Protein consumption is an important predictor of lower limb bone mass in elderly women.
The effect of protein intake on bone density is uncertain, and evidence exists for beneficial effects of both low and high protein intakes. The objective was to study the relation between protein consumption and bone mass in elderly women with allowance for other lifestyle factors affecting bone metabolism. We conducted a cross-sectional and longitudinal study of a population-based sample of 1077 women aged 75 +/- 3 y. At baseline, protein consumption was measured with a food-frequency questionnaire, and bone mass and structure were measured by using quantitative ultrasound of the heel. One year later, hip bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Subjects consumed a mean (+/-SD) of 80.5 +/- 27.8 g protein/d (1.19 +/- 0.44 g protein/kg body wt). Regression analysis showed a positive correlation between protein intake and qualitative ultrasound of the heel and BMD after adjustment for age, body mass index, and other nutrients. The dose-response effect was best characterized by protein consumption expressed in tertiles, such that subjects in the lowest tertile (<66 g protein/d) had significantly lower qualitative ultrasound of the heel (1.3%) and hip BMD (2.6%) than did the subjects in the higher tertiles (>87 g protein/d).
These data suggest that protein intakes for elderly women above current recommendations may be necessary to optimize bone mass.