Let’s talk about collagen and its relationship to gelatin. We may know gelatin as an agent used in cooking. It’s available as a powder and in sheets called leaves and is used as a setting agent for jellies and panna cotta (my wife’s specialty) and as a thickening agent for cream.

When making bone broth from boiled-up marrow bones (preferably sourced from free-range beef or chickens), and allow the resultant liquid to cool, it separates into a layer of fat sitting on top of a thick jelly. The jelly is gelatin, derived from the protein in the bone, collagen.

Collagen provides the connective tissue, the physical framework and the principal support structure of our body.  Combined with calcium, it defines the shape and strength of the bones. Flexible collagen forms ligaments and joints.

Close to 35% of all the protein in the body consists of collagen.  Translucent collagen forms the cornea and the lens of the eye.

It helps combine strength and flexibility to the skin and the tubes in our body, including our blood vessels and gut. Muscles do the contracting, but it’s the tendon, made of collagen, running right through the muscle that works the joints.

Like all proteins, collagen consists of amino acids linked together. Boiling up collagen in hot water long enough causes the long fibrils of amino acids to break down into shorter chains.  That’s what we know as gelatin. 

bone collagen

The best way to provide the body with replacement collagen is by drinking bone broth. Here’s an easy recipe for bone broth.

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