Are There Health Benefits to Eating Trotters?

Trotters and pettitoes are other names for pig’s feet. Different communities around the world eat this visually striking cut of meat in different ways. What you might not be aware of are the various health benefits and potential health risks associated with eating pig’s feet.

Trotters have an abundance of tough connective tissue and thick skin. Consequently, many preparations involve long cooking processes over low heat. This process helps break down the tissues and makes the meat more tender.

This slow cooking process also renders out collagen. Collagen is responsible for nearly every possible health benefit of trotters, including:

  • Maintaining healthy skin
  • Relieving joint pain
  • Contributing to muscle gain

Nutrition Information

Unsurprisingly, trotters are loaded with protein and fat, while they lack carbs and fiber. The approximate nutritional values in 3 ounces of a simmered pig’s foot are:

  • Calories: 197
  • Protein: 19 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

The micronutrients in trotters are fairly consistent with those found in more common cuts of pork. These include:

Potential Health Benefits of Trotters

The most prominent possible health benefits of trotters are healthy skin, muscle strength, and relieving joint pain. These claims are based on studies of the health benefits of dietary collagen:

Healthy Skin

Collagen is a major component of our skin. It is the reason healthy skin looks full and has robust elasticity. Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but certain factors can cause the production of collagen to deteriorate. One of the most dramatic factors is menopause, which can cause women to lose up to 30% of their collagen production capacity.

One study of 69 women, ages 35 to 55, showed that ingesting collagen hydrolysate may be linked to improved skin elasticity. You can work trotter into your diet as an excellent source of collagen. 

Improved Muscle Strength

Collagen may help increase muscle mass and strength for the elderly. One study tested 72 male participants, all of which engaged in the same exercise regimen, but half received supplementary collagen while the other half received a placebo. While all participants showed muscle improvement, those who received the collagen experienced significantly greater improvements. 

Alleviating Joint Pain

In a six-month study, 200 patients diagnosed with joint pain were given either collagen hydrolysate or a placebo. At the end of the study, participants receiving collagen were significantly more likely to report improvement in joint pain than those given the placebo. These results suggest that dietary intake of collagen may be effective in treating joint pain for some people.

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Potential Health Risks of Trotters

Generally speaking, trotters are a healthy choice with abundant protein. However, there are some studies that have shown potential risks present in the bones of trotters.

Toxic Heavy Metals

One study investigated pig bone broth to better understand the heavy metals it contained. Some of the metals, such as iron and zinc, are healthy in small amounts but become toxic at higher amounts. Others are unhealthy at any dose. The study found that pig leg bones may produce potentially toxic heavy metals such as chromium and lead.

The study demonstrated that the levels of these metals after simmering pig's feet, while heightened, were not dangerous if the dish is consumed in moderation. Still, you should keep in mind the presence of these metals and the potential risk they may pose while considering the other various health benefits trotters may promote.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 03, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

British Journal of Nutrition: Collagen Peptide Supplementation in Combination with Resistance Training Improves Body Composition and increases Muscle Strength in Elderly Sarcopenic Men

Cedars Sinai: Collage For Your Skin – Healthy or Hype?

Complementary Therapies in Medicine: Effect of Collagen Hydrolysate in Articular Pain

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Pork, pigs feet, simmered.”

FoodData Central: “Pork, fresh, variety meats and by-products, feet, cooked, simmered”

Food and Nutrition Research: Essential and Toxic Metals in Animal Bone Broths

Skin Pharmacology and Physiology: Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen peptides Had Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology

Review Article: “Collagen in Health and Disease.”

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