When someone thinks of healthful food, gelatin may not be one of the first things that come to mind. But gelatin is more than just a jiggly childhood snack or a hospital staple.
In this article, you can learn about gelatin's unexpected health benefits.
Most people are familiar with flavored, colorful gelatin. But it may be surprising to learn that gelatin is mostly made up of protein.
Gelatin is made by boiling animal bones, cartilage, and skin to extract the collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein that connects muscles, bones, and skin in animals.
When collagen is processed, it becomes a flavorless, colorless substance called gelatin. After gelatin cools, it has a jelly-like texture.
Unlike collagen, gelatin dissolves in hot water, and the texture makes it practical to use in sauces, soups, and desserts.
The health benefits of gelatin are similar to the benefits of collagen since gelatin contains the same amino acids.
Gelatin contains several amino acids. Amino acids are compounds that combine to make proteins, and are essential for the proper functioning of various organs, as well as for providing energy.
While the human body makes some amino acids, most people need to get additional amino acids through their diet.
The amino acids found in gelatin are also usually found in the bones and organs of certain animals. Since most people do not eat those parts of the animal, adding gelatin to a varied and nutritious diet may be beneficial.
Specific amino acids found in gelatin may vary, depending on the method of preparation and the animal tissues used.
Typically, the most abundant amino acids in gelatin include glycine, proline, and valine. Gelatin also contains the amino acids lysine, alanine, and arginine.
Valine is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced by the human body, which means it must come from the diet.
Gelatin may be used in food products, medications, and cosmetics as a gelling agent.
Gelatin is commonly found in gummy candies, marshmallows, and the coating of drug capsules. It is also eaten as a bone broth or taken as a supplement.
Gelatin may have a range of health benefits, including the following:
1. Improving skin health
Collagen is what gives skin its healthy and youthful appearance. As people age, they naturally lose collagen, which causes the skin to become less firm. The result is skin that has wrinkles and lines. As gelatin is a great source of collagen, it may be a natural way to improve the skin's appearance.
2. Providing protein
One benefit of gelatin is that it provides nearly 2 grams (g) of protein per ½ cup. Protein is considered a macronutrient, which means the body needs a large amount.
Some animal sources of protein also contain significant amounts of unhealthy fat. Gelatin is a protein source that does not contain fat.
3. Aiding digestive function
Gelatin may aid digestion in several different ways. For instance, the glycine in gelatin may promote a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach.
It also stimulates the production of gastric juices, which facilitates proper digestion. Without adequate digestive enzymes, gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux, can develop.
Also, gelatin binds to water and may help food move through the digestive system efficiently.
4. Easing joint pain
The collagen in gelatin may decrease joint pain associated with inflammation.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, some clinical studies indicate gelatin may reduce pain and improve joint function in people with osteoarthritis.
5. Helping control blood sugar
6. Maintaining healthy bones
Lysine, which is found in gelatin, helps strengthen the bones. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is also needed to keep the bones strong and prevent bone loss.
Since the body cannot make lysine, it is essential to get adequate amounts through the diet. Adding gelatin to a healthful diet is one way to improve a person's lysine intake.
7. Improving sleep quality
Gelatin may improve sleep quality in some people due to the abundance of glycine. A few tablespoons of gelatin can provide about 3 g of glycine.
8. Aiding weight loss
Gelatin may help promote weight loss due to its protein and low-calorie content. Protein helps someone feel full, which decreases the likelihood of overeating.
Gelatin may also play a role in controlling hormones associated with hunger.
However, gelatin is often found in chewy candies and marshmallows with high sugar contents. It is better to consume healthful, low-sugar sources of gelatin.
The health of the animal that is used to make gelatin affects the collagen it stores in its body. However, it is not always possible to know how the animals used to make gelatin were raised.
Animals raised in comfortable conditions with the opportunity for plenty of exercise will have higher quality collagen, which in turn makes better gelatin.
The side effects of gelatin have not been extensively studied, but serious ones appear unlikely.
It is easy for someone to make their own gelatin-rich broth by cooking the leftover carcass or bones of poultry or beef for several hours. If the broth cools, they will see a gel-substance on the surface, which is the collagen.
Gelatin is also easy to add to a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and broths. It can also be used to make sauces, mousse, and smoothies.
For people who do not want to prepare gelatin, it is available in capsules and as a supplement.
Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it is important to discuss them first with a doctor, and only take the recommended dosage.
Will gelatin in the diet really provide enough goodness to make a difference?
There are some studies that support the use of gelatin[DW2] , however it is not clearly understood how much good it does. Eating a balanced diet that includes recommended amounts of protein is the best way to ensure a person gets all the nutrients their body needs.Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.