Bone Marrow: Nutrition, Benefits, and Food Sources
Bone marrow is an ingredient that has been enjoyed worldwide for thousands of years.
More recently, it has become a delicacy in gourmet restaurants and trendy eateries alike.
It has also started gaining traction in health and fitness circles, due to its stellar nutrient profile and multitude of benefits.
This article reviews the nutrition and benefits of bone marrow and tells you how to add it to your diet.
What is bone marrow?
Bone marrow is a type of spongy tissue in the center of bones. It’s most concentrated in the spine, hip, and thigh bones.
It contains stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, which are involved in oxygen transportation, immune function, and blood clotting.
The bone marrow of animals like cows, lambs, caribou, and moose is commonly consumed in many types of cuisine.
It has a rich, slightly sweet flavor with a smooth texture and is often served alongside toast or used as a base for soup.
Bone marrow can also be used to make bone broth or spread over bread, roasted vegetables, or meat dishes.
Bone marrow nutrition facts
Bone marrow contains a good amount of calories and fat, as well as small amounts of nutrients like protein and vitamin B12.
For example, one tablespoon (14 grams) of raw caribou bone marrow provides :
- Calories: 110
- Total fat: 12 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Vitamin B12: 7% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Riboflavin: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 2% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 1% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 1% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 1% of the RDI
Bone marrow provides a small amount of the B vitamins pantothenic acid, thiamine, and biotin, which are needed for important bodily processes, including energy production.
It’s also rich in collagen, the most abundant protein in your body. Supplementing your diet with collagen is thought to promote skin health and reduce joint pain.
Moreover, bone marrow produced from cows, goats, sheep, and moose contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that could decrease inflammation and enhance immune function.
Though more research is needed, bone marrow is also thought to provide several other key compounds, including glycine, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
SUMMARYBone marrow is high in calories and fat. It also contains protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin, collagen, and conjugated linoleic acid.
Health benefits of bone marrow
Though no studies directly evaluate the effects of consuming bone marrow, plenty of research on the health benefits of its components is available.
In particular, collagen, glycine, glucosamine, and conjugated linoleic acid have been studied extensively for their potential effects on health.
Supports joint function
Several compounds in bone marrow are thought to optimize joint health.
For example, glucosamine is a compound found in cartilage that’s often used as a natural remedy for osteoarthritis due to its ability to reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain.
Collagen can support the production of joint cartilage to help maintain joint function as well.
In one 6-month study in 147 athletes, supplementing with 10 grams of collagen per day significantly decreased activity-related joint pain.
Although short-term inflammation is a crucial part of your body’s defense system, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Glycine, a type of protein found in bone marrow, has shown powerful anti-inflammatory properties in multiple test-tube studies and may help reduce inflammation in your body .
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another compound in bone marrow, has been found to reduce several markers of inflammation in the blood as well.
According to a 2-week study in 23 men, taking 5.6 grams of CLA per day effectively decreased levels of specific proteins involved in inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor alpha and C-reactive protein .
Bone marrow also contains adiponectin, a type of protein hormone that has been shown to play a central role in regulating inflammation and immune function .
Promotes skin health
Collagen is a type of protein found throughout your body that plays an integral role in skin health.
One 8-week study in 69 women found that supplementing with 2.5–5 grams of collagen helped improve skin elasticity and hydration.
Similarly, a study in mice observed that treatment with collagen for 8 weeks increased collagen content and antioxidant activity in the skin, which could help protect against skin damage and aging.
Limited studies on bone marrow consumption
Note that all of the studies above were performed using supplements containing concentrated amounts of individual compounds found in bone marrow.
More research is needed to determine whether consuming bone marrow itself may provide similar health benefits.
SUMMARYThough research is limited on the health effects of bone marrow itself, studies show that many of its components could support joint function, decrease inflammation, and promote skin health.
Food sources and how to add it to your diet
Bone marrow can be purchased from farmers markets, butcher shops, and health food stores.
You can use bones from nearly any animal, but beef bone marrow is a great choice for beginners due to the size of the bones and widespread availability.
Some of the most popular sources of bone marrow include:
- shank marrow bones
- knuckle marrow bones
- neck marrow bones
If you’re planning on using your bone marrow as a base for bone broth or soups, you can use the whole bone in your recipe rather than extracting the marrow separately.
You can also ask the butcher to split the bones for you, which can save a significant amount of time and effort if you’re planning on eating it directly from the bone after roasting.
To prepare bone marrow, place marrow bones in a 450℉ (232℃) oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Bone marrow can be scooped out after cooking.
It’s often served with toast and marmalade. It can also be spread over your favorite dishes, including meats, bread, roasted veggies, and more.
Bone broth is common, too, which is made by simmering bones for 24–48 hours to extract the beneficial nutrients and compounds found within the bone and bone marrow.
Not to mention, bone broth supplements come in liquid, powder, and capsule forms for a quick and convenient alternative to consuming bone marrow straight from the bone. You can find these products locally or online.
SUMMARYBone marrow is widely available and can be extracted from roasted marrow bones. Bone broth supplements make for a quick and convenient alternative to bone marrow.
The bottom line
Bone marrow contains several health-promoting compounds, including collagen, conjugated linoleic acid, glycine, and glucosamine.
While research is limited on the health benefits of bone marrow itself, these compounds have been linked to decreased inflammation, better skin health, and improved joint function.
Best of all, bone marrow is widely available, delicious, and easy to enjoy in a variety of different recipes.F