Why We Love Gelatin
Connective tissue is one of the most abundant and widely distributed tissues in our body. It has a variety of functions that include the binding and strengthening of other body tissues, protecting and lining internal organs, transporting blood throughout the body, storing energy in our adipose (fat) tissue and is the main source of immune responses.
Components of Connective Tissue
Connective tissue consists of two basic elements, an extra cellular matrix and cells. Whilst the cell component includes fibroblasts, macrophages, plasma cells, mast cells, fat cells and white blood cells, the extra cellular matrix is made up of the ground substance and fibres embedded between the cells. This ground substance contains water and organic molecules, namely hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine, commonly referred to as GAGs. These GAGs support the cells and fibre by binding them together whilst the fibres strengthen and support the connective tissue. These fibres include collagen fibres, elastin fibres and reticular fibres.
Protein Content of Collagen
Collagen fibres contain the protein collagen, the most abundant protein in our body representing around 25% of total protein and made up of the amino acids , glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine. Collagen fibres are known as the 'glue' (colla) that holds the body together and allowing tissue flexibility. Collagen fibres in cartilage surrounded by water molecules give the cartilage a cushioning effect, whilst bundled fibres add tensile strength to the tissue.
Collagen fibres are found in most types of connective tissue, especially bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
Source of Collagen
It should be no surprise then that the jointy bones that we use in our nutritious bone broths are a rich source of collagen, which is broken down into gelatin and transferred to the broth during the slow simmering process. This long period of simmering ensures that as many nutrients and minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, silicon and sulphur are extracted from the bones and a highly gelatinous broth that is rich in protein and flavour is produced.
Importance of Consuming Gelatin and some associated Health Benefits
As we age the production of natural collagen in our body starts to decline which may lead to thinning and sagging skin, wrinkles, cellulite, sore joints, loss of bone mass and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Therefore it becomes even more important as we get older to include gelatin (extracted collagen) rich foods such as bone broth in our diet which will in turn increase the natural production of collagen in our body (like produces like). In addition, gelatin improves digestion by healing and sealing the the lining of the digestive tract and helping the body absorb protein, and transports easily digestible nutrients from GAGs that can reduce stiffness in joints, relieve arthritis and strengthen bones, as well as reducing general inflammation in the body, strengthening immunity and helping to fight infection. Gelatin, by absorbing water, assists in retaining fluid in the gastro-intestinal tract and improving bowel health.
Suffice to say that if these health benefits are not enough to convince you that good quality, gelatin rich bone broth is nature's own multi-vitamin when it comes to improving ones overall health, then maybe I can appeal to your vanity by reminding you that bone broth is believed to be better than Botox in reducing wrinkles and promoting glowing skin and hair. We suggest you give it a try by including it as part of a high quality diet and see for yourself what improvements it can bring to your overall health.
Tortora, G, Derrickson, B 2014, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, Wiley, USA