Bone Broth is Anti-Ketogenic

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As many of my readers know, I am a huge fan of bone broth. I have been drinking it almost everyday since I began my Zero Carb journey 9 months ago. I found it extremely helpful during the adaptation phase while my body was getting used to an all-meat diet. However, I recently made some changes in my Zero Carb diet. I decided to decrease protein and increase fat in an effort to create a Ketogenic version of a Zero Carb diet. But, I continued to drink bone broth while making these changes.

While I was successful in lowering my fasting blood glucose and increasing my fasting blood ketones, the changes were only moderate. I was now in nutritional ketosis, but at a very low level.Then, I decided to skip the bone broth for a few days, and the effect on both my glucose and ketones was quite dramatic. After only one day without bone broth, my fasting blood glucose decreased from 85-95 mg/dL to 65-75 mg/dL, and my fasting blood ketones increased from 0.9-2.4 mmol/L to 4.8-6.5 mmol/L.

I must admit that this was a very unexpected and shocking discovery. It was also very disappointing because I truly do LOVE bone broth. However, upon further investigation, it was not so surprising. Bone broth contains high amounts of the amino acid glutamine and, apparently, glutamine can easily be converted into glucose.It is for this reason that Dr. Thomas Seyfried, author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, recommends limiting glutamine, as well as carbohydrates, to people following a Ketogenic diet for cancer management. Cancer cells can use glutamine for fuel just as easily as they can use glucose from carbohydrates.

Bone broth has many wonderful healing properties, but it definitely inhibits the production of ketones. Many people choose to drink bone broth during both short and long fasts, but the powerful anti-ketotic effects of bone broth are likely to be highly counter-productive. One of primary benefits of fasting is its ability to lower blood insulin levels, and drinking bone broth during a fast may significantly reduce this benefit. So, if ketones are more important to you than the nutritional components present in bone broth, then you will definitely need to think twice before imbibing bone broth.

Addendum:

After I originally published this article, I forwarded it to a few of the Ketogenic experts to get their response. Jimmy Moore’s comment was that a person would have to be drinking “gargantuan” amounts of bone broth to have it affect the blood sugar and ketone levels this way.

So, I decided I should clarify that I was drinking 1 quart per day which I do not consider to be a “gargantuan” amount. It is certainly possible that drinking  only 1-2 cups per day would have had less of an impact, but I don’t think you can state that categorically without actually testing it. According to Kaayla Daniel, author of Nourishing Broth, 1 cup of chicken bone broth contains 1,000 mg of glutamine.

My whole point with this post is to bring awareness to the fact that bone broth may not be as innocuous as many people so blythly assume. If you are including it as part of your Ketogenic diet, or while fasting, you would be wise -in my humble opinion – to test its impact on your personal fasting blood glucose and ketone levels.

 

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Can Bone Broth Be Used as Part of a Zero Carb Diet?

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I have received a lot of flack in the Zero Carb community Zeroing in on Health (ZIOH) from many long time veterans of the Zero Carb diet who run that group. Now please, don’t get me wrong, I still love and appreciate much that this group has to offer, I just feel that their vehement opposition to me discussing bone both is a wee bit ridiculous. I mean, it is from the animal kingdom, right? So what exactly is the big deal?

First, it is important to understand that – with one exception – none of these long term Zero Carb vets have ever made and consumed bone broth as part of their Zero Carb way of life. Their main concern is that people new to the Zeroing in on Health group who read glowing reports about bone broth by the likes of me will be misled into thinking that bone broth is necessary for long term health on a Zero Carb diet.

However, if a person takes the time to read my very detailed description of The Zero Carb Diet, or the excellent FAQs document written by the ZIOH administration, then they won’t be the least bit confused. But unfortunately – as much as I would like to – I cannot make people read. Some folks just want 30-second sound bites and there is nothing I can do about that.

I have actually been accused of saying that bone broth has “magical healing properties.” I certainly I have noted that it contains specific properties shown to help heal specific health problems. But I have never called it “magical.” It may have healing properties, but there is nothing magical about them. Rather, it is pure nutritional biochemistry, as you will discover if you decide to learn more about it.

But, one could just as easily be misled into thinking that eggs are a necessary component of a Zero Carb diet since they are extolled almost every day by someone in the group. However, as The Andersen Family has clearly shown, eggs are definitely not necessary for long term health on a Zero Carb diet. They have been eating only ribeye steaks for almost 2 decades and are thriving.

And, as many Zero Carb-ers have discovered through experimentation with their own bodies, eggs do not agree with or benefit everyone who follows a Zero Carb diet. The Andersen’s found that pretty much everything except fatty beef made them feel less than well. The only way that any of us can figure out what works best for our individual bodies is through trial and error. There is no one way or right way to do this diet.

The basic Zero Carb Guidelines are to eat only from the animal kingdom, which is quite broad in certainly would include bone broth. If you wish to reduce the variables, many Zero Carb veterans recommend  eating only meat (preferably beef) and water for the first 30 days. This way you will have a baseline from which to test other animal foods like dairy, eggs, and organ meets. I personally support this advice because people rarely react negatively to meat, especially beef.

So, when a person first embarks upon a Zero Carb way of eating, the less variables the better generally speaking. Bone broth is certainly a variable, and not everyone does well with it. In Nourishing Broth, Kaayla Daniel explains that some people who are sensitive to MSG have trouble with the high level of glutamine present in bone broth because the glutamine gets turned into glutamate and crosses the blood-brain barrier creating unpleasant cognitive symptoms.

Glutamine sensitivity is most often experiences by children with Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, etc. For the majority of people, however, this is not an issue, but it is certainly important to be aware of the possibility. Like anything else, you just have to try it and see how it makes you feel. After reading Daniels book devoted to the subject, I decided the potential benefits were well worth exploring. What I discovered is that I felt better when I included it in my diet. But again, this will not be true for everyone.

I noticed very quickly that on the days I drank bone broth, I did not get leg or foot cramps that night while sleeping or the next day. While on the days that I did not drink it, I did. It was a very cause and effect correlation for me. Many Zero Carb vets have stated that they tried everything (salt, magnesium, bone broth) to try and prevent their muscles from cramping, but that none of these measures had any positive effect.

And, yes, these are the same vets who have also stated that they “never have and never will” make and drink bone broth, so I am not to sure how many of them actually tried bone broth specifically to address the muscle cramps they were experiencing. I am, admittedly, a little confused by their contradictory statements.

And even if they did try bone broth without experiencing any noticeable difference, then I would want to know how much bone broth they drank each day and for how long. If you are deficient in a mineral, it not only takes a certain amount of that mineral, but it often takes more than a day or two for the cells to get it where it needs to go.

Muscle cramps are a very common experience in the initial weeks and months of a Zero Carb diet. One of the main symptoms of a potassium deficiency is muscle cramping. When a person first begins a Zero Carb diet, a lot of excess fluid is flushed from the body and a significant amount of potassium is lost in this process. I have explored this phenomenon more fully in my page on The Adaptation Process.

There is nothing especially dangerous about this because it is self limiting. Once a person’s metabolism and kidneys make the transition from being a sugar burner to being a fat burner, you stop losing excess fluid and your mineral balance is restored. However, the interim period can be somewhat uncomfortable, and bone broth might help to ease the transition.

As it happens, bone broth is an especially good source of potassium, especially if there is some meat attached to the bones. I generally use whole chicken and turkey parts, mostly because that is what is affordable. But any meaty bones can be used: pork , lamb, beef, and even fish. It has certainly made a noticeable difference for me personally. But, I also drink an average of 2 quarts of bone broth every day, so this may be why I found it to be an effective remedy for muscle cramps compared to those who did not.

I also remove the fat from the broth after it has chilled and drink only the potassium-rich liquid. I do this so that the broth will not interfere with my appetite and so that I can drink more of it. It act like an sugar free electrolyte replacement beverage, i.e. Gatorade without the sugar. Interestingly, I have found that I do best drinking it on an empty stomach BEFORE a meal. If I eat it AFTER a meal, it will stop the meat in my stomach from digesting and I will be miserable for hours afterwards. I am not sure how it will affect you, but this is what I have learned about my own body. So you might want to pay attention to when you drink it and see if this makes a difference for you as well.

Many Zero Carb vets have argued that making bone broth is time consuming and difficult, but I have not found this to be the case for me. I put the bones in my crock pot, add water, let cook for 12-48 hours, and then strain. It takes me all of about 15 minutes. This is a lot less time that these vets spent ridiculing bone broth and those of us who drink it in a recent ZIOH post that generated 700 comments and continued on non-stop for almost two days! Really? Yes, really.

Okay, I will admit that the straining process is a bit messy, but that can easily be streamlined with the proper equipment. All in all, it is a small amount of work with a big pay off for me personally. Not only do I like the taste and the way it makes me feel, but the nutritional components present in bone broth are very beneficial for gut health.

With the exception of Joe Andersen’s wife Charlene, none of the Zero Carb veterans I have interviewed had serious gastrointestinal issues like I do. Most came to the Zero Carb way of eating for the purpose of weight loss. Therefore, while I deeply respect their knowledge of this diet, I also recognize that I have health issues with which they have no personal experience. I have problems that they cannot possible understand because they have never lived in my body.

And I know that I am not the only one in the group with these kinds of challenges. Many new people have joined the group and started the Zero Carb diet as a result of reading The Andersen Family interview after it was shared by William Davis on his Wheat Belly page and several other very popular sites. The people this interview has attracted are people with severe health problems like Charlene and myself, not people just looking to lose excess body fat.

While bone broth is certainly not necessary to long term health and success on this diet, it also holds the potential of being very beneficial for some like me. The one veteran who does use bone broth on a semi-regular basis is Ana Teixeira. Ana is an Ultra-marathon runner with unique needs due to her almost superhuman physical activities. We are all different, and we don’t all have the same needs. I believe it is import for this reality to be acknowledged and accepted.

This does not change the basic tenets of a Zero Carb diet: meat and water… meat and water… meat and water… meat and water. That is the most important principle of this way of eating to understand. Meat and water must form the foundation of a Zero Carb diet. Everything else must be seen as complimentary to that. In other words, one broth should not be used in place of meat any more than eggs or cheese should.

Meat is the corner stone; meat is the foundation; meat is the rock upon which everything else must be built. There is absolutely no question about that. For many, meat and water is all they will ever want or need on a Zero Carb diet, and that is perfectly fine. For others like myself, the extra nutrition provided by bone broth and other animal foods like liver are a welcome addition.

I really hope the long time vets of Zeroing in on Health can find it in their hearts to be more supportive of people with unique needs, instead of dismissing and ridiculing us as we walk our Zero Carb path to well-being. It is sad and – quite frankly – bizarre that a group of people dedicated to this way of eating would engage in behavior that is both demeaning to individuals and divisive of the community as a whole.

This way of eating offers promise to many people who have been struggling with serious health issue for many years. But they will not stay in a group – no matter how much it’s veterans have to offer in terms of their experience with this diet – if they are treated unkindly…especially over such a minor issue like bone broth. After all, Vilhjalmur Stefansson – whose work they promote above all others – drank broth throughout his year-long Meat-Only Bellevue Study and it didn’t seem to do him any harm. In fact, is it possible that he may have even benefited from it? Hmmm… I wonder…

If you would like to read about some of the unique nutritional properties present in bone broth, please see my Bone Broth page.