What Is Gelatin?

Gelatin is a product made by cooking collagen. It is made almost entirely of protein, and its unique amino acid profile gives it many health benefits (123).

Collagen is the most plentiful protein found in humans and animals. It is found almost everywhere in the body, but is most abundant in the skin, bones, tendons and ligaments (4).

It provides strength and structure for tissues. For example, collagen increases the flexibility of the skin and the strength of the tendons. However, it is difficult to eat collagen because it is generally found in unpalatable parts of animals (5).

Luckily, collagen can be extracted from these parts by boiling them in water. People often do this when they're making soup stock to add flavor and nutrients.

The gelatin extracted during this process is flavorless and colorless. It dissolves in warm water, and takes on a jelly-like texture when it cools.

This has made it useful as a gelling agent in food production, in products such as Jell-O and gummy candy. It can also be consumed as bone broth or as a supplement (6).

Sometimes, gelatin is processed further to produce a substance called collagen hydrolysate, which contains the same amino acids as gelatin and has the same health benefits.

However, it dissolves in cool water and doesn't form a jelly. This means it may be more palatable as a supplement to some people.

Both gelatin and collagen hydrolysate are available as supplements in powder or granule form. Gelatin can also be purchased in sheet form.

Nevertheless, it is not suitable for vegans because it is made from animal parts.

SUMMARY:Gelatin is made by cooking collagen. It is almost entirely protein and has many health benefits. It can be used in food production, eaten as bone broth or taken as a supplement.

It's Made Up Almost Entirely of Protein

Gelatin is 98–99% protein.

However, it's an incomplete protein because it doesn't contain all the essential amino acids. Specifically, it does not contain the essential amino acid tryptophan (7).

Yet this is not an issue, because you are unlikely to eat gelatin as your sole source of protein. It's also easy to get tryptophan from other protein-rich foods.

Here are the most abundant amino acids in gelatin from mammals (8):

  • Glycine: 27%
  • Proline: 16%
  • Valine: 14%
  • Hydroxyproline: 14%
  • Glutamic acid: 11%

The exact amino acid composition varies depending on the type of animal tissue used and the method of preparation.

Interestingly, gelatin is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine, which is particularly important for your health.

Studies have shown that, although your body can make it, you won't usually make enough to cover your needs. This means it's important to eat enough in your diet (1).

The nutrient content of the remaining 1–2% varies, but consists of water and small amounts of vitamins and minerals like sodium, calcium, phosphorus and folate (9).

Yet, generally speaking, gelatin is not a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Rather, its health benefits are a result of its unique amino acid profile.

SUMMARY:Gelatin is made of 98–99% protein. The remaining 1–2% is water and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Gelatin is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine.


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