The Bone Broth Diet is a weight-loss diet created by naturopath Kellyann Petrucci.
It involves following a quasi-paleo diet five days per week, fasting for the other two, and supplementing with bone broth—a brew you make by boiling bones in water for several hours.
Proponents of the Bone Broth Diet claim it provides rapid weight loss, better health, and flawless skin.
Detractors say bone broth is nothing more than a marketing gewgaw that does little to help you improve your body composition or health.
Learn the answers in this article.
Table of Contents
The Bone Broth Diet, also commonly referred to as “Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet” and the “21-Day Bone Broth Diet,” is a diet plan created by naturopathic doctor Kellyann Petrucci (a naturopathic doctor is someone who uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself).
In 2015, Petrucci published the Bone Broth Diet book, detailing a diet that promised to help readers “Lose Up to 15 Pounds, 4 Inches—and Your Wrinkles! In Just 21 Days.”
The book also claims that the diet can cure other health issues, including metabolic and gut health problems, systemic inflammation, and joint pain.
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The Bone Broth Diet is a 21-day diet that involves eating low-carb meals five days per week and doing “mini-fasts” on the remaining two days.
On your non-fasting days, your meals primarily consist of foods like meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, and fat.
Between meals, you “snack” on bone broth—a liquor made by boiling animal bones for 12-to-24 hours. According to Petrucci, this stock provides your body with protein, fiber (yes, seriously), amino acids, vitamins and nutrients, antioxidants, and collagen.
The diet prohibits dairy, grains, legumes, added sugar and artificial sweeteners, processed fruit, refined fat, potatoes (except sweet potatoes), soda, and alcohol. On non-fasting days, Petrucci also advises against tracking your calorie intake.
For your “mini-fasts,” which you do on non-consecutive days each week, you can either . . .
- Drink six portions of bone broth, or
- Drink five portions of bone broth and eat an evening meal of protein, non-starchy vegetables, and fat.
In both cases, you should consume no more than 500 calories on mini-fast days.
You can continue with the diet after 21 days if you have more weight to lose, or you can switch to the “80/20 Maintenance Plan,” which involves eating only “approved” foods 80% of the time and allowing yourself more freedom with your diet for the remaining 20%.
During a maintenance phase, you can continue with mini-fasts or choose to stop.
No scientific studies have looked at how effective the Bone Broth Diet is at helping you lose weight.
Fortunately, scientists have studied the diets that form the basis of the Bone Broth Diet—low-carb dieting, intermittent fasting, and the paleo diet:
- Low-carb dieting: Some studies show that low-carb dieting is superior to moderate- and high-carb diets for weight loss, but these studies tend to be poorly designed. Well–designed studies routinely show that low-carb dieting isn’t inherently better than moderate- and high-carb dieting for weight loss.
- Intermittent fasting: Studies show that intermittent fasting can help you lose weight because it helps you eat fewer calories per day. However, it’s no more effective than other forms of dieting when the number of calories consumed are the same. It just helps some people eat less.
- The paleo diet: The paleo diet involves eating a high-protein diet that’s rich in nutritious fruit and vegetables and low in processed foods. As such, it helps many people lose weight. That said, it’s also restrictive, which means some people may find it difficult to stick to, and there’s no evidence it’s superior to a plant-based, high-protein diet that also contains grains, dairy, and other non-paleo foods.
Based on the available evidence, each of these dieting strategies (or a mixture thereof) may help you lose weight. That said, none of them are essential for weight loss and are likely no more effective than regular, calorie-controlled dieting.
By and large, the reason The Bone Broth Diet helps people lose weight is the same as any other diet: it restricts how much food you can eat (by limiting food choices and limiting your calorie intake on two days per week), which results in a calorie deficit over time.
(And if you need help deciding which diet is right for your circumstances and goals, then take the Legion Diet Quiz! In less than a minute, it’ll tell you exactly what diet is right for you. Click here to check it out.)
Losing weight improves your metabolic health in many ways, including helping you regulate your blood sugar. As such, the Bone Broth Diet may be able to help.
That said, we need more research—particularly on the Bone Broth Diet specifically—before we can say that the Bone Broth Diet is a boon for metabolic health. There’s also no reason to think The Bone Broth Diet is superior to other calorie-restricted, whole-foods based diets for this purpose.
Some research on rats and a few studies looking at chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, and Crohn’s disease patients found that these amino acids may improve gut health to a small degree. Other studies on people with short bowel syndrome and other critical illnesses, however, show little to no benefit.
Since bone broth contains collagen, Petrucci claims that drinking bone broth can help to improve your gut health. This claim has never been verified by research.
On these grounds, there’s reason to believe that the Bone Broth Diet may reduce inflammation, but as yet, we have no research to back up this claim.
Some of the collagen you consume is broken down into amino acids, while some makes its way to the blood. Once there, it increases the growth of cells called fibroblasts and the synthesis of a substance called hyaluronic acid, both of which help to maintain your skin and joints.
Because bone broth contains collagen, many people think it’s as effective as collagen supplements for maintaining optimal skin health. However, research shows that homemade and commercially available bone broth contains much lower concentrations of collagen than collagen supplements, and thus probably isn’t going to do much to improve the appearance of your skin.
Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to keep your bones and joints healthy and pain-free. If the Bone Broth Diet helps you lose weight, then it may indirectly help improve your bone and joint health.
Because we have no research on the Bone Broth Diet, it’s difficult to say whether it has a positive effect on bone and joint health, especially since research shows homemade and commercially available bone broth products don’t contain enough collagen to improve bone and joint health.
(If you’d like to learn which supplements do help prevent and reduce joint pain, check out this article.)
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The biggest problem with the Bone Broth Diet is that there’s no evidence that it works.
If you look at the main tenets of the diet, there’s reason to believe that it could help you lose weight, but speculation like this—even when it’s based on an educated reading of the literature—isn’t the same as empirical evidence.
Even if we let this slide (which we definitely shouldn’t), research shows that some of the main principles of the Bone Broth Diet (a mix of low-carb dieting, intermittent fasting, and paleo dieting) are no better than conventional forms of dieting for weight loss.
And when you weigh this against the fact that The Bone Broth Diet requires you to chug several cups of gelatinous slop per day, eat next to nothing on two days per week, and avoid many foods that have been shown to confer multiple health benefits, it’s hard to make a case for this being a healthy way to eat.
Lastly, and most confusingly, the diet is entirely based around a drink that promises to help you shed fat, get healthier, and reverse aging, yet there’s no research to show it’s capable of any of this. On the contrary, most research suggests bone broth is an ineffective health and weight-loss supplement. It is very effective as an overpriced direct-to-consumer product, though, which explains the burgeoning market for ready-to-drink bone broth supplements.
And if the main USP of the Bone Broth Diet is a busted flush, why the fetish for boiled cow clappers?
It’s impossible to say for sure, but the skeptic in me thinks it might have something to do with the amount of money that can be made selling dehydrated bone water. This theory is about as verifiable as the diet itself, though.
In the final analysis, the Bone Broth Diet isn’t a magic bullet for weight loss, better health, and longevity. It may help you lose weight by making it easier to consume fewer calories than you burn, but this has nothing to do with drinking bone broth.
If you like the sound of a restrictive, low-carb, paleo-style, intermittent-fasting diet that requires you to guzzle greasy cow decoction daily, then the Bone Broth Diet might be worth trying.
Or, if you’d prefer a more flexible approach to dieting that’ll help you lose weight lickety-split without losing muscle or wrestling with excessive hunger, lethargy, and the other hobgoblins of low-calorie dieting, then follow the advice in this article:
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The most popular version of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet is the 21-day Bone Broth Diet, though she also has a 10-day Bone Broth Diet book, too.
Following Petrucci’s success, other authors have published similarly flawed books, such as the 7-Day Bone Broth Diet Plan.
They show you what you can achieve if you follow a calorie-controlled diet, but they aren’t a realistic representation of what you can achieve in 21 days following the Bone Broth Diet.
If you check the small print on the Bone Broth Diet results promotional material, they admit that most people lose one-to-two pounds per week, which is about as much as you can expect on any standard calorie-controlled diet.
They also concede that extreme results are atypical, that the most striking “after” photos are the result of more than 21 days of dieting, and that if you want to maintain weight loss, “exercise and a proper diet are required.”
Thus, it’s probably sensible to treat the most zealous Bone Broth Diet reviews with a pinch of salt.
Even if you don’t follow the Bone Broth Diet, homemade bone broth is a versatile ingredient that adds flavor to soups, casseroles, and pasta sauces. Here’s a simple and tasty bone broth recipe.
(Note: This recipe is not taken from Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet recipes.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 °F.
- Put a mixture of beef bones (knucklebones, short ribs, oxtail, and femur bones) in a large stockpot and cover with water.
- Place the stockpot over high heat and bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Drain the bones and rinse with water to clean any remaining blood and impurities.
- Transfer the bones to a roasting tray then wash the large pot you used for blanching.
- Chop five celery stalks, two carrots, two peeled white onions, and five peeled garlic cloves into chunks and add them to the roasting tray with the beef bones.
- Place the tray in the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and stir the bones and vegetables, then return to the oven for another 15-to-30 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and return its contents to the large stockpot. Scrape any burn bits on the roasting tray into the stockpot using a wooden spatula.
- Add three bay leaves, two star anise, a cinnamon stick, one tablespoon of black peppercorns, and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the pot, then cover the bones with cold water and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and with the lid slightly ajar, allow to simmer for 10-to-12 hours, skimming any foam or fat as necessary.
- Add water as needed to keep the bones and vegetables submerged.
- Strain the remaining liquid, allow to cool, then store in an airtight container.
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