Category Archives: Protein

Protein Intake Above the Current RDA May Help Prevent Fractures


Dietary Protein Intake above the Current RDA and Bone Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Dietary intake of protein is fundamental for optimal acquisition and maintenance of bone across all life stages; however, it has been hypothesized that intakes above the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) might be beneficial for bone health. We utilized the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines when preparing and reporting this systematic review and meta-analysis. A literature search strategy through April 11, 2017, was developed for the following 3 databases: PubMed, Ovid Medline, and Agricola. Included studies were those randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies among healthy adults ages 18 and older that examined the relationships between varying doses of protein intake at or above the current U.S. RDA (0.8 g/kg/d or 10%-15% of total caloric intake) from any source on fracture, bone mineral density (BMD)/bone mineral content (BMC), and/or markers of bone turnover. Twenty-nine articles were included for data extraction (16 randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and 13 prospective cohort studies). Meta-analysis of the prospective cohort studies showed high vs low protein intakes resulted in a statistically significant 16% decrease in hip fractures (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.84, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.73, 0.95; I(2) = 36.8%). Data from studies included in these analyses collectively lean toward the hypothesis that protein intake above the current RDA is beneficial to BMD at several sites. This systematic review supports that protein intakes above the current RDA may have some beneficial role in preventing hip fractures and BMD loss. There were no differences between animal or plant proteins, although data in this area were scarce. Larger, long-term, and more well-controlled clinical trials measuring fracture outcomes and BMD are needed to adequately assess whether protein intake above the current RDA is beneficial as a preventative measure and/or intervention strategy for osteoporosis. Key teaching points: Bone health is a multifactorial musculoskeletal issue, and optimal protein intakes are key in developing and maintaining bone throughout the life span. Dietary protein at levels above the current RDA may be beneficial in preventing hip fractures and BMD loss. Plant vs animal proteins do not seem to differ in their ability to prevent bone loss; however, data in this area are scarce. Larger, long-term RCTs using women not using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are needed to adequately assess the magnitude of impact that protein intakes above the RDA have on preventing bone loss.

Wallace TC, Frankenfeld CL
J Am Coll Nutr Aug 2017
PMID: 28686536

Review: Nutrition for Osteoporosis


Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition.

Although calcium and vitamin D have been the primary focus of nutritional prevention of osteoporosis, recent research has clarified the importance of several additional nutrients and food constituents. Further, results of calcium and vitamin D supplementation trials have been inconsistent, suggesting that reliance on this intervention may be inadequate. In addition to dairy, fruit and vegetable intake has emerged as an important modifiable protective factor for bone health. Several nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, several B vitamins, and carotenoids, have been shown to be more important than previously realized. Rather than having a negative effect on bone, protein intake appears to benefit bone status, particularly in older adults. Regular intake of cola beverages shows negative effects and moderate alcohol intake shows positive effects on bone, particularly in older women. Current research on diet and bone status supports encouragement of balanced diets with plenty of fruit and vegetables, adequate dairy and other protein foods, and limitation of foods with low nutrient density.

Tucker KL
Curr Osteoporos Rep Dec 2009
PMID: 19968914

Review: Inadequate Protein is a Greater Problem for Bone Health Than Protein Excess


Does a high dietary acid content cause bone loss, and can bone loss be prevented with an alkaline diet?

A popular concept in nutrition and lay literature is that of the role of a diet high in acid or protein in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. A diet rich in fruit and vegetable intake is thought to enhance bone health as the result of its greater potassium and lower “acidic” content than a diet rich in animal protein and sodium. Consequently, there have been a number of studies of diet manipulation to enhance potassium and “alkaline” content of the diet to improve bone density or other parameters of bone health. Although acid loading or an acidic diet featuring a high protein intake may be associated with an increase in calciuria, the evidence supporting a role of these variables in the development of osteoporosis is not consistent. Similarly, intervention studies with a more alkaline diet or use of supplements of potassium citrate or bicarbonate have not consistently shown a bone health benefit. In the elderly, inadequate protein intake is a greater problem for bone health than protein excess.

Hanley DA, Whiting SJ
J Clin Densitom. Oct 2013
PMID: 24094472

Review: Protein and Bone Studies


Health effects of protein intake in healthy adults: a systematic literature review.

The purpose of this systematic review is to assess the evidence behind the dietary requirement of protein and to assess the health effects of varying protein intake in healthy adults. The literature search covered the years 2000-2011. Prospective cohort, case-control, and intervention studies were included. Out of a total of 5,718 abstracts, 412 full papers were identified as potentially relevant, and after careful scrutiny, 64 papers were quality graded as A (highest), B, or C. The grade of evidence was classified as convincing, probable, suggestive or inconclusive. The evidence is assessed as: probable for an estimated average requirement of 0.66 g good-quality protein/kg body weight (BW)/day based on nitrogen balance studies, suggestive for a relationship between increased all-cause mortality risk and long-term low-carbohydrate-high-protein (LCHP) diets; but inconclusive for a relationship between all-cause mortality risk and protein intake per se; suggestive for an inverse relationship between cardiovascular mortality and vegetable protein intake; inconclusive for relationships between cancer mortality and cancer diseases, respectively, and protein intake; inconclusive for a relationship between cardiovascular diseases and total protein intake; suggestive for an inverse relationship between blood pressure (BP) and vegetable protein; probable to convincing for an inverse relationship between soya protein intake and LDL cholesterol; inconclusive for a relationship between protein intake and bone health, energy intake, BW control, body composition, renal function, and risk of kidney stones, respectively; suggestive for a relationship between increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and long-term LCHP-high-fat diets; inconclusive for impact of physical training on protein requirement; and suggestive for effect of physical training on whole-body protein retention. In conclusion, the evidence is assessed as probable regarding the estimated requirement based on nitrogen balance studies, and suggestive to inconclusive for protein intake and mortality and morbidity. Vegetable protein intake was associated with decreased risk in many studies. Potentially adverse effects of a protein intake exceeding 20-23 E% remain to be investigated.

Pedersen AN, Kondrup J, Børsheim E
Food Nutr Res 2013
PMID: 23908602 | Free Full Text

Based on a validated FFQ, a French study of postmenopausal women with a habitual HP intake (45), there was no overall association between fracture risk and total protein intake. In the presence of low calcium intake (<400 mg/1,000 kcal), there was an increased risk of fractures related to energy-adjusted total and animal protein as well as gram per kg BW, while energy-adjusted vegetable protein was associated with a decreased fracture risk. In the Framingham Offspring Study of men and women (46), there was no overall association between fracture risk and total protein intake based on FFQ. Animal protein intake was associated with an increased fracture risk provided a low (<800 mg) calcium intake and a decreased risk of fractures provided a high (>800 mg) calcium intake. The Study of Osteoporotic Fractures in postmenopausal women (42) found increased risk of hip fractures related to high animal protein intake and high A/V ratio estimated from FFQ. When the model was adjusted for BMD, the relation of A/V ratio to fracture risk became non-significant. The systematic review and meta-analysis (44) found no relationship between protein intake and risk of fractures, neither in the cohort studies nor in the supplemental studies.


A systematic review and meta-analysis assessed the relation of dietary acid load to bone health (47), quality graded as C because of the lack of information about dietary intake methods or intervention (see Appendix C, Table C10). The analysis did not support the hypothesis that ‘acid’ from the diet causes osteoporosis or that an ‘alkaline’ diet prevents osteoporosis. The systematic review also indicated that higher protein intake and animal protein were not detrimental to calcium retention. The ideal protein intake for bone health could not be determined.


Two intervention trials including postmenopausal women (48, 49), quality graded as B and A, respectively, were identified for the association between protein and calcium and bone metabolism (see Appendix C, Table C10). Harrington et al. (48) used a high-sodium–high-protein diet versus a low-sodium–UP diet in a randomized cross-over trial. Thus, it was difficult to separate the effect of protein per se. Nevertheless, they found that a high-sodium HP diet led to increased urinary calcium loss and increased bone resorption. In a high-quality feeding trial by Hunt et al. (49), high- (20 E%) or low- (10 E%) protein intake was combined with high- (1,510 mg) and low-calcium (675 mg) intake in a randomized four interventions’ cross-over design. They found that the combination of HP and low-calcium diet increased calcium retention, and it also resulted in an increase in IGF-1, an anabolic peptide hormone stimulating bone formation.

Review: Acid-Producing Diets May be Protective When Calcium is High


The acid-ash hypothesis revisited: a reassessment of the impact of dietary acidity on bone.

The acid-ash hypothesis states that when there are excess blood protons, bone is eroded to provide alkali to buffer the net acidity and maintain physiologic pH. There is concern that with the typical Western diet, we are permanently in a state of net endogenous acid production, which is gradually reducing bone. While it is clear that a high acid-producing diet generates increased urinary acid and calcium excretion, the effect of diet does not always have the expected results on BMD, fracture risk and markers of bone formation and resorption, suggesting that other factors are influencing the effect of acid/alkali loading on bone. High dietary protein, sodium and phosphorus intake, all of which are necessary for bone formation, were thought to be net acid forming and contribute to low BMD and fracture risk, but appear under certain conditions to be beneficial, with the effect of protein being driven by calcium repletion. Dietary salt can increase short-term markers of bone resorption but may also trigger 1,25(OH)2D synthesis to increase calcium absorption; with low calcium intake, salt intake may be inversely correlated with BMD but with high calcium intake, salt intake was positively correlated with BMD. With respect to the effect of phosphorus, the data are conflicting. Inclusion of an analysis of calcium intake may help to reconcile the contradictory results seen in many of the studies of bone. The acid-ash hypothesis could, therefore, be amended to state that with an acid-producing diet and low calcium intake, bone is eroded to provide alkali to buffer excess protons but where calcium intake is high the acid-producing diet may be protective.

Nicoll R, McLaren Howard J
J. Bone Miner. Metab. Feb 2014
PMID: 24557632

Review: Animal Protein Does Not Cause Osteoporosis; Vegetable Protein is Not Superior


Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health.

Nutrition plays a major role in the development and maintenance of bone structures resistant to usual mechanical loadings. In addition to calcium in the presence of an adequate vitamin D supply, proteins represent a key nutrient for bone health, and thereby in the prevention of osteoporosis. In sharp opposition to experimental and clinical evidence, it has been alleged that proteins, particularly those from animal sources, might be deleterious for bone health by inducing chronic metabolic acidosis which in turn would be responsible for increased calciuria and accelerated mineral dissolution. This claim is based on an hypothesis that artificially assembles various notions, including in vitro observations on the physical-chemical property of apatite crystal, short term human studies on the calciuric response to increased protein intakes, as well as retrospective inter-ethnic comparisons on the prevalence of hip fractures. The main purpose of this review is to analyze the evidence that refutes a relation of causality between the elements of this putative patho-physiological “cascade” that purports that animal proteins are causally associated with an increased incidence of osteoporotic fractures. In contrast, many experimental and clinical published data concur to indicate that low protein intake negatively affects bone health. Thus, selective deficiency in dietary proteins causes marked deterioration in bone mass, micro architecture and strength, the hallmark of osteoporosis. In the elderly, low protein intakes are often observed in patients with hip fracture. In these patients intervention study after orthopedic management demonstrates that protein supplementation as given in the form of casein, attenuates post-fracture bone loss, increases muscles strength, reduces medical complications and hospital stay. In agreement with both experimental and clinical intervention studies, large prospective epidemiologic observations indicate that relatively high protein intakes, including those from animal sources are associated with increased bone mineral mass and reduced incidence of osteoporotic fractures. As to the increased calciuria that can be observed in response to an augmentation in either animal or vegetal proteins it can be explained by a stimulation of the intestinal calcium absorption. Dietary proteins also enhance IGF-1, a factor that exerts positive activity on skeletal development and bone formation. Consequently, dietary proteins are as essential as calcium and vitamin D for bone health and osteoporosis prevention. Furthermore, there is no consistent evidence for superiority of vegetal over animal proteins on calcium metabolism, bone loss prevention and risk reduction of fragility fractures.

Bonjour JP
J Am Coll Nutr Dec 2005
PMID: 16373952

High-Protein + Adequate Calcium is Better for Maintaining Bone Than Normal-Protein Diets in Rats


Effects of the amount and source of dietary protein on bone status in rats.

This study examined the effects of the dietary amount and source of protein on bone status in rats. 140 male Wistar rats aged 8 weeks were randomly allocated to 4 groups (n = 35) fed normal-protein (NP, 10% richness) or high-protein (HP, 45% richness) diets based on whey protein (WP) or soy protein (SP) sources for 12 weeks. Plasma urea was 46% higher for the HP compared to the NP diet (p < 0.001). Urinary calcium was 65% higher for the HP compared to the NP and 60% higher for the WP compared to the SP diets (all, p < 0.001). Urinary pH was 8% more acidic in the HP compared to the NP diet (p < 0.001) and 4% in the WP compared to the SP diet (p < 0.01). The plasma osteocalcin concentration was 19% higher for the NP compared to the HP (p < 0.05) and 25% for the SP compared to the WP diets (p < 0.01). Femur ash, metaphyseal and diaphyseal cross-sectional, trabecular and cortical areas were 3% higher in the HP compared to the NP diet (all, p < 0.05). Femur diaphyseal periosteal and endocortical perimeters were also 3% higher in the HP compared to the NP diet (both, p < 0.01). Groups fed the SP diet showed 2% higher femur ash percentage, 7% higher calcium content (both, p < 0.001), and 3% higher diaphyseal cortical area and thickness (both, p < 0.05) than those fed the WP diet. Some interactions were found, such as the greater effects of the SP diet on decreasing the higher plasma urea concentration promoted by the intake of the HP diet (p < 0.001). Under adequate Ca intake, HP diets could better maintain bone properties than NP diets, even with increasing some acidity markers, which could be reduced by the intake of SP sources.

Nebot E, Erben RG, Porres JM, Femia P…
Food Funct Apr 2014
PMID: 24531397

Alkaline Diet is Not Justified


Meta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balance.

The acid-ash hypothesis posits that protein and grain foods, with a low potassium intake, produce a diet acid load, net acid excretion (NAE), increased urine calcium, and release of calcium from the skeleton, leading to osteoporosis. The objectives of this meta-analysis were to assess the effect of changes in NAE, by manipulation of healthy adult subjects’ acid-base intakes, on urine calcium, calcium balance, and a marker of bone metabolism, N-telopeptides. This meta-analysis was limited to studies that used superior methodological quality for the study of calcium metabolism. We systematically searched the literature and included studies if subjects were randomized to the interventions and followed the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine’s Panel on Calcium and Related Nutrients for calcium studies. Five of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies altered the amount and/or type of protein. Despite a significant linear relationship between an increase in NAE and urinary calcium (p < 0.0001), there was no relationship between a change of NAE and a change of calcium balance (p = 0.38; power = 94%). There was no relationship between a change of NAE and a change in the marker of bone metabolism, N-telopeptides (p = 0.95). In conclusion, this meta-analysis does not support the concept that the calciuria associated with higher NAE reflects a net loss of whole body calcium. There is no evidence from superior quality balance studies that increasing the diet acid load promotes skeletal bone mineral loss or osteoporosis. Changes of urine calcium do not accurately represent calcium balance. Promotion of the “alkaline diet” to prevent calcium loss is not justified.

Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC…
J. Bone Miner. Res. Nov 2009
PMID: 19419322

Review: High-Protein + Calcium + Fruit + Veggies is Important for Bone Health


Acid diet (high-meat protein) effects on calcium metabolism and bone health.

Update recent advancements regarding the effect of high-animal protein intakes on calcium utilization and bone health.
Increased potential renal acid load resulting from a high protein (intake above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8 g protein/kg body weight) intake has been closely associated with increased urinary calcium excretion. However, recent findings do not support the assumption that bone is lost to provide the extra calcium found in urine. Neither whole body calcium balance is, nor are bone status indicators, negatively affected by the increased acid load. Contrary to the supposed detrimental effect of protein, the majority of epidemiological studies have shown that long-term high-protein intake increases bone mineral density and reduces bone fracture incidence. The beneficial effects of protein such as increasing intestinal calcium absorption and circulating IGF-I whereas lowering serum parathyroid hormone sufficiently offset any negative effects of the acid load of protein on bone health.
On the basis of recent findings, consuming protein (including that from meat) higher than current Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is beneficial to calcium utilization and bone health, especially in the elderly. A high-protein diet with adequate calcium and fruits and vegetables is important for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.

Cao JJ, Nielsen FH
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care Nov 2010
PMID: 20717017

High-Protein Short-Term Diets are Not Detrimental to Bone


Calcium homeostasis and bone metabolic responses to high-protein diets during energy deficit in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial.

Although consuming dietary protein above current recommendations during energy deficit (ED) preserves lean body mass, concerns have been raised regarding the effects of high-protein diets on bone health. The objective was to determine whether calcium homeostasis and bone turnover are affected by high-protein diets during weight maintenance (WM) and ED.

In a randomized, parallel-design, controlled trial of 32 men and 7 women, volunteers were assigned diets providing protein at 0.8 [Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)], 1.6 (2 × RDA), or 2.4 (3 × RDA) g · kg(-1) · d(-1) for 31 d. Ten days of WM preceded 21 d of ED, during which total daily ED was 40%, achieved by reduced dietary energy intake (∼30%) and increased physical activity (∼10%). The macronutrient composition (protein g · kg(-1) · d(-1) and % fat) was held constant from WM to ED. Calcium absorption (ratio of (44)Ca to (42)Ca) and circulating indexes of bone turnover were determined at day 8 (WM) and day 29 (ED).
Regardless of energy state, mean (±SEM) urinary pH was lower (P < 0.05) at 2 × RDA (6.28 ± 0.05) and 3 × RDA (6.23 ± 0.06) than at the RDA (6.54 ± 0.06). However, protein had no effect on either urinary calcium excretion (P > 0.05) or the amount of calcium retained (P > 0.05). ED decreased serum insulin-like growth factor I concentrations and increased serum tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase and 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations (P < 0.01). Remaining markers of bone turnover and whole-body bone mineral density and content were not affected by either the protein level or ED (P > 0.05).
These data demonstrate that short-term consumption of high-protein diets does not disrupt calcium homeostasis and is not detrimental to skeletal integrity.

Cao JJ, Pasiakos SM, Margolis LM, Sauter ER…
Am. J. Clin. Nutr. Feb 2014
PMID: 24284444