietary supply of critical minerals such as calcium. This viewpoint is particularly prevalent among lactose intolerant individuals who do not have access to milk products. For instance, in many Asian cultures, the intake of a soup that is created by soaking chicken or other bones in vinegar has traditionally been advised for the purpose of calcium or iron enrichment. It is especially common during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Bone broth has been frequently pushed as a calcium supplement by dietitians and the media. However, there is either no scientific proof or extremely minimal scientific data about the levels of calcium contained in bone broth and the preparation methods.
In addition to minerals, it is well known that animal bones can also contain minute levels of poisonous metals. For example, calcium supplements that are prepared from a bone meal (finely crushed bone) have a lead level that ranges from a few to ten g/g, and some of them also contain cadmium (2 g/g). Bone meal is another name for bone powder. As a consequence, it is reasonable to suppose that broths made by simmering animal bones contain harmful metals and that consumption of these metals results in exposure through the diet. On the other hand, there hasn’t been much research done on whether or not bone broth contains any harmful metals.
In order to address some of the public’s concerns about whether or not bone broths are good sources of nutrient elements and the risks that are associated with the consumption of toxic metals in bone broth/soup, this study investigates the extraction of metals, both essential and toxic, from animal bones into broth.
The ‘Lead’ Study on Chicken Bone Broth
First, let’s look at the research that raised concerns about the safety of drinking bone broth. The year 2013 was a busy one for scientists in the UK. To be more specific, they created the following four distinct varieties of broth:
- Using only the scalded water from the tap.
- A mixture of chicken bones boiled in the tap water.
- Tap water that has been boiled and mixed with chicken skin and cartilage that has been removed from a cooked chicken but does not include any bones.
- A mixture of chicken flesh and tap water that you had boiled.
According to the article, they used organic chicken boiled for the same time in pots made of the same material (stainless steel) and boiled each variant.
The following is a breakdown of the lead content in each variant:
- Using only scalded water from the faucet, 0.89 micrograms per litre (microgram per deciliter).
- 7.01 micrograms per litre in boiled municipal tap water with chicken bones.
- 9.5 micrograms per litre of cadmium were found in boiling tap water, including chicken cartilage and skin from a cooked chicken.
- 2.3 micrograms per litre in boiled municipal tap water containing chicken meat.
The lead levels found in the skin and cartilage were more than ten times higher than those found in tap water, while the levels found in the broth created using only the bones were more than seven times higher.
However, are those lead levels somewhat high? If we are to follow the guidelines set forth by the government, then no. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided that a concentration of 15 parts per billion, equivalent to g/L, should be considered safe.
A 2017 Study on Pig and Cow Broth
Sadly, I was only able to find that one study from 2013, and it continues to be the only one that quantifies the metals in chicken bone broth. On the other hand, a study that was conducted in 2017 looked at levels in pig and cow bone broths.
In the research carried out in Taiwan, pig legs and ribs from Taiwan as well as cow femurs from Australia were boiled for a period of twelve hours.
The following is what they discovered:
- In acidified water, the levels of lead found in these broths came in at 6.14 micrograms per liter for pig leg bones and 7.12 micrograms per liter for pig rib bones (with vinegar added).
- The lead concentration in untreated water containing pig legs was only 2.6 micrograms per liter.
- The amount of healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium increased in proportion to the length of time the food was cooked.
The researchers came to the following conclusion: “…nutritional values and particularly calcium levels, have attracted attention. However, systematic evaluations of methods of their preparation and the range of calcium concentrations are few. Similarly, health risks associated with the ingestion of toxic metals such as lead that commonly accompany bone minerals are also few”.
How Much Lead Is Safe?
Concerned about the “high” levels of lead that you discovered in the bone broth preparations they created, the study’s authors expressed their apprehension. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States has set the acceptable level of lead in drinking water at 15 parts per billion (ppb), which is equivalent to 15 micrograms per litre (mg/L). Furthermore, on the page of their website devoted to the topic of lead and water, they state that:
“Even exposure to water with a lead content that is close to the “action level” set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the lead of 15 parts per billion is not likely to cause an increase in blood lead levels in most adults, according to the findings of the majority of studies. It holds true even for exposure to water contaminated with lead to a level close to that level (ppb). The risk, on the other hand, will change from person to person, based on the specifics of the situation and the quantity of water consumed. For instance, newborns consume a disproportionately large amount of water compared to their body size, so they may be at a greater risk of lead poisoning if the formula they drink was prepared using water containing lead”.
If consuming lead at a level of 15 g/L (ppb) in water constantly throughout the day does not represent a concern for human adults (or children, except newborns drinking formula), then why would consuming lead at a level of 9.5 /L in bone broth be a problem? I don’t think that would be the case.
It may put an end to the debate right then and then. But there are other considerations to consider, which can make the presence of lead in the homemade chicken broth even less cause for alarm.
Importance of Nutrient Synergy
There is no question that limiting one’s exposure to harmful substances as much as is practicable is the prudent thing to do. However, because meals can contain harmful toxins that also contain healthy nutrients, we must carefully weigh the advantages of the nutrients against the risks that the toxins may pose. In addition, several nutrients defend against the potentially destructive effects of pollutants.
The mercury’s toxicity is because it disrupts enzymes dependent on selenium, an essential component of our body’s defence system against oxidative stress. Because of this, there has been a lot of publicity concerning the risks associated with eating seafood that contains mercury. However, what these reports failed to take into account is the fact that if a food you consume contains more selenium than mercury, or if your background selenium intake is high, mercury won’t be able to destroy all of your selenoenzymes, and you’ll be protected from the harmful effects of mercury’s toxicity. Bone Broth is home to some of Melbourne’s most delicious beef bone broth.
It has been discovered that certain nutrients, including calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, and thiamin (B1), have a protective impact against lead toxicity in a manner that is analogous to that of other nutrients. These nutrients are present in high quantities in diets following the Paleo and GAPS protocols, and in the case of calcium, they are present in high quantities in the bone broth itself. Let’s take a more in-depth look at how two of these nutrients, calcium and iron, shield the body against the damaging effects of lead.
Studies on both animals and humans have revealed that having a calcium intake that is too low can raise the risk of lead poisoning. For example, researchers observed that rats with a diet deficient in calcium had blood-lead concentrations that were four times greater than rats that consumed a diet that was normal in calcium, although the quantities of lead consumed were the same. Dietary calcium, intestinal calcium-binding proteins, vitamin D , and 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D all play important roles in the intricate interactions that underlie calcium’s ability to shield the body from the harmful effects of lead (the active form). One of the ways lead causes harm is by interfering with the good effects of calcium, and the interaction between calcium and lead is remarkably similar to the relationship between selenium and mercury. Lead is known to mimic calcium in biological systems, which can affect calcium-mediated cellular responses, compete with calcium in enzyme systems, impede calcium metabolism, or block 1,25-D-mediated control of calcium metabolism. Other effects of lead include these. It has also been demonstrated that calcium can decrease the amount of lead absorbed by the digestive tract.
Research has also demonstrated that a person’s nutritional iron status affects their sensitivity to the harmful effects of lead. According to a study conducted in the early 1970s, mice who were fed a diet lacking iron were more susceptible to the harmful effects of lead. Low iron status in adults has been shown to increase the amount of lead absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract in humans. Like lead’s interactions with calcium and mercury, lead has been demonstrated to interfere with the physiological functions of iron. It is also the case with those two interactions. For instance, lead can inhibit three important enzymes involved in the formation of heme, which is the ferrous (iron-based) component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein responsible for transporting oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body. Lead has this ability. (Mahaffey) Research also suggests that an inadequate intake of iron can increase the amount of lead absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and the concentration of lead in soft tissue.
Where do we stand with thiamin, vitamin D and vitamin C? Even though little is known about how these nutrients protect against lead poisoning, vitamin D seems to adjust lead distribution after it has been absorbed, reducing its integration into the bone. So it is, although less is known about how these nutrients are protected. However, it has been demonstrated that vitamin C possesses chelating capabilities, which aid in removing lead from the body. Additionally, thiamin (B1) appears to prevent lead uptake into cells and stimulate the elimination of lead from the body.
Is Broth Beneficial Even with Some Lead in It?
To put it another way, people who consume a sufficient amount of calcium will not be adversely affected by the presence of lead in the broth. People in this situation would also benefit from the abundant quantities of the amino acid glycine in the broth. It is because glycine is required by the body to produce the potent antioxidant glutathione, which helps us get rid of lead and other heavy metals.
Unhappily, the helpful broth scenario only works if folks already have healthy guts. Those currently suffering from digestive illnesses and damaged gastrointestinal integrity have a much lower risk of having this transpire to them. Unfortunately, this is true with children with autism and other illnesses, and these are the very children who are being given broth as part of their gut healing process. It has been established that even healthy children can absorb up to fifty per cent of the lead in their meals. In addition, as Dr Russell Blaylock has mentioned, the presence of lead will significantly increase the likelihood of excitotoxicity brought on by glutamic acid.
People who are extremely sensitive to MSG may need to limit their direct consumption of glutamic acid, even when it comes through food, even though the body needs it. It is likely why many GAPS practitioners have noted that people often fare better if they start their healing journeys with meat broth and then subsequently move on to full-fledged broth that has also been created with the skin, cartilage and bones of the animal. Please look at our establishment’s award-winning beef bone broth here in Melbourne.
If you consume a significant amount of bone broth, there is a remote possibility that it could be harmful to your health. However, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. According to Jones, “it is well knowledge that animal bones contain trace levels of hazardous metals in addition to minerals”. “Lead may be emitted during the cooking process of bone broth. A limited investigation of the lead content of bone broth prepared using organic chicken bones was carried out in the United Kingdom in 2013. The lead content of the soup was over ten times higher than the lead content of the water alone”. According to a study carried out in Taiwan in 2017, however, commercial bone broth contained negligible lead levels. It was only a somewhat adequate source of calcium and magnesium.
You are welcome to use bone broth to prepare soups and stews (as people have done throughout human history), but be aware that drinking large quantities of bone broth is unnecessary and may even be hazardous.