Gelatin has been used for many years but has recently found popularity for its various health and beauty benefits. Touted as a new superfood, gelatin plays a vital role in bone health and mental function.
It also helps in improving the appearance of skin and hair. Read on to learn more about gelatin and its numerous health and beauty benefits.
What is gelatin?
Gelatin is a product derived from collagen. It is mostly made up of protein. In fact, the unique amino acid profile of gelatin is responsible for its many health benefits.
Gelatin is made by isolating and hydrating skin, bones, and tissues of animals. It is flavorless, colorless and can dissolve in warm water. It takes on a jelly-like texture when it cools down.
It is this jelly-like adhesive nature of gelatin that makes it useful in the production of Jell-O and gummy candy. This gelatinous quality of gelatin is useful if forming stronger cartilage and connective tissue.
Gelatin is made up of amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids are essential of proper hair, nail and bone growth. They also improve the immune function and help in weight regulation.
Health benefits of gelatin
1. Improves digestive health
Gelatin improves digestive health in many different ways. It helps prevent gastrointestinal damage by improving the lining of the digestive tract.
The gut lining prevents the bacteria and yeast in the digestive system from leaking into the bloodstream. This can trigger inflammation and lead to leaky gut syndrome (1).
Gelatin also stimulates gastric juices, which facilitate proper digestion. When you don’t make adequate digestive enzymes, you can develop problems like bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, and anemia.
Gelatin also helps in preventing constipation and bloating as it helps absorb water and fluids.
2. Improves skin health
Gelatin can improve your skin health and give you a youthful appearance. Since gelatin is the main component of collagen, it has a positive effect on skin health and cellular rejuvenation.
We develop wrinkles and fine lines as we age because of collagen depletion. Consuming more gelatin helps stimulate collagen, and this restores skin’s youthful appearance.
Gelatin helps renew skin cells, which protect us from UV damage, and also skin cancer. During one study, when women consumed pork or fish collagen for eight weeks, they experienced a 28 percent improvement in skin moisture after taking pork collagen and 12 percent improvement after taking fish collagen.
The study also found that eating fish collagen improves the collagen density of the skin (2).
3. Decreases joint pain
As people age, their collagen continues to break down and erode, and this leads to stiffness in the joints and reduced mobility. Gelatin helps stall chronic inflammatory responses, which helps reduce pain and stops the degenerative joint disease.
Research has shown that supplementing with gelatin can help in reducing joint pain, soreness, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.
During a 2012 study, 80 people with osteoarthritis were given 2 grams of Biocell collagen (a gelatin supplement) or a placebo for 70 days. Those who took gelatin noticed a significant reduction in joint pain (3).
During another study, 97 athletes were given a gelatin supplement (collagen hydrolysate) or a placebo for 24 weeks. The athletes who took the supplement showed improvement in joint pain at rest and while running or changing direction (4).
Gelatin contains glycine, which helps promote sleep. During one study, volunteers who had complaints about the quality of their sleep, ingested either three grams of glycine or a placebo before their sleep time.
The results showed that the volunteers who took glycine had lower fatigue and improved liveliness, peppiness and clear-headedness the next day (5).
Not only does glycine help improve daytime sleepiness and cognitive function, but it also helps shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improve slow-wave sleep.
5. Improves mental health
Gelatin is rich in glycine, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It acts similar to anti-anxiety medication without any side effects.
Half of the inhibitory synapses in the spinal cord use glycine. According to research, when the spinal cord is not metabolized, it can lead to seizures, mental issues, lethargy, and developmental issues.
Glycine is also known to improve memory and attention span in young and middle-aged adults (6). Some studies have also found that taking glycine can help in improvement in some mental health disorders like schizophrenia (7).
6. Helps prevent hair loss
Gelatin can also improve the growth and thickness of hair. The collagen in gelatin helps support your hair follicles and papilla. The larger and stronger they are, the healthier your hair will be.
During one study, researchers gave 24 people with alopecia a gelatin supplement or a placebo for 50 weeks. The results showed that the people who took the supplement had a 29 percent increase in hair growth as compared to 10 percent in the placebo group (8).
The hair mass of the gelatin supplement group was also higher than the placebo group. During another study, when the participants were given 14 grams of gelatin per day, their individual hair thickness increased by 11 percent (9).
7. Improves heart health
When we eat animal products including meat from chicken, beef, and turkey, we consume a type of amino acid called methionine.
Although methionine is beneficial for the body, an excessive amount of it can increase the amount of homocysteine in the blood, which raises the risk of heart disease.
High levels of homocysteine increase inflammation levels and can cause arteriosclerosis, stroke, weakened bones and impairment in cognitive function.
Gelatin helps in neutralizing the ill effects of this compound. So consume adequate amounts of gelatin to balance out the adverse effects of methionine.
8. Maintains healthy bones
Gelatin contains lysine, which helps strengthen bones. Lysine aids in the absorption of calcium, which is essential for keeping bones healthy and preventing bone loss.
Gelatin is also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur, which are critical for the prevention of bone loss.
According to researchers, collagen hydrolysate (gelatin) can be used as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Since it is safe to use, it can be used as an agent for long-term use in these chronic disorders (10).
9. Promotes weight loss
According to studies, taking gelatin supplements increases satiety and controls hunger hormones (11). Gelatin is low in calories and high in protein, which also helps in promoting weight loss.
So, if you end your dinner with a gelatin-based low-sugar dessert, there is a good chance that you will not snack later. Avoid chewy candies and marshmallows that have high sugar content.
10. Helps control blood sugar
Gelatin can also help people with type-2 diabetes control their blood sugar. During one study, 74 people with type-2 diabetes were given either 5 grams of glycine or placebo for three weeks.
The results showed that the glycine group had a 38 percent decrease in interferon (IFN)-gamma levels and their inflammation levels also came down (12).
11. Can reduce liver damage
Glycine, the most abundant amino acid in gelatin, has a protective effect on the liver. During one study, when rats with liver damage were given glycine for 30 days, the animals showed a reduction in liver damage (13).
Another study on rabbits showed similar results. Intravenous administration of glycine in rabbits helped reduce liver injury by reducing the systemic inflammatory response and maintaining cellular energy production (14).
12. May slow cancer growth
Specific studies on human and animal cancer cells have shown that gelatin can slow down the growth of some cancers. During a 2003 research on human cancer cells, gelatin sourced from pig skin helped reduce cell growth in case of stomach cancer, colon cancer and leukemia (15).
Another study found a 75 percent reduction in tumor sizes of mice that were fed a high-glycine diet (16).
How can we add more gelatin to our diet?
While our ancestors consumed a gelatin-rich diet, nowadays most of us do not consume enough gelatin. Many gelatinous parts of the animal like skin, bone marrow and tendons are not consumed now.
While we do make certain amino acids, our requirement increases as we age. The best way to add more gelatin to your diet is to eat all parts of the animal. Don’t discard the bones and the connective tissues of the animal; you can cook them into a broth and consume.
You can also purchase powdered gelatin and add them to soups, broths, and stews. Some people also add them to smoothies and juices.
However, it is essential to choose a good quality product as the gelatin made from the grass-fed or pasture-raised animal will have more nutrients. If possible, opt for organic gelatin.
How to make gelatin?
- Animal bones and connective tissue: 1.5 kgs
- Water: Enough to cover the bones
- Salt: 1 tablespoon
Put the animal bones in a slow cooker, and add salt. Pour enough water to cover the bones completely. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat.
Simmer on low heat for 48 hours. Strain this liquid and allow it to cool and solidify. Scrape off any fat and discard it. This gelatin can last up to a week in the fridge. You can use it in soups, gravies and also desserts.
Gelatin is obtained from animal protein derived from collagen. This clear, flavorless substance comes from the skin, bones, and tissues of animals.
Gelatin has a unique amino acid profile that provides it with many health benefits. It improves digestive health, increases brain function, prevents joint pain and keeps skin and hair healthy.
Most of us do not consume enough gelatin these days. However, it is pretty easy to add it to your diet. You can make gelatin at home or can buy powdered gelatin and add it to soups, broths, and gravies.