Some Say This Childhood Treat Is Great for Gut Health—Here’s What G.I. Docs Want You to Know

Jell-O is probably the last food expected to trend on TikTok. Given that most people only eat it when confined to a hospital room, it isn’t exactly sexy. But the jiggly snack is getting a lot of social media attention as more people are claiming that it’s an underrated health food.

Posts about Jell-O are racking up views on TikTok with claims that the gelatin in Jell-O is a good source of collagen, a type of protein. The twist—as one video with more than 100,000 views explains—is that it’s not the notorious Jell-O brand that’s healthy, but gelatin desserts you make yourself. (That way, you’re getting the collagen from the gelatin without the additives and sugar). Similar videos with their own homemade recipes repeat this same claim, such as this video with more than 164,000 views.

Is it really worth it to make your own homemade Jell-O for gut health? Keep reading to find out what gastroenterologists think.

Related: You Are What You Eat! Nutritionists Say These Are the 18 Best Foods for Gut Health

Is Collagen Good for Gut Health?

Since the whole claim about homemade Jell-O being good for gut health centers around the gelatin being a good source of collagen, the first question to get to the bottom of is if collagen is, in fact, good for the gut. Gastroenterologist Dr. Supriya Rao, MD, says that there is some scientific research supporting the connection between collagen and gut health. “There are several studies noting some health benefits, including improving digestive symptoms, reducing bloating and helping to regulate bowel movements,” she explains.

That said, Dr. Rao doesn’t think people should consider collagen a silver bullet to solving any digestive problems they may be experiencing. “I would not focus solely on collagen to improve your gut health,” she stresses.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Austin L. Chiang, MD, MPH, adds to this, saying that while collagen is an important component of skin, hair, bones and other structures in the body, there isn’t enough scientific evidence yet showing how eating collagen impacts the gut. “Everyone with gut health problems has different issues and symptoms. There isn't going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to these problems,” he explains.

Related: Eat Your Way to a Healthier Gut—Here's What You Need to Know About Gut Health and Diet

Dr. Ritu Nahar, MD, a gastroenterologist at Allied Digestive Health, also says that the science is mixed when it comes to whether collagen is good for gut health or not. “While there are some preliminary studies suggesting collagen can support gut health, more extensive clinical trials are necessary to fully understand its benefits and the optimal dosages,” she explains.

But Dr. Nahar says that there are some promising hypotheses out there. One, for example, is that collagen helps protect the integrity of the gut lining, warding against what is referred to as “leaky gut.” Dr. Nahar shares that there is also some preliminary evidence that collagen is anti-inflammatory and supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

While more scientific studies need to be done, this all sounds pretty promising, right? That raises the next question of if Jell-O is a good way to get collagen.

Related: 'I'm a Gastroenterologist—Here's What I Eat for Breakfast Multiple Times Per Week'

What G.I. Docs Think of Eating Jell-O for Gut Health

All three G.I. docs are in agreement about one important point: Traditional Jell-O is not a gut-healthy superfood. “Jell-O contains a decent amount of sugar and artificial ingredients that might not be worth whatever collagen is being offered in the gelatin it contains,” Dr. Chiang says.

According to Dr. Nahar, while gelatin does contain collagen, the amount of collagen in traditional Jell-O is likely too small of an amount to have many benefits. Like Dr. Chiang, she says that the sugar and artificial ingredients negate any potential benefits anyway.

In fact, all three doctors say that because traditional Jell-O is a high-sugar food, eating it regularly is detrimental to gut health. “A diet high in sugar and additives can contribute to gut inflammation and malabsorption, leading to bloating, Dr. Nahar explains, adding that high-sugar intake has been linked to mood disorders and cognitive issues, partly due to its effects on gut health. (The brain-gut connection is real!)

“Sugar is inflammatory. When you consume too much of it, it can lead to chronic inflammation which can lead to a suppressed immune system and be a precursor to other diseases and infections,” Dr. Rao adds. If you start eating traditional Jell-O regularly, she says that you may experience an increase in GI issues connected to a high-sugar diet, like bloating, diarrhea, gas and weight gain.

Okay, but what if you follow in the footsteps of the trending TikTokers and make your own homemade Jell-O, free of many of the additives found in the traditional version? There is also Jell-O on the market that's free of dye and sugar. Are these healthier options better for the gut? Dr. Rao says that while these may be healthier options than traditional Jell-O, there are better ways to eat for gut health.

“Gelatin, the main ingredient in Jell-O, comes from collagen. Collagen is a protein from animal sources. So, gelatin is an animal-based product. Why not go straight to the source? You’ll find it most in animal foods. Bone broth, red meat, chicken and shellfish have it, and if you’re plant-based, [eat] nuts and beans to help the body produce collagen,” Dr. Rao explains.

All three doctors are in agreement that they will not be recommending that their patients start eating Jell-O every day—whether it’s homemade or not—to better their gut health. If you want to eat Jell-O because you like the taste and texture, that’s totally fine. Just don’t think of it as the next superfood.

Next up, find out what the best prebiotic food for gut health is, according to gastroenterologists.


  • Dr. Supriya Rao, MD, quadruple board-certified physician in gastroenterology, internal medicine, obesity medicine and lifestyle medicine at Integrated Gastroenterology Consultants

  • Dr. Austin L. Chiang, MD, MPH, gastroenterologist with Jefferson Health and author of Gut: An Owner’s Guide

  • Dr. Ritu Nahar, MD, gastroenterologist at Allied Digestive Health