Bone Broth and Lead Toxicity: Should You Be Concerned?

brothYesterday I became aware of a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses called “The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets.” (1) The authors mention that consumption of bone broth may be increasing because it is recommended by advocates of both the GAPS and Paleo diets. It’s well-established that farm animals (and humans, for that matter) can be exposed to lead via food, water, air, dust and soil, and that it progressively accumulates in bone. The researchers wanted to find out whether the bones of farm animals might sequester lead, which would then be released into broth during its preparation.

Does bone broth contain toxic levels of lead? Tweet This

To find out, they prepared chicken broth (using organic chickens) three different ways:

  • using chicken bones;
  • using cooked chicken meat without the bones;
  • using chicken skin and cartilage without the bones after the whole chicken had been cooked.

In each case the same tap water, cooking utensils, cookware and cooking time was used. They also included a fourth control preparation, where they followed the same procedure but used only tap water heated for the same length of time. The lead concentrations in the four different samples were as follows:

  • chicken-bone broth: 7.01 µg/L
  • bone broth from chicken meat (without bones): 2.3 µg/L
  • bone broth made from skin and cartilage off the bone: 9.5 µg/L
  • control (tap water): 0.89 µg/L

As you can see, the levels of lead in bone broth made from chicken bones was a little over 7x higher than the tap water, and a little over 10x higher in broth made from chicken skin and cartilage. As the authors point out, lead has “adverse medical effects on the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, haemopoietic system, gastrointestinal tract, renal system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system and reproductive system”. In short, too much lead wreaks havoc on every system of the body.

Does this mean it’s time to quit the bone broth? Not so fast.

How much lead is safe?

The authors of the study express alarm about the “high” levels of lead found in the bone broth preparations they made. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a safety threshold of 15 parts per billion (ppb, which is equivalent to 15 µg/L) for lead in drinking water. On their page discussing lead and water, they explain that:

Most studies show that exposure to lead-contaminated water alone would not be likely to elevate blood lead levels in most adults, even exposure to water with a lead content close to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “action level” for lead of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Risk will vary, however, depending upon the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. For example, infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.

If drinking water consistently throughout the day with lead levels of 15 µg/L (ppb) does not pose a problem for human adults (and children with the exception of infants drinking formula), then why would drinking 2-3 cups of bone broth with lead levels of 9.5 µ/L pose a problem? I don’t think it would.

That might be the end of the argument right there. But there are additional factors to consider that may make lead in homemade chicken broth even less of a concern.

The importance of nutrient synergy

There’s no doubt that it’s smart to minimize exposure to toxins as much as possible. But in an environment where toxins are found in foods that also contain beneficial nutrients, we must always balance the benefits of those nutrients against the potential harms of the toxins. What’s more, some nutrients protect against the harmful effects of toxins.

For example, I’ve written on the blog and talked on my podcast about how selenium protects against mercury toxicity in fish. More specifically, the reason mercury is toxic is that it damages selenium-dependent enzymes that play a crucial role in protecting us from oxidative damage. This is why you’ve heard so much publicity about the dangers of consuming fish with mercury. However, what these reports neglected to consider is that if a food you consume contains more selenium than mercury, or if background selenium intake is high, mercury won’t be able to destroy all of your selenoenzymes and you’ll be protected from its toxic effects.

As it turns out, certain nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C and thiamin (B1) have a similar protective effect against lead toxicity. These nutrients are abundant in Paleo and GAPS diets, and in the case of calcium, abundant in bone broth itself. Let’s take a closer look at how two of these nutrients, calcium and iron, protect against lead toxicity.

Calcium

Both animal and human studies have shown that low calcium intake increases the risk of lead toxicity. In one rat study, researchers found that rats ingesting a low calcium diet had blood-lead concentrations four times higher than rats on a normal calcium diet, although the quantities of lead ingested were equal. The mechanisms by which calcium protects against lead toxicity involve complex interactions among lead, dietary calcium, intestinal calcium binding proteins and vitamin D, especially 1,25 D (the active form). (2) In fact, the interaction between calcium and lead is quite similar to that of selenium and mercury: one of the ways lead causes harm is by interfering with the beneficial effects of calcium. Lead is known to mimic calcium in biological systems or to alter calcium-mediated cellular responses, compete with calcium in enzyme systems, impair calcium metabolism, or inhibit 1,25-D-mediated regulation of calcium metabolism. (3) Calcium has also been shown to reduce the absorption of lead in the gastrointestinal tract. (4)

Iron

Studies have also shown that susceptibility to lead toxicity is influenced by nutritional iron status. A study in the early 70s found that rodents fed an iron-deficient diet experienced increased susceptibility to lead toxicity. In humans, low iron status of adults has been reported to increase gastrointestinal absorption of lead. (5) As is the case with the lead-calcium and mercury-selenium interactions, lead has been shown to interfere with iron’s physiological functions. For example, lead inhibits three major enzymes that are involved with the production of heme, the ferrous (iron-based) component of hemoglobin, which is the protein that transports oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body. (Mahaffey) Studies also suggest that insufficient iron intake increases the gastrointestinal absorption and soft tissue concentration of lead. (6)

What about vitamin D, vitamin C and thiamin? Though less is known about how these nutrients protect against lead toxicity, vitamin D appears to modify lead distribution once it has been absorbed, preventing its incorporation into bone. (Cheng). Vitamin C has been shown to have chelating properties which help remove lead from the body. And thiamin (B1) appears to inhibit the uptake of lead into cells and promote lead excretion. (7)

We are what we eat — and animals are no exception

It’s also plausible that the diet and living conditions of the animals we use to make bone broth will significantly influence the levels of lead their bones, and thus the broth, contain. Food, water, soil and dust are the largest sources of exposure to lead in farm animals. It appears that cereal grains contribute most to dietary exposure to lead. (8) Although I have not seen any comparative data on this, it’s thus reasonable to assume that pasture-raised chickens who eat a combination of forage and grain-based feed would have lower lead levels than conventionally-raised chickens that eat only grain-based feed.

I hope to have some data that will help answer this question in the coming weeks. Jessica Prentice, one of the worker-owners of the Three Stone Hearth community-supported kitchen in Berkeley, CA, has sent samples of their bone broth in to get tested for lead. They make their broth with pasture-raised chickens, so we’ll have at least one example of lead levels in pastured chicken broth to draw from.

That said, given that the levels of lead in the chicken broth tested in the Medical Hypotheses study were below the EPA established safe upper limit for drinking water, and given the protective effect of several nutrients abundant in Paleo/GAPS diets (and even in broth itself), it seems to me that it’s quite safe to consume 2-3 cups of bone broth per day. This is likely to be even more true if your broth is made from pasture-raised chickens.

I’ll continue to investigate this issue and report back if I learn anything that changes my opinion.

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  1. says

    Thank you Chris, I really appreciate all your research, and while it is a bit disturbing, I appreciate your factual and level headed perspective on the subject. I really respect your opinion on these things, thank you again.

  2. Annie says

    Good reason to use clean, filtered water, grass-fed animals, keep our detox organs healthy and keep on detoxing. I just don’t see how this day and age we can afford to stop.

  3. Mickey says

    Thanks Chris for your fast and thorough investigation of this! I have to be honest, I was pretty worried when I saw this being shared on Facebook yesterday. I will be interested to know the results of those who choose to have their bone broth tested – any resources of where we might be able to do so if we would like to do the same?

  4. Stuart Haas says

    Thank you very much for your analysis. This is a bit more reassuring. Now what about beef bone broth? Being that cows are larger animals than chickens and live longer (though, I don’t know about the age of slaughter), I’m concerned that they would accumulate more lead in their bones that chickens used in the study.This has been an issue with calcium supplements made from cow bones. Also, you talk about adults. What about with young children?

    I’m very upset about this news, but can’t say I’m surprised. I can’t praise bone broth enough for it’s therapeutic value. I’ve been suffering for 8 years after knee surgery with almost constant pain and swelling. Started drinking bone broth twice daily and the pain and swelling went about after about 3 weeks. It’s been several months now and my knee has been great! I’m still amazed.

      • says

        I was wondering the same thing. Larger animals would have a longer lifetime exposure, but then again chickens might have a higher body burden due to smaller size.

    • Honora says

      If they were broiler hens (past laying ability), they may be older than the beef cattle. Our chickens and turkeys in New Zealand are generally slaughtered at 42 days old but the organic ones would probably be a bit older as they may be a different breed.

  5. JennyK says

    Hello: Seems like the units need to be defined better. µ/L? I think you mean µg/L…
    Also, the 15 µg/L that you reference is the standard for tapwater (an important distinction). For those that want to research it themselves (As well as what went into developing the 15 µg/L, it can be found/downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/prg/
    Also depending on how bone broth is prepared, as you stated, it is mighty close to 15 µg/L – particularly if you have more than one helping or are consuming other beverages/liquids may add to your lead intake. As another point, lead is a neurotoxin that bioaccumlates in the softtissues and bones – which is why you see higher concentrations in the bone and cartlidge/skin/bone broth. It seems that folks should probaly consume bone broth made with cartiladge/skin or just bones, eat it in moderation – there is a compounding effect for lead as well in our soft tissues and bones over our life span. To read more about lead and how it affects human health http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/lead.html

    • Chris Kresser says

      Typo on the units fixed. According to the data I’ve seen, lead is unlikely to accumulate at 15 µg/L. It will be interesting to see similar measurements for pasture-raised chicken broth as well as beef broth.

    • Casey Miller says

      I have similar concerns. I don’t hold the EPA as an utmost trusted source for my health- rather more of the bare minimum of standards.
      I’ve only begun my understanding of heavy metal toxicity and adrenal fatigue/endocrine malfunctioning. So, I will be looking more into that matter. Thank you for sharing this study to contemplate.

  6. says

    I mostly make my broth from New Zealand lamb bones and cartilage (pastured I believe), I wonder how much lead that has.

    I don’t eat chicken since I can’t find a source of non-conventionally raised chicken, so I don’t make or consume chicken bone broth.

    • Cassie says

      It was my belief that sheep in New Zealand are not pasture fed anymore, not in the final fattening up at least. I would make sure if what you believe is true. Australian sheep are not pasture fattened anymore.

      • Ahmad says

        Hi Cassie, well I would think it depends on the source/supplier of the meat in question (can’t generalize on an entire county’s production). The lamb I buy is from a company called “Silver Fern Farms”, it’s a public company so I assume it has a certain level of transparency in its operations. According to their website the animals are pasture fed: http://www.silverfernfarms.co.nz/Our-Products/Commercial-Products/Product-portfolio/Default.asp

        But I guess I should look a bit more into it, so I’ll be asking them by email and on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Silver-Fern-Farms/302386843124396

        • Lily says

          I live in NZ, and recently contacted Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc via email to query whether any beef and lamb in NZ was grain finished, and they said all NZ beef and lamb is completely pastured (here in NZ grain is really expensive, unlike in the US for example, but rolling pastures are abundant) :) I know that for the Asian markets at one point some producers toyed with the idea of finishing some beef with grains for a small period of time (as apparently consumers in those markets like the marbling through the beef that obese grain fed cattle get *shudder*) but apparently that proved to be too expensive to be worthwhile. I ♥ our beef and lamb :)

        • Honora says

          There seems to be an expression of interest in the possibility of having CAFO on hill country in New Zealand for beef. I keep an eye on the farming pages in our press. Certainly if this is able to be confirmed, I’ll be spreading the facts on various sites. Currently, some diary cows are supplemented with palm kernal extract depending on the state of the diarying finances. On some diary farms here in NZ, the cow’s eat tag denotes how much wheat is dispensed to the cow twice a day when it comes in for milking, depending on its output. I believe 1kg wheat/twice a day is the maximum they get. Watch this space though. There are apparently some CAFO diary operations in this country and there is a push for more of them.

          Feeding lambs and hoggets? Nah, haven’t heard that one. Some wool producing merino wethers are shed-farmed for the quality of the wool e.g. free of briars and matagouri which stain the wool. BTW, Australian merino can come from areas where they mulse their sheep, but NZ merino producers have no need to do this as the flystrike problem isn’t so bad.

      • greg says

        I’ve never heard of lambs being grain-fed in New Zealand and in my country Australia,the vast majority of lambs are grass-fed;only in drought and in transit to slaughter are lambs fed grain.

  7. says

    So I won’t stop drinking bone broth after the research findings, but what about giving it to children? Does the analysis change when you have:

    a) a small child with less body weight than an adult

    and/or

    b) an infant, primarily breastfed but also taking in a few (mostly play-with-your-food) solids; say, the 6 mos – 12 mos range?

    Thanks.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I’m not going to stop giving Sylvie (18 months) broth. Everyone has to make their own decision, but based on the data I’ve seen, it’s not a concern at her level of intake (which is probably 1/4 cup a day, if that).

      Nor do I think it would be a concern in an infant that is primarily breastfed.

      • Jacek Kowalczyk says

        Are there any studies on the beneficial effects of comsuming bone broth? Are there any scientific articles on the mineral content of them (apart from this 1934 study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1975347/pdf/archdisch01497-0052.pdf)? I often hear about the alleged benefits but I wasn’t able to find even one article on the subject. I’ve also read on numerous blogs that for making beef broth I need to simmer the bones for at least 24h to extract the most minerals, but it doesn’t seem to be based on any actual studies. What do you know about the subject?

        Looking forward to reading your book!

  8. Rachel says

    I have the same question about beef broth. I always make mine with a beef bone broth starter that I get from a local farmer who raises pasture fed cows.

    • Brenda says

      Rachel, I’ve never heard of bone broth starter. What is it, why and how do you you use it? Thanks so much!

  9. Laurie says

    The reason that bone broth gives some people a headache is because of the high gelatin content (which, of course is one of the reasons we consume it – it is healing and nutritious). Gelatin is very high in histamines which as we know can cause various reactions esp. migraine headaches. I stopped consuming bone broth for several months, worked on healing my gut in other ways, and now find that I can tolerate smaller amounts of bone broth. Sometimes I take a histame capsule which seems to neutralize the effects of too much histamine.

      • Laurel says

        Yes, I’ve heard it’s more common to react to the glutamate in broth if one has a leaky gut. For most people, this is not a problem. I’m sensitive to MSG and get splitting headaches when I (used to) eat it, but eat bone broth regularly and have never had an issue.

        • Adrea Bailey says

          I am using homemade bone broth to heal my leaky gut, but get a small headache each time I drink it. As far as I know, I used “clean” beef bones, so it shouldn’t contain MSG (right?) and the gelatin isn’t very high (doesn’t get very jello-y when it’s chilled). Any ideas what else could be causing the problem?

      • crosswind says

        @LAURIE ~ Thank you!

        @CHRIS ~ Thank you! So, is it still beneficial to make soup with (grass fed beef or pasture chicken) WITHOUT bones? I have leaky gut and I’m very sensitive to MSG and I have high lead in my heavy metal test. I took a break from all meat/bones for a few months. I used to make a lot of crockpot one soups and cook for hours. I want to start introducing with shorter cook time and no bones to see how that is for some amino acids. I wonder is GELATIN from beef AND poultry both high in histamine?

        • knox says

          Hi Crosswind – I just found out I have leaky gut. It has been a horrible past 7 weeks! My brain has felt cloudy and like I have been on some drug trip intermittently. Doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. I thought maybe I have IBS, cancer, ulcer, parasite etc… All blood and stool tests came back great, so they have no diagnosis. While at the butcher shop, couple of days ago, I was telling the butcher my symptoms and he said “same thing happened to me years ago. Doctors have no clue about leaky gut cause there is no pill to prescribe. you have leaky gut”.

          I’m interested in what foods you are able to consume and symptoms you had in the beginning. The bone broth seems to be helping. Thanks so much!

    • Janis says

      Hi Laurie,

      Are you kidding me? I incorporated the “healing and nutritious” homemade broths and a TBLS of gelatin in OJ, in hopes of healing my gut, but they could be contributing to my other issues with histamine, like hives, etc. I feel like throwing up my arms, because this is just getting so frustrating. It seems like everything we eat has it’s side effects! I’m wondering how you discovered this. I read Chris’ article on migraines and hives, etc. is it due to the long slow cooking process and leftovers? How are you healing your gut in other ways? Curious. Thanks!

    • Moosya says

      Hi

      Several months ago I incorporated weekly crockpot bone broths into my families diet. I can’t confirm whether it was the primary reason, since I’ve been incorporating lots of other healthy dietary and exercise practices into our lives, but my osteo-arthritic knees felt better. And I’m playing ice hockey on the weekends with the kids (which is unbelievable to me)
      Anyway in order to step up the gelatin intake (N=1) I purchased the regular (ie NON-hydrolysate) Great Lakes gelatin.
      After some reading I found that the Hydrolysate variant is probably the appropriate one for my condition, although the kids love using the NON-hydrolysate product for home made “Jellos” :)
      In an attempt to test the effects (and hopefully some skin toning) I started adding two tablespoons of the NON-hydrolysate gelatin to my regular diet.
      Both, my wife and I got nauseous twice.
      Last night, after a particularly exercise filled weekend I had a few cups of home made 48 hr bone broth, some of my kids jello and a tablespoon of NON-hydrolysate gelatin before going to sleep.
      Soon afterward (ie 30 minutes) I encountered what appeared to be a recurrence of my long lost migraines (ie., blindness in my eye, followed by crushing headache at night and vomiting this morning). Throughout the day I was shivering and had a few episodes of serious diarrhea. This is similar, though much more severe, than a similar episode last week (ie no blindness or vomiting but general weakness and shivering).

      Therefore my question is whether this sounds like an allergic reaction to gelatin. I considered that perhaps I haven’t had migraines because I have been eating less foods that have glutemates (MSG). Anyway it’s just a guess and at this point I’m ready to throw out the gelatin so any ideas would be greatly appreciated…..

  10. Kelly Burgess says

    Also, it said the study was done with ‘organic chickens’ not pastured chickens. I’m thinking that lead amounts might fluctuate significantly depending upon where and how the chickens are raised.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Yes, I mentioned that in the article. Jessica Prentice from Three Stone Hearth is having their pasture-raised chicken broth tested, so we’ll soon find out what lead levels are like in at least one sample.

  11. Laurie says

    Interesting article!

    What about if they used distilled water or filtered water instead of tap water? Does that change the results? I have always been instructed not to use tap water when I make chicken broth so would like to see it tested with filtered water.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Probably not much. They used a tap water control in this experiment, and the levels of lead in that were 0.89 µg/L. That suggests most of the lead was coming from the cartilage, skin and bones of the chicken.

  12. Fiona Weir says

    I use a pressure cooker to make stock from free-range chicken bones and cartilege (as well as eating the trimmings of meat from the carcas after the stock has cooled). I wonder if the extra heat generated by the presssure cooker is detrimental?

  13. CCM says

    Here we go again: mainstream medical science warning us away from yet another nutrient dense food. Haven’t they done enough damage telling us to avoid saturated animal fats, cholesterol, organ meats, raw milk, seafood, oh- but make sure you eat plenty of whole grains and lowfat soy milk. Be sure you eat lots of heart healthy canola oil and wonderful soy, and corn oil. So good for you. (They have nothing but the most sincere concern for our health and welfare.) Don’t forget to use plenty of hand sanitizer to get rid of all those scary germs while you are at it. Maybe take a prophylactic antibiotic between meals. Needless to say, keep up on your flu vaccines – every 6 months now! Pfffffffllllllllptttt!!!

    Thanks Chris for the article.

    • Wendy says

      Your comments are refreshing after reading this article and all the paranoia about a healthy alternative to use in homemade soups. isn’t that better than supermarket soups and stock?

    • Josie Sherriff says

      WELL SAID………you forgot the raw milk the banned.
      ..
      Why isn’t alcohol and cigarettes banned…doesn’t make any sense

      • says

        It makes a lot of sense. It is a perfect scenario. As our old friend Terence used to say, quoting from memory:

        All cultures define themselves by the drugs they promote and the drugs they prohibit. Sugar, alcohol, and tobacco are perfect assembly line drugs, they are the drugs of capitalism. So, it makes perfect sense.

    • Harry says

      The first link is comparing broth with milk or human milk as baby’s food so emphasis is on the protein and calories. We all know we are not looking at broth as a major energy source. The second link is a discussion about how to evaluate broth nutrient, which is kind of blank area. I would say bone broth are nutritious and we just do not have a measured number yet how good. Do not want people get distracted by your comments.

  14. Melinda says

    Chris,
    Under IRON….”In humans, low iron status of adults has been reported to increase gastrointestinal absorption of iron”. Did you mean to say absorption of iron…… or lead? I don’t understand the statement. Thank you for the article.

  15. Peter O says

    Thanks Chris, your an invaluable source of high quality information as always…

    I have the same question as a lot of people do. I also understand you don’t have the answer right now but an update, when you do find out, would be great!

    I always use ethically/pasture raised cow or lamb for my broth, any thoughts on bone lead levels of these animals?! Or does it again come down to nutrient density and benefits out weighing the toxic negatives…

    Thank you.
    Peter O.

  16. nina says

    can we test the calcium and other minerals along with the protein assay of the bone broth? Both Lamb/ chicken would be interesting to quantify what actually goes into the water? A

  17. Erin says

    Thanks Chris, could the lead be leaching from the crock pot in which the bone broth is being cooked in? Isn’t that a possibility? I have been concerned about lead in the first place as I cook a lot of food in my crock pot & I do drink a cup of bone broth per day. Thanks!

    • Chris Kresser says

      No, because they used a control where they just simmered the water in the cookware, and the lead levels were far lower in the water than in the broth. That suggests the lead is coming from the skin, cartilage and bones of the chicken — which makes sense, since lead is known to accumulate in the bones of animals and humans.

      • Paul N says

        Actually, it might not be as simple as that.

        The bone broth has all sorts of compounds in it, that water does not. If there is lead in the glazing of a crockpot, it is possible that broths, especially if you add acids like vinegar/lemon juice/kombucha could leach stuff out that plain water doesn’t.

        Some cheap cast irons – from you know where – can also have lead in them that could leach out, under certain conditions.

        To really test this, the bone broth would need to be cooked side by side in a crock pot, and a non lead vessel.

        All that said, I think we are splitting hairs here – it’s just not a problem.

      • says

        Dear Chris,

        Great article. Thanks for writing it. Can you confirm from the study that the number of chickens used in this “experiment” was one; that they used the skin, cartilage and bones from one chicken to make three broths?

        Charlotte

  18. Cathryn says

    About a year ago I decided to do a fast using bone broth so I had a lot of it. I ended up with diarrhea so severe, I passed out on the toilet, but not before I called to my husband and he was able to catch me, fortunately. I thought I had an intestinal bug, but couldn’t figure out how I would get one since I never go to restaurants. That’s right – never. Anyway, the diarrhea continued less severely when I started eating again, but didn’t go away because I was still having broth. After about a week I went to my Chinese medicine guy and he said cut way back on the broth – too rich. Then I read something On Paul Jaminet’s site to indicate more is not necessarily better so now I just cook my vegetables in small amounts of bone broth and don’t have any trouble. I can tell I’m more sensitive to beef broth than chicken.

  19. Nick Austin says

    There is no safe level of lead. It’s a bioaccumulator which does damage at any level.

    You need to compare the benefits of the dietary change against the downsides of slow heavy metal toxicity.

    Here is what the ACCLPP voted to present to the CDC based on their new report:
    “Based on new information as well as new understanding of old data, the committee’s report asserts that there is no safe lead level for children — that many of the consequences of early lead exposure are irreversible. The adverse effects extend beyond the neurodevelopmental realm into cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine effects. The report documents numerous studies that show the negative effects of lead levels as low as five.”

    Thanks!

  20. Linda says

    What about fluoride? I’ve always wondered if bone broth is high in that too, given that it also accumulates in bone.

    • Lyna says

      I’m also wondering about fluoride, I’ve heard it was concentrated in bones and leached out when you made broth.

  21. Mary says

    We started making lots of bone broth this winter and love it; however, every time I eat it, my face breaks out. I’m 58 and this is definitely tied to the bone broth because once I stop eating it my skin heals up in a day or so. I use organic chicken or grass-fed beef and have a reaction to both. I’ve read that it may have something to do with the fluoride in the bones. Any ideas, Chris? Thanks

    • jane says

      Hi, I have the same problem with getting a rash after consuming the bone broth that I make from pastured animals from a local farm, totally organic GMO free etc. I was wondering if it was some sort of detox reaction. For example when taking iodine to detox bromides it is common to get a rash. If there is a detox rash from bone broth, just what am I detoxing? Any thoughts anyone? Also am going to try K2 as that was an important companion nutrient to iodine during that detox.

  22. Melinda says

    I have had reactions to beef bone broth that were not pleasant. One cup a day brought on diarrhea. Stopped and tried again. Same thing a few weeks later. It is intense. I used pastured/grass fed bones. Biochemical Individuality has a lot to do with reactions. I now cook with organic legs/thighs for broth and am Ok even with 2 cups a day. After bringing to a boil I only simmer for 4 hours. That helps and maybe would reduce exposure to lead that results in long term cooking of bones. I have found the chicken broth soothing and healing. (this method also gives you a soft, delicious,and easily digested chicken meat)

  23. Lan says

    I think the “more is not necessarily better” applies to just about anything these days. I think I’ll continue to NOT drink bone broth daily but use it for my soups and stews as I’ve always done.

    On another note… I notice that nobody seems to make broth from pork bones. Why? Is it because pigs don’t sweat and so accumulate more toxins, which will be released into broth?

    • says

      Oh, yes – when I make pea soup I always simmer the ham hock first to make broth to cook the peas in. And all the pork chop bones, etc. go into the stock pot.

      One question I have is how does one standardize the soup making method to make the results comparable since the proportion of bones etc to water can vary so much? Also remember that the figure are per liter, but most folks don’t consume nearly that much in a day.

  24. Rachel says

    I like your points. Why would anyone go to the trouble of testing this? There are big problems out there. No need to conjure something up. It’s like a war aginst health. I wonder if the chicken used in the testing was free-range and what they were fed. Is this info correct? It looks like the broth made w/ skin and cartilage & no bone has more lead than bone broth.
    chicken-bone broth: 7.01 µg/L
    bone broth from chicken meat (without bones): 2.3 µg/L
    bone broth made from skin and cartilage off the bone: 9.5 µg/L
    control (tap water): 0.89 µg/L
    You taught me something new about the relationship between mercury and selenium.

  25. julie quan says

    Since my water is filtered to take .99 of everything out (including fluoride) then I am not consuming the 0.89 µg/L in my 8 glasses of water per day. Evidently, that amount is acceptable for everyone to drink on a daily basis. Also, I use the filtered water for my broth so that would bring the lead content down by 0.89 µg/L. So, if I drink a mug or two of broth a day I am on par with those not drinking broth but drinking the “safe” tap water PLUS I have the nutrients of the broth. I am ok with that trade off. We rarely drink any water but our own filtered water and have plenty of glass bottles and jars to take with us when not at home.
    This does bring up up a good point of making sure that one eats from several different farms when possible as animals/produce from each will have a slightly different nutrient profile based on the ground, vegetation, farming practices, breeds, etc., of that particular farm. The same holds true with pollutants and toxins: they will vary from farm to farm and region to region, their land use history and local industries. We buy from several different farms in roughly a 200 mile radius, some to the north, east and south of us. We also make sure we are eating a variety of animals. Again, they will each have their own nutrient profile as well as pros/cons. The majority of the meat we eat is beef and chicken but we make sure to also have lamb, some pork, turkey, bison, deer, elk, duck and goose. We have some of these seasonally and some of these only several times throughout the year due to expense but we do try to have a variety. Lastly, we make sure we eat a variety of cuts. We eat the whole bird, a variety of cuts of the rest as each cut has its own nutrient profile.
    I share these ideas as they go along with not over doing any one food, even if it is nutrient dense. Eg. beef liver is awesome but too much will probably leave you with too much copper. Eating all beef cuts proportionately (how often would a farm family have eaten a liver 100 yrs ago? At most a couple times a year as only so much liver per cow and only a few butchered each year per family.) But eating the liver is great and then eating the roasts will even out the trace minerals.
    Same thing with the lead content – I am hoping! A variety of well raised animals from a variety of locations, eating a variety a cuts and not overdoing any one food, such as broth, over too long of a period and reducing toxins from all unnecessary sources (food is a necessary source!) and it should work itself out….right?
    Thanks for the article. I had already read the study and had become concerned! Glad you thought about it and helped me reason through this issue!

    • Honora says

      I eat liver at least once a month, sometimes twice or three times a month. My plasma copper level recently tested was at the low end of the normal range 14.8 umol/L {11.0-22.0} (zinc was just outside of the lower end of the range 9.1 umol/L {10.0-17.0). I know a RBC measurement would be more accurate but it’s not often tested for around here.

  26. says

    Thanks Chris! My thoughts were similar about the concentrations observed. It’s the dose that makes the poison and not necessarily the concentration. Also, the dosage to cause effects has wide variations among individuals. Your explanation about the interaction with other nutrients makes good sense in accounting for this variation. There is too much evidence, even if it’s mostly anecdotal, that bone broth is a healing and nutritious food. A better scientific study would be to compare the health outcome of those treated with bone broth versus those treated with a placebo. But who will pay for this study???

  27. mary ann says

    For those who say they are sensitive to gelatin, it might be worth doing blood work to see if you have a true allergy. Gelatin allergy is actually common (there was an outbreak in Japan) because it is used an ingredient in vaccines. The adjuvant in the vaccine can sensitize you to the gelatin and cause subsequent allergic reactions. Unfortunately.

    • Brenda says

      Mary Ann, your comment reminds me of the fact that isolated nutrients can cause far more problems than the whole food(s) they’re taken from. Whole foods, properly raised, are nutritionally synergistic, whereas, isolates are stripped of that functionality and benefit. That is true of many food components. Another example that I was thinking of is caffeine, which is far more detrimental as an isolate than as a normal part of coffee or tea (it can even lead to caffeine poisoning). Part of that is because the isolate is added to things in higher amounts than one would likely ever consume in coffee or tea. Just because man can isolate something, doesn’t mean he should. IMO. Thanks!

      • Brenda says

        Sorry, I meant to say too, in regard to the benefits of foods being synergistic: Remember some years back when eggs were villainized because of their cholesterol content? Well, some years later someone finally discovered that because of the lecithin that eggs also contain, the synergistic effect is that eggs are a healthy food.

  28. AMartin says

    It’s a shame then for the chickens (isn’t it?) that they are not being fed a diet to protect against lead toxicity/build-up in their bones.
    If the chickens are not being fed a protective diet then…I’ll skip the chickens thanks al the same. :)

  29. Marceo says

    Beef broth makes me feel nauseous – horrible actually. I’d love to be able to eat it. If it’s making me feel this way should I even persist? What would be causing this?

  30. Ben Fuller says

    I made beef bone broth for the first time last week and I felt extremely nauseous after only half a mug. I tried again the following day with the same results. I don’t think that high amounts of lead or any other metal would have been the cause of this.
    I didn’t scrape off the layer of fat at the top, just stirred it in and drank. Might this be why? I have no problems eating fatty cuts of meat.
    Why would something, seemingly so good for you, be rejected so vehemently by the body?

  31. AlexV says

    Oh, this is the first time I’ve come across people having problems with glutamate … I’ll do some Internet research.

    Mary Ann, allergy tests are often useless because they are not accurate or specific!

  32. Michael says

    Hi Chris, what do you think of the views expressed in the below article concerning the status of ingesting selenium and mercury concurrently? It seems to be that the protective benefits of selenium against the development of mercury toxicity are not pronounced. This could be particularly problematic for people who have compromised digestive processes, for whom consumption of a lot of mercury laden fish could conceivably increae the risk of developing toxic ratios…

    Thoughts?

  33. Peter says

    I just bought soup bones from grass fed bison raised in western South Dakota. I would think in the open spaces of the Dakotas there would be much less environmental lead than in more populated areas.

  34. Lynne says

    Thanks for this Chris, I would be interested in your follow up posts following retesting.
    I drink a bowl of bone broth most days made from Water Buffalo bones as got to know the farmer, pastured grass fed, (apparently very hardy so no need for antibiotics etc) just have occasional turnip for a treat. I do keep it cooking continually for days, just topping up with filtered water as use and cooking W.Buffalo braising steak, removing for the meal. Now concerned re mention of glutamates as had previously thought this broth ideal for healing leaky gut, joint issues and getting minerals naturally.

  35. says

    While they’re testing, I hope that they analyze the levels of useful minerals, as well. It would be nice to know what a traditionally prepared broth has for calcium and magnesium, as well as those other supplements like glucosamine, chondritin, and collagen. I hate that the best source of information we have is Campbell’s.

  36. Rae says

    Hi Chris
    Do you have a recipe for bone broth? I made my first batch last week, I love it but want to get the best nutrition from it I boiled the bones (mixture of beef lamb and chicken) for 24 hrs, I have just read to boil beef for 72hrs. Thankyou

  37. Alex says

    Some articles on lead
    http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,0
    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-linkfest
    Modern American adults carry 600 to 1000 times the lead levels in their bones than 19th century Americans mostly thanks to tetra-ethyl lead in our gas. That lead is no longer being spewed into the air, but has settled to the ground and is still with us. And for those over 35 you are stuck with the 6-10 points in IQ you lost thanks to Dupont, GM, Everett Sloan and Kettering.
    Lead levels in food will vary depending on the animal, the soil where it lived, the food it ate, the water it drank, and the air it breathed. As is clear from the posts to this blog all animals incorporate and eliminate differently on an individual basis.The same species on the same farm will show differences and different areas on the same farm will show differences as will water. What I am saying that no testing of any broth will have the same results as broth made from bones of a different animal even though the animals were raised on the same farm. Lead is impossible to avoid, you can only mitigate.
    To protect your children from more lead than is inevitable keep outside dirt outside. Remove your shoes keep pets outside or inside Children are on the floor and put everything in their mouth so clean frequently. For lead and other toxic metals you should detoxify constantly and for the rest of your life
    My regimen includes a juice cocktail of different vegetables, that always includes garlic, cilantro and chlorella which will bind to any toxic metals excreted in bile and keep at least a portion of it from being reabsorbed. If you have yeast overgrowth, you may get a reaction from the die off. It has worked well for me. I was diagnosed with lead and mercury poisoning and have been able to regain almost all my cognitive abilities, minus, of course, that lost during my childhood in the ’40′s and ’50′s.

    • Marie Flowers says

      For people who have “silver” amalgam mercury dental fillings they are mostly exposed to mercury via their dental fillings, and not fish, though fish is definitely a contributing factor to mercury toxicity. The so called amalgam fillings are actually 50% mercury.

      If anyone decides to have amalgam fillings removed, they should first research the information on websites such as The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, the largest holistic dental association in the United States and internationaly. The IAOMT has developed protocols so one’s exposure to mercury vapor is reduced, since drilling the filling releases a lot of mercury vapor which the patient breathes if they are not offered protection. It is very dangerous having the fillings replaced by conventional dentists since they are not taught in dental school to take special precautions while removing mercury fillings.

      If you are considering replacing any of your mercury fillings, you can contact the non profit patients support group DAMS, Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions for more information. There are also other dental materials that are also quite toxic and contribute to assaults against the immune system.

      DAMS educates the public on toxic dentistry, helps with phone counseling, helps people find a safe biological dentist, and what issues may be involved with mercury toxicity and how it can impact your health. You can call and ask for an information packet. DAMS also publishes a publication called Dental Truth.

      I am providing a link to an IAOMT article “The Scientific Case Against Amalgam.” If the link does not work in the future, you can search for the name of the article and IAOMT.

      http://iaomt.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Case-Against-Amalgam.pdf

  38. Susan Petrick says

    The allowable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for lead of 15 micrograms/liter is not the same as the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG), which is zero for lead. For an explanation of significance of MCL versus MCLG, see http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm#List
    from which the following is copied:
    Definitions: Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) – The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals. Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards. .

    • says

      What is the cookware being used? The lead may be colloidal, organically derived if it comes from the bones. Have the studies differentiated between colloidal and metallic form? This is of significant importance. Getting your iron from chewing nails is not the same as getting it from grapes.

      In addition to Chris’ suggestions, Joel Wallach, mentions in his book Rare Earths Forbidden Cures that one way of dealing with excessive lead levels from a nutritional standpoint is to take a trace mineral rich food like seaweed or humic shale.

      I question the basic assumptions of this study in part, such as the safe levels of colloidal lead in the food, if they are indeed colloidal. Weston Price studied people who ate food with substantially higher levels of vitamins and minerals relative to today’s real foods. A number of different studies have shown trace minerals have plummeted in the food supply. See http://www.mineralresourcesint.co.uk/pdf/Mineral_Depletion_of_Foods_1940_2002.pdf. I think we need to look at the balance of ALL minerals in a food. The problem is there is a lack of balance because of unbalanced soils and environmental toxicities.

      Maynard Murray through his experiments showed trace mineral fertilization from the sea increases plant and animal health. See http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/seaenergy_nov01.pdf. Fertilizing with sea solids means food will by default have higher lead content because lead has been in the sea for thousands of years. So what? Did Americans suffer from lead poisoning 200 years ago when the soil was virgin and thus plants had high mineral and hence lead content? Keep in mind the biology was better so minerals like lead were more available to the plants, helping increase the density of minerals like lead in food.

      If you live in the city you are exposed to lead in the air and from so many toxic sources. So this may be one more to add to the list. Intelligent detoxification such as clay, zeolite, sauna baths, drinking distilled water, etc. will prevent toxic lead sources from accumulating.

  39. Diane says

    I just finished making a long simmered beef broth. I used to cook it 12-24 hours. Now I follow the Weston A Price recommendations of up to 72 hours. It does get more glutinous with the longer simmer.
    Then I go and read this post and it gets so confusing. However, I have been making broth since the 70′s from bones and seems to have done me no harm.

  40. says

    While I do have the occasional cup of bone broth, I’m not nearly consuming 2-3 cups a day. I think as long as you’re making your broth from cage free, farmer raised chickens (or cows) you should be fine. There’s so much negative news and studies being thrown around all of the time and I feel like it mostly just confuses people. Not saying that was the author’s intention… just an opinion in general. It’s good to be informed but some of the information that gets passed around on social media is best to be ignored.

  41. LJ says

    H Chris,

    I’d like to point out as well that conventional chicken bones can contain a lot of fluoride. for someone doing GAPS, who is drinking bone broth a lot, it can result in a lot of fluoride. The fluoride accumulates moreso in the bones of smaller animals like chicken, and especially because they are fed grains which are sprayed with fluorine.

    The US EPA just banned using methyl bromide as a preservative, due to greenhouse gas concerns, and so the industry moved to sulfuryl fluoride.

    Canned and boxed broths use water that has already been fluoridated, and chicken bones, and then the fluoride concentrates more because with simmering, fluoride remains in the water.

    As someone who loved chicken broth in all shapes and forms and drank lots of tea, thinking I was healthy, I am now paying the price.

  42. pam says

    As a long time student of ayurveda, one of my teachers once said: If a little is good, a little is good. People consuming large amounts of anything could be causing harm to themselves. Our view that if a little is good, then a lot is better is incorrect. Dosage is important to consider when embarking on any healing journey.

  43. Lisa says

    Thanks, Chris. I too, will be interested in following this.
    But I have to question, like Jamil Avdiyev above, about the COOKWARE. I had a scientist friend who started her son on broths using the vinegar soak method. He regressed with all sorts of inflammatory and neurologic symptoms (he haa autism). She had the broth analyzed and it turned out to have metal contamination (I don’t recall the metals but can find out). Turns out her “good quality” stainless steel stockpot was not such good quality. She made the broth in enameled ceramic and he did fine, though she did not have it tested.
    The vinegar might be leaching the metals in some pots. Do crockpots have lead ? It is so hard to know these days what reallly is good quality….

    • crosswind says

      Lisa, YES I have heard they do! some brands more than others. if you google you will read which ones. I too was tested HIGH in Lead, Aluminum, Cadmium, Mercury… and i used to make a lot of chicken soup over the past few yrs. I also just found out I have MTHFR, a gene mutation,which causes sluggish liver detox (enzyme deficiency) and we cannot convert typical synthetic folic acid or cynacobalamin B12 into a useable form for the body to absorb. Excess folic acid left in the body is toxic. We MUST have methyl forms, which are pre-converted (methyl-folate and methyl-cobalamin). Autism is also linked to MTHFR. Visit MthfrSupport on facebook.

        • Michael says

          Hi Crosswind, I’m glad you posted this. I have the gene mutation too and haven’t heard of its links with enzyme deficiencies (I’ve had a stool test suggest my pancreatic enzymes aren’t being secreted all that well…), so the links with the gene is something I will look into… My b12 levels are fine, same with homocysteine, and I am under the impression that this signals that the gene may not be ‘active/expressing’ at this time anyway/ie is dormant.

          By the way, in principle if one doesn’t ingest folic acid, which is synthetic, there isn’t going to be problem with toxicity… Unless one is chugging B complex pills (which AFAIK has not been strongly associated even with bringing down homocysteine levels eg when they are elevated and gene expressive), I don’t see what there is to be worried about in this regard. Best to folate form the diet etc, eat some liver too :)

          Cheers,

          Michael.

          • Crosswind says

            People with CBS gene (many people with MTHFR) cannot eat meat (including Liver), until the CBS pathways is regulated otherwise sulfur builds up, therefore ammonia builds up too. It’s a COMPLEX issue.

            • Sam says

              This is too much of a generalisation. I have CBS and managed to get it under control just fine while consuming meat. I avoided other dietary sources of sulfur completely though. Other mutations will conspire with CBS to make it more or less difficult, so you can’t say with certainty what everybody will need. There are also different severities of CBS up-regulation.

              Even people with high Ammonia seem to be OK eating one protein meal a day of about 3oz.

              It’s also important to support the Sulfite Oxidase enzyme in the process, to make sure sulfate is coming out and sulfites aren’t building up.

  44. crosswind says

    Thank you for sharing. I look forward to hearing the results from the next study you mentioned by Jessica Prentice, testing their Pasture Raised chickens. Please share that too!!! :) Inquiring minds are waiting

    “Jessica Prentice, one of the worker-owners of the Three Stone Hearth community-supported kitchen in Berkeley, CA, has sent samples of their bone broth in to get tested for lead. They make their broth with pasture-raised chickens, so we’ll have at least one example of lead levels in pastured chicken broth to draw from.”

  45. says

    One has to wonder with all this gene testing, if there isn’t an unusual nutrient need that would solve the problem of something like sulfur accumulating with a certain gene – though may it just reflects individual differences, so that some folks need more meat and other do better with less meat and more veggies. Dr. Gonzalez tells the story of how Dr. Kelley cured his cancer with a specific diet and supplement protocol, but it didn’t work for his wife’s illness at all – she needed just the opposite routine. Wish I could find that story online.

    And this from Sara Pope:
    If you’ve been worried about the lead in organic chicken broth study from January, Kaayla Daniel has a bone or two to pick with it. You won’t be worried anymore after reading this:

    http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/bones-to-pick-with-the-lead-in-bone-broth-study/

    • Crosswind says

      Kris, I tried to respond, but my long response did not show up explaining this. if you go on youtube search for Dr. Neil Rawlins 4 part video on Mthfr, he explains how BPA & other environmental toxins is suspected in causing MTHFR. Also, many people who have MTHFR, also have CBS gene mutation, which disrupts the ability to properly eliminate SULFUR. Therefore, it can very dangerous for these people (and me) to eat foods high in Sulfur and supplements like MSM. Ammonia and build up causing more side effects and actually very severe issues for some. Also, go to MTHFR SUPPORT .com and see more links Sterling Hill has posted including other genes like CBS that must be addressed before treating MTHFR. Speeding detoxification can create more severe symptoms & anxiety & nerve irritation if CBS is not draining properly or allowing proper elimination. When treating those of us with 11 gene mutations with certain nutrients, makes it difficult when addressing one and another pathway does not work, like a clogged highway.

      • says

        You have me confused. One minute MTHFR is the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, the next minute it’s the deficiency of the enzyme, and then again it may be the mutated MTHFR gene. Actually my daughter has a mutation of that gene, which can cause a problem if she doesn’t get enough folate. So we’re back to fine tuning the diet to what works for you individually. We’re really playing Russian roulette pouring all these strange modern chemicals into our environment, producing heaven only knows what damage to our health! And now we’re pouring all kinds of money info gene research, and the drug companies are probably hoping to come up with a nice profitable drug to salve the problem, meanwhile ignoring the valuable research of the likes of Dr. Kelly, Dr. Price, and the many other renegade doctors who are more interested in nutritional healing than drugs.

        • Crosswind says

          Hi Kris, MTHFR = Enzyme, like you listed above. MTHFR gene mutation is the deficiency of this MTHFR enzyme and there are two main types of this mutation that can cause hypermethylation or hypomethylation (slow or too fast) if i understand it correctly. There are hundreds of other different mutation forms, but current labs only test for a handful. …. Yes, it’s confusing and yes all those chemicals, like BPA causing our DNA harm and GMOs on a whole new level. Sterling Hill, Tim Jackson, Sean and other Practitioners on MthfrSupport on Facebook really are VERY helpful and teaching other doctors, nutritionists and patients non-stop and have a list of local Doctors in your area that understand how to treat Methylation issues like MTHFR. Ben Lynch on FB is another good Doc to follow on this. One way, I learned we can see hyper and hypomethylation is most noticeable with caffeine users. Some hypermethylators can consume a pot of coffee before bed and go right to sleep. Others get jitters, irritable, sweaters with only a little. Methylation issues affect our Liver detoxification phases. ~~MTHFR is hereditary and if your daughter has it, she either has one or two copies that came from you or both of her parents. methyl-B12 and folate are important for her. Glad she is getting help. My lab recommended the rest of my family be tested too, siblings included. Hope that helps.

  46. Brenda says

    While it is beneficial to thoroughly analyze “scientific” studies, and to benefit from people like Chris (Thank you!) who can shed the light of his knowledge on them, there is NO benefit in excess STRESS (as I’m sure you’ve heard multiple times). So, I really must share something with you that can ease one’s mind immensely – I speak from experience here. Perhaps you’ve heard about some people taking a daily dose of clay, and if so, perhaps you thought they were nuts, or something. However, when I heard about it, I began to research the subject. I can’t share even the half of what I’ve learned here – it would simply be too lengthy and time consuming – but I can assure you that if you look into it for yourselves, it can go a long ways toward alleviating stress over every concerning “scientific” study. You see, a pure food grade calcium bentonite clay – taken internally on a daily basis – has the ability to adsorb and absorb acids/toxins and carry them out of the body. It seems that elements that do not nourish our bodies fall into the acids/toxins categories, but the healthful elements do not. Now doesn’t that sound like a good way to alleviate excess stress about reports like these? If you would like a simple launching pad for such research, you could start here at my collection of pinnable information on the subject: http://pinterest.com/brendamorrow2/bentonite-clay/ I must tell you that I will receive no gratuity of any kind whatsoever, except for the knowledge that what I’ve researched and shared may be of some value to someone besides myself. Good health to you all!

  47. Meg says

    What do you think about the grassfed gelatin powder from Great Lakes? It comes from the skin, connective tissue, and bones of animals.

  48. Sean says

    Maybe consuming 2-3 cups @ 9.4ppb is not unhealthy, but you gain minute lead exposure from several other sources as well. If you add that to a water supply that is 7.5ppb, and other environmental exposures, it can add up.

  49. Sean says

    Instead f lead you should me worried amount the fact the bone broth has very little or no calcium in it. Do your research, people. Even if you buy canned bone broth/stock there is little to no calcium unless fortified. The bioavailability of calcium from making bone stock is next to zero, even if you add wine/vinegar to the pot. Sorry, I know the truth hurts sometimes.

  50. Jen says

    I recently started making bone broth. I’ve started only with chicken broth. I’ve made four batches and the last three times, I’ve gotten headaches that start after I eat the broth and continue for a couple days. I noticed I had a headache probably the second time I made broth and thought maybe there could be a correlation. I want to keep making broth (because of the health benefits, and it’s also good, useful and healthier than packaged broth/stock), but I also wanted to see if I got headaches again, and yes it did happen each time I’ve made broth. I didn’t use the cheapest chicken, but it also wasn’t ‘pastured chicken’. I used organic chicken from Trader Joe’s and also tried another type from Whole Foods. Yeah, the chickens get some corn and soy feed, I’m sure, and likely aren’t outside much if at all. I know ‘pastured’ chicken is the best, but it’s really hard to find and very pricey (seems that pasture-raised chicken is more expensive than grass-fed/finished beef). I used legs and thighs to make the broth, but I assume pastured chicken parts are also expensive, if even available.

    I want to keep making broth, but I’m concerned now that I’ve experienced these strange headaches after consuming this broth (I used reverse osmosis filtered water, btw). I will read through comments here and see if I can glean any info., but I’m a little hesitant to keep making broth. May need to try to find better chicken?

  51. Elisabeth says

    I may need to retread your post and analysis in case I missed it, but were they all cooked for the same amount of time on the same heat? Presumably the water (control) boiled off as much as the broths did, so the concentration of the tap water and its original contents stayed the same across all of the variables?

  52. josh says

    I wouldn’t worry about the lead levels in bone broth. Humans encounter toxins every day from car fumes, pollution, tap water, cigarette smoke, or just breathing. The human body is very resilient in detoxifying (even with a poor diet) so this is why one must consume lots of green vegetables etc that can detox the body. This study (I quickly read it) fails to note the quality of water used and contamination levels or Volatile Organic Compounds present in the water. Tap water (I NEVER consume/use for cooking because the injected fluoride, chlorine, lead, pharmaceuticals, etc present in the water.

    When cooking stock, always use filtered mineral water or water undergone Reverse Osmosis (NEVER use distilled). Simple carbon filters filter very little and many contaminates still pass through the carbon and this is why one should use a system with an RO membrane (with carbon filters) as many contaminate molecules are too large to penetrate through the RO membrane.

    Only realize the bone broth you consume is very beneficial to the human body and the there are many health benefits such as helping/treating skin disorders and myriad of other ailments. It is liquid bone marrow you are drinking after all :)

    • Melkat says

      Josh, can you elaborate a little on why one should NOT use distilled water for broth?

      And what if one adds back in some minerals?
      Thanks for a little more information.

  53. Angel says

    Hi! Just curious to hear what the results were on the pasture raised chicken broth. Any news?? Thanks for writing this!

  54. Josh says

    Melkat, I just think distilled water is bad from reading this… http://www.mercola.com/article/water/distilled_water.htm

    “Fasting using distilled water can be dangerous because of the rapid loss of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and trace minerals like magnesium, deficiencies of which can cause heart beat irregularities and high blood pressure. Cooking foods in distilled water pulls the minerals out of them and lowers their nutrient value.

    Distilled water is an active absorber and when it comes into contact with air, it absorbs carbon dioxide, making it acidic. The more distilled water a person drinks, the higher the body acidity becomes.”

    Perhaps it does not matter what water you use for broth as long as it is clean filtered water but I never drink distilled water, I always feel weird when I drink it. Just my thoughts…

  55. Tim says

    http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/kdaniel/2013/03/12/bone-broth-and-lead-contamination-a-very-flawed-study-in-medical-hypotheses/

    “To that end, we would like to announce the results of testing performed by The National Food Lab on bone broth from grass-fed beef and pastured chicken from California.65 These two broths were prepared in stainless steel soup pots by the Three Stone Hearth Co-op in Berkeley. As tested on February 14, 2013 at a Minimum Detection Level of 10 parts per billion and again on March 1, 2013 with an MDL of 5 parts per billion, the results were as follows:

    Grassfed beef broth. No lead detected
    Pastured chicken broth: No lead detected
    Reverse osmosis water: No lead detected”

  56. says

    Nice overview and thanks for that. Came across this as I was checking up on pork bone broth.

    It might be an occupational hazard, but as a trained philosopher I am however a little concerned about your choice of frame of reference when it comes to allowed lead levels. Why should anyone take these sources serious, when they are the same who are telling us to eat (whole)grains and fruit all day long? Why use one piece of information from them, when we know that industry largely dictates the contents of their advice? It is not good practice to pick a piece when it is suitable and reject the source in other contexts as fundamentally flawed and misguided. You can’t hold onto something at the same time as you are pusing it away – at least not for long, have you ever tried, often happens in relationships, for instance?

    Finally, to return to some positive critique, I think you are right to point out the environmental factor: where did the animal in question live and grow? What did it eat? And, in extension of that, does grain act as an accumulator of heavy metal, even if it is not grown with petrochemical agents?

  57. Michael McEvoy says

    Lead and other toxic metals are rapidly sequestered into tissues and therefore, blood levels of lead and other toxic metals are extremely misleading and are of little to no diagnostic value.

  58. Michael McEvoy says

    With regards to toxicity, what the EPA considers safe, and HOW it considers something safe, is highly objectionable at best, and flat out erroneous at worst. It becomes a matter of the blind leading the blind.

  59. Joanna says

    My children were severely poisoned by lead while consuming lots of bone broth on GAPS diet. No other sources of lead were found. The broth was made from pastured bones and meat in a steel pot. This has been devastating. People need to stop discrediting main stream medicine for everything. Children’s lives can be ruined. Our environment is much more toxic than our grandparents. Not every food is perfect.

    • jason says

      Just out of curiosity how do you know the lead in their body was from the broth? And did you do a metal test on your kids?

      You know mothers can pass metals to their children at birth?

  60. esteri says

    I was also wondering Chris if you could comment on msg being formed when broth is boiled. Can you even bring your broth to a boil at the start and then simmer without forming msg’s. After it has cooled overnight I thought it was always safer to bring it to a boil again before simmering.
    Also would there be less or more lead if you drain the broth and continue to simmer it with new water. Could this be a solution to get rid of the first broth?

  61. Terrie says

    In the study, organic chickens were used. As we know, organic chickens could be fed soy & corn. So i wonder if soy contains lead? Or even if each ingredient in the supplemental feed needs to be tested for lead first. If we are what we eat, then we need to look at what the animals are eating too, don’t we?

  62. jason says

    I would think the pros far outweigh the cons in this case as the lead would be in minute amounts at most.

    You are exposed to more lead in your drinking water, baths, showers, etc

  63. Ophelia says

    Buy Whole Organic Chickens and/or Find a Farmer in your area, make sure he/she keeps their chickens healthy. Use SPRING WATER and ORGANIC Veggie when making the broth. STOP reading articles from this guy.

    Problem Solved.

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