What Are the Health Benefits of Bone Marrow?

Bone marrow is a soft substance found in the hollow areas of bones. The popularity of animal bone marrow as part of a healthy diet has recently been increasing because of its amazing health benefits and great taste. Some of the bone marrow components responsible for its health-promoting effects (such as improving bone, joint, and skin health) are collagen, glycine, conjugated linoleic acid, and essential nutrients like Vitamin B7.

Key takeaways:
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    Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bones of birds and mammals that produces blood cells and stores fat.
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    Bone marrow is highly nutritious and comprises approximately 97% fat, 3% protein, and 0% carbohydrate.
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    It has a great savory taste with a soft and creamy texture.
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    Although there is limited research on the benefits of bone marrow itself, its components have been linked to health-promoting effects such as control of blood sugar and promotion of skin health.

What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bones of birds and mammals that produces blood cells and stores fat. Bone marrow is of two types; red and yellow. The red bone marrow produces blood cells (white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells), while the yellow bone marrow stores fat. Think of the red bone marrow as a factory that produces your red blood cells.

Dietary bone marrow from animals like sheep, caribou, goats, moose, and cows, is available in different forms–as part of dishes of various cuisines, supplements, and as a spread for foods like toasted bread.

What does bone marrow taste like?

Some people might get grossed out at the thought of eating bone marrow. Is it sweet? Salty? Sour? Or bland? The good news is that well-cooked bone marrow has a savory (also known as umami) flavor. It tastes like meat-flavored butter with a soft creamy texture and is slightly sweet.

Words can’t do justice to bone marrow’s taste. It has a unique taste that is hard to describe with one word, but you can be rest assured it tastes good. Think of it as the tastiest fat you’ve ever eaten.

You can consume bone marrow plainly, use it to make bone broth, or incorporate it into vegetarian and meat-based dishes.

Bone marrow nutrition

Bone marrow is mainly composed of fat, is rich in calories, and contains small amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Below is a breakdown of caribou bone marrow’s selected nutrient content for a 100 g serving size from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nutrient
100 g caribou bone marrow
Calories 786 kcal
Protein 6.7 g
Fat84.4 g
Carbohydrate0 g

Selected mineral composition and recommended daily value (RDV) per 100 g of raw reindeer bone marrow.

Mineral100 g of bone marrow% RDV
Zinc0.1 mg1 %
Iron0.8 mg4 %
Selenium 0.02 mg36 %

Bone marrow contains other essential nutrients with health benefits. Some of these are:

  • Bone marrow is rich in collagen, which supports healthy joints, bones, and skin.
  • Bone marrow contains high amounts of glycine and conjugated linoleic acid, which both have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
  • It is also rich in glucosamine, and glucosamine supplements have been shown to improve joint health.

However, even though bone marrow is nutritious, it is crucial to consume it in moderate amounts if you want to add it to your diet because regular uncontrolled intake can cause weight gain.

Discuss with your doctor before making dietary changes.

Is bone marrow good for you?

Yes. Bone marrow is high in collagen, your body's most abundant protein. Collagen supplementation is claimed to lessen joint pain and improve skin health. It also contains glucosamine, Vitamin B7, and adiponectin, among other components.

Though there are limited studies on the direct effects of eating bone marrow, there has been a lot of research on the health benefits of its components. Studies show that many of the components in bone marrow may help support bone and joint function, inflammation, and skin health.

Some benefits associated with bone marrow components are:

Support joints

Joint diseases such as osteoarthritis are among the most prevalent pathologies linked with pain and have a significant global impact. Collagen and glucosamine in the bone marrow are believed to improve joint health.

Collagen derivatives like gelatine and collagen hydrolysates have been studied to prevent or reduce joint tissue deterioration. An animal trial study suggested that oral collagen derivatives may positively affect joint health and help in diseases like osteoarthritis.

Results from a randomized study involving 250 subjects with primary osteoarthritis who were given 10g of collagen hydrolysate daily for six months showed a significant improvement in knee joint comfort.

Bone marrow may support positive joint health.

Controls blood sugar

Bone marrow is a source of adiponectin, a protein hormone that regulates insulin sensitivity and glucose (sugar) metabolism. This finds its importance in diabetes (a disease in which your body's sugar or levels are abnormally high) and related conditions.

Adiponectin lowers the amount of glucose produced by the liver and increases the amount of glucose and fatty acids used by skeletal muscles, resulting in lower levels of blood glucose.

Adiponectin could be a glucose-lowering agent for metabolic diseases.

Decreases inflammation

Bone marrow is rich in the amino acid glycine and the fatty acid Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), both of which studies demonstrated to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Inflammation is of two types: acute (short-term) and chronic. Acute inflammation is a normal body defense mechanism against tissue damage and infections, while chronic inflammation is linked to chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease.

Shunji Hasegawa from the department of pediatrics, Yamaguchi university graduate school of medicine, Ube, Japan, and other researchers conducted a study to show the anti-inflammatory effect of glycine, cysteine, and histidine in human coronary endothelial cells. They concluded that glycine and its counterparts might exert anti-inflammatory effects during endothelial inflammation.

Skin benefits

Collagen in bone marrow helps to boost skin health and prevent early skin aging.

Hend Al-Atif, a Saudi Arabian researcher, did a review in 2022 to assess the effect of collagen on skin aging. He suggested that collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity, moisture, and hydration.

Where can you find bone marrow?

Now that you know the benefits of bone marrow, its nutritional value, and what it tastes like, your next thought might be, “how can I get bone marrow?” We’ve got you covered.

Farmers, butchers, and health food stores all sell bone marrow. Any animal's bones will do; beef bone marrow is a great starting point for beginners because it contains a good amount of bone marrow and is easy to get. Bone marrow is also available in the form of supplements. You can get them online or locally.

If you’re not ready to take the jump and prepare it yourself at home, you can try it out at a local restaurant. My best guess is that you will love it!

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