Plain gelatin is nothing more than pure protein. It’s unusual because it forms a thermoreversible gel, which is a fancy way of saying that its helix-shaped proteins can unwind in hot water and then partially rewind in cold temperatures to form a gel. While this makes it useful in foods, you’ll also gain some health benefits that are unrelated to its gelling abilities. It can give you a boost of collagen-building amino acids, support weight loss and may help relieve pain from arthritis.
Gelatin is made from hydrolyzed collagen, which means that the collagen was separated from its source using water. Because collagen is a protein, gelatin also consists of protein. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in people and animals, where it forms the connective tissues that support bones, muscles and skin. The collagen used to make gelatin usually comes from cow and pig hides, hooves, bones and connective tissue, reports Frostburg State University.
Source of Protein
One of the biggest benefits of gelatin is that it’s a good source of protein. It provides all of the amino acids used to build collagen -- glycine, proline and hydroxyproline -- but the major constituents are proline and hydroxyproline, reported a study in the “International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition” in February 2010. Gelatin also contains smaller amounts of the other essential amino acids except for one -- it doesn’t have any tryptophan. One tablespoon of dry, unsweetened gelatin powder has 6 grams of protein. This amount provides 13 percent of women’s recommended dietary allowance and 11 percent of men’s daily protein requirement.
Support Weight Loss
Protein from any source helps you feel full for a longer time after you eat. It also doesn't spike blood sugar, so it prevents swings in blood sugar that lead to feeling hungry again. One study found that adding gelatin to sugar water lowered the impact on blood sugar compared to drinking straight sugar water, according to a study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in November 2007. Gelatin may also affect a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1, which promotes satiety. A study published in the March 2008 issue of “Eating and Weight Disorders” reported that blood levels of GLP-1 significantly increased in overweight subjects who consumed gelatin.
Possible Arthritis Relief
People often report that gelatin helped relieve pain caused by arthritis, but research so far doesn’t show strong support for its effectiveness. In November 2006, a review of the existing research stated that gelatin helped relieve some arthritis-related pain, and it had a promising role in arthritis treatment, according to “Current Medical Research and Opinion.” A more recent review was published in the August 2012 issue of “Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.” This time researchers noted that the overall evidence to support its benefit was moderate to very low. They recommended that more studies are needed to determine whether gelatin may help treat osteoarthritis.
- Frostburg State University: What’s Jello Made Of?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Gelatins, Dry Powder, Unsweetened
- International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: Hydroxyproline-Containing Dipeptides and Tripeptides Quantified at High Concentration in Human Blood After Oral Administration of Gelatin Hydrolysate
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Protein on Glycemic and Incretin Responses and Gastric Emptying After Oral Glucose in Healthy Subjects
- Eating and Weight Disorders: Oral Ingestion of a Hydrolyzed Gelatin Meal in Subjects With Normal Weight and in Obese Patients: Postprandial Effect on Circulating Gut Peptides, Glucose and Insulin
- Clinical Diabetes: Glucagon-Like Peptide 1-Based Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes: A Focus on Exenatide
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- Current Medical Research and Opinion: Collagen Hydrolysate for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Disorders: A Review of the Literature
- Osteoarthritis and Cartilage: Symptomatic and Chondroprotective Treatment With Collagen Derivatives in Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients