Gelatin for Health

I love it when I can find something both simple and effective. So I was delighted this summer when a friend turned me on to some articles about gelatin. Here is a little of what I’ve learned, some sources to consider in your own research and some shopping and tips:

The connective tissue for almost all your body structures is made of collagen. This includes your skin and bones; your muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs and cartilage; your arteries and blood cells; your heart, lungs, liver and other organs; your hair and nails. Typically, collagen production drops off with age. The result is that skin wrinkles and sags, bones lose density, joints ache, some organs enlarge while others get flimsier and weaker, arteries weaken and are less able to resist plaque formation.

So, how can you increase collagen production and support all these wonderful body parts and functions? Gelatin-rich foods.

In traditional diets, people consume much more of an animal than just the muscle meats: chicken-foot soup as well as drumsticks, beef stew not just steaks. As a result, they get a whole-animal balance of amino acids, which provides better support for all sorts of biological processes. According to health researcher Ray Peat, “When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair.”

Here’s the really good news: you don’t have to eat soup all the time in order to get gelatin or to have amino acids enter your body in balance. You can have gelatin for dessert. If you’re going to have a hamburger, follow it up with jello or a cheesecake thickened with gelatin. Cutting down on desserts? Powdered gelatin can be added to juices or tea that you drink with a meal – or before a meal if you’re trying to eat less food and still feel satisfied. Gelatin contributes to satiety.

In case you’re wondering, gelatin is the purified protein derived by the selective hydrolysis of collagen from the skin, the connective tissue and/or bones of animals. Gelatin cannot be recovered from hoofs, horn or non-collagen parts of vertebrate animals. There are no plant sources of gelatin. Some gelatins are made from pigs, others are made from cows. There are multiple gelatin options on the market. Here are a few for you to consider:

Gelling: You can find packets of Knox gelatin in just about any grocery store. When properly prepared, these will make solid treats like jello and gummy bears. You can use this kind of gelatin to drink, but you will want to put it in a hot drink and allow it to fully dissolve for 5-10 minutes before consuming. If you decide to go this route and want to order in bulk, one option is Great Lakes Gelatin. They have both pork and beef (kosher) sources and sell one-pound canisters. If you order from their website, you will have to meet a six-canister minimum. But you can get two canisters of the same product thru (free shipping if you buy the 2-pack and add a small item to meet the $25 minimum).

Non-gelling: This kind is great if you would like to take your gelatin in cold drinks (fruit juices, smoothies, etc.). I frequently add 2 tablespoons to 8 ounces of fruit juice and hit it with an immersion blender. I allow the mixture to sit 5-10 minutes so that everything is fully dissolved before I drink it. This kind is also nice to add to hot teas if you would like to avoid the gummy bit of gelatin that frequently ends up at the bottom of the cup when the gelling variety is used. Great Lakes Gelatin sells a product called Collagen Hydrolysate that contains all the same great amino acids as the regular gelling gelatin, but is processed to have a smaller molecular weight for more rapid absorption. This product is made from bovine hides (not pork) and will not make jello.

Enzymatic Hydrolysis: Tim O’Shea sells a form of hydrolyzed collagen made by using proteolytic enzymes instead of heat or acids. He claims very small peptides of highly biocompatible collagen. I have not yet tried this kind and do not yet know anything about this company. I also do not yet know if their source is porcine or bovine. I include the link to this product because I found Tim’s article on collagen to be helpful and the product looks interesting to me.

At the moment, I am personally using Great Lakes Gelatin products. I do not have any financial arrangement with them. I just purchase their products and I am open to learning about other sources. If you have any suggestions, please provide them in the comments. I’ll get a recipe post up soon to get a conversation going about how to enjoyably consume gelatin. Ray Peat asserts that gelatin is anti-stress; promotes sleep, learning and memory; corrects cell damage; inhibits inflammation; and alleviates muscle spasms. That makes a bowl of jello or a tablespoon of gelatin in a glass of juice or tea look like a great investment in health.

Disclaimer: The FDA and mainstream medicine seem pretty convinced that food doesn’t have anything to do with health so they would very likely contradict any of the associations noted above. That’s fine. If you have any complex or dangerous health situations, I encourage you to discuss gelatin consumption with a qualified health practitioner (which I am not).

For Further Research:

Ray Peat: “Gelatin, Stress, Longevity”

Ray Peat: “Tryptophan, Serotonin and Aging”

Tim O’Shea: “The Doctor Within: Collagen”

What about you?

Any information you’d like to share about gelatin — pro or con? Links to other research?

Any favorite recipes you make that involve gelatin?

Sep 13

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