For centuries, gelatin has been given to those who are sick or recovering from various health ailments. When you were growing up, did your mother or grandmother make you a batch of chicken soup when you felt under the weather? That’s because homemade chicken broth contains gelatin, which can help support your immune health.
If you were ever hospitalized for surgery or another injury, were you fed Jell-O while admitted? Jell-O is made from (and named after) gelatin, which can help maintain healthy bones, ligaments, and joints.
In fact, when you dive into the research, it seems as though there’s very few things gelatin can’t do. Below, you’ll learn exactly what gelatin is, what it’s made of, and the many, many ways it supports your health.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is made up almost entirely of protein. Gelatin is made by cooking collagen, the most commonly found protein in the human body. Both collagen and gelatin do wonders for the digestive system, helping to repair the gut lining, help maintain digestive enzymes, and boost your overall gut health.
Collagen is found in bones, ligaments, cartilage, and other connective tissue. Collagen (and therefore gelatin) is connected to a wide number of health benefits. However, since it’s nearly impossible to eat animal bones or other tissues, you must boil them in water to extract the collagen. Then, you can discard the bones and drink the water — which, of course, is deemed bone broth.
If you ever made bone broth at home, you probably noticed it solidified into a jelly-like texture once it cooled in the fridge. This is gelatin, which can be used as a gelling agent in food production. Hydrolyzed gelatin, or gelatin powder, can be used to make marshmallows, gummy bears, and other Jell-O-like foods within commercial food production.
The Amino Acid Content of Gelatin
Gelatin is 98–99 percent protein (1). It is loaded with amino acids — the building blocks of protein — which help build muscles, support joint health, and recover from injury. Gelatin is not a complete protein because it does not contain all nine essential amino acids.
The exact amino acid profile varies depending on the animal tissues the gelatin comes from. However, the majority of gelatin is made up for four amino acids: glycine, proline (and its derivative, hydroxyproline), glutamic acid, and valine. Each of these comes with specific health benefits.
Glycine, for example, might help boost your immune system, heal leaky gut, and treat a variety of diseases. Patients diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, and several autoimmune conditions saw decreased side effects after supplementing with glycine (2).
Both glutamic acid and valine helps support brain health, helping improve focus and memory. In fact, individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have shown signs of better concentration after supplementing with glutamic acid (4). In a number of studies, valine has been shown to help recover from brain trauma (5).
Gelatin Health Benefits
A number of studies show a correlation between gelatin and wide range of health benefits. Gelatin can support our digestive health, improve sleep quality, help us recover from illness and injury, prevent brittle bones or reduced cartilage, and even improve our appearance — or at least that of our hair, skin, and nails.
It Supports Joint Health
Studies show gelatin acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping decrease the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease; and rheumatoid arthritis, or chronic inflammation of the joints (6). Those who supplement with gelatin experience some pain relief and improved joint function.
Gelatin even provides relief for individuals who haven’t been diagnosed with arthritis. In one study focused on physically active athletes (those who compete for a varsity or club sport) saw decreased joint pain from supplementing with gelatin (7).
It Strengthens Your Skin
Gelatin contains collagen, which gives skin its firm, smooth appearance. As we age, our collagen production naturally declines, causing fine lines and wrinkles.
Supplementing with collagen supports skin health by increasing the moisture of the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles and improve skin’s elasticity (8). For this reason, collagen is becoming a common ingredient in skincare products, helping skin maintain its youthful appearance, repair stretch marks, and reduce fine lines (9).
It Might Help You Lose Weight
Gelatin might help aid in weight loss, according to recent research. One study showed that gelatin acts as an appetite suppressant, reducing hunger cravings when eating at a calorie deficit (10). Some researchers credit this to gelatin’s protein content, as protein has been known to help increase satiety throughout the day (11).
It Can Help Control Blood Sugar
Research shows that gelatin might help control blood sugar, particularly for those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Glycine, an amino acid found in gelatin, helps significantly lower blood glucose levels. In one study done on 74 patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, glycine significantly lowered blood sugar levels after three months of supplementation (12).
It Might Slow the Spread of Cancer
Gelatin might help slow the growth of cancer cells, according to science. Research shows gelatin reduces the growth of cells for stomach, colon, and leukemia cancers (13). Plus, gelatin supplements appeared to prolong the life of those with cancerous tumors (14).
Get More Gelatin in Your Diet to Enjoy These Various Health Benefits
Gelatin is cooked collagen, the most prevalent protein in the human body. Gelatin is packed with amino acids, which can benefit your mental and physical health. Gelatin can help improve your focus and memory, boost your immune system, and even prevent a variety of diseases.
Since gelatin is found in bones, cartilage, and other connective tissue, there are only three ways you can consume it. You can drink bone broth, consume gelatin supplements, or consume processed gelatin products that contain gelatin (although you might want to steer clear of the marshmallows and gummy bears). High-quality powdered gelatin can be added to cold water (such as a morning smoothie) or hot water (to make delicious, healthy gummy treats).
To get more gelatin in your diet, drink more bone broth or prepare soups made with bone broth. You can either make your own bone broth at home, or buy Kettle & Fire bone broth.