Recently I was asked a question about the benefits of eating chicken stock and chicken cartilage for joint health. Traditionally we learn that ingesting chicken soup will help us with colds and flus (due to its immune boosting properties). Chicken stock also benefits joint repair and health.
Many cultures (Asian, European, African) boil bones and make different styles of stock. A slow simmer over 4-6 hours allows the minerals, vitamins, and fats to be dissolved in the water. This leaves a nutritious and healthy "stock" as the left over. (note: "broth" is made from boiling meat, which does not have the same nutritious value as stock. "Stock "is made form boiling bones and sometimes meat.) Some of the nutrients you can find in stock are:
Other trace minerals
A little has to be said about Gelatin. (You may remember it as the substance which makes Jello or gummie bears hold their shape) Gelatin is not found in the body on its own, instead it is derived from dissolving collagen in water. Besides helping with digestion, skin, hair, nails, and protein synthesis, Gelatin helps give amino acids to joints to help with rebuilding and maintenance and increasing bone density.
Collagen is a protein found all over the body (ears, in joints, arteries, nose etc.) It is a fibrous connective tissue that hold the body together.
A 24 week research study looked at the effects of chicken collagen and RA. Some patients were given the drug methotrexate, which works by an unknown mechanism. It possibly has an effect on the "turning down" the immune system, which slows the progression of the disease. Another groups was given 0.1 mg of chicken collagen every day. Both groups claim to have less stiffness in the morning, joint pain and swelling. Numerically the results were comparable for both groups with an overall average of 50% of people seeing a 20% improvement in both groups. The chicken-collagen treatment is believed to work by encouraging the body to become more tolerant of collagen, therefore preventing less attack by the immune system. Chicken collagen also has limited side effects unless you are sensitive to glucosamine and chondriotin, in which case you may have nausea, heartburn, headaches. Unfortunately Methotrexate has numerous side effects such as nausea and vomiting, interferes with immune function and liver function, and may cause serious birth defects.
One thing to consider is the source of your chicken stock. Organic and free range chickens are allowed to run around and will have more nutrients and stronger bones. They also have no hormones or antibiotics (which are stored in fats, and will be dissolved in your stock). Bullion cubes have no gelatin, and minimal nutrients. Canned broths have poor quality of parts used (unless organic), or length of time of boiling are less, and bones may not even be added. This poor standardization means minimal nutrients are obtained, such as collagen and calcium. Most often you will see monosoduium glutamate (MSG) added for extra flavoring and coloring. My advice is to prepare your own stock by using good quality bones and parts, garlic, onions, and simmering for at least 4-6 hours.