High Protein Diet May Slow Bone Loss

Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle and bone health, but a high protein intake has been hypothesized to be potentially dangerous, creating an acid environment that leads to bone loss, osteoporosis, and fractures.

Not so, according to a review conducted by the International Osteoporosis Foundation and supported by a grant from the dairy industry. A panel of experts reviewed current clinical evidence and found no evidence of that risk, and instead recommended a high protein intake for older adults with osteoporosis. Studies show that a high protein intake combined with adequate amounts of calcium are linked with higher bone mineral density, slower bone loss, and a modestly lower risk of hip fracture. In fact, the panel says, insufficient intake of protein may be much more of a concern for bone health among older adults than excessive intake—especially since it is well known that many older adults don’t eat the recommended amounts of protein for their age. The review was published last year in Osteoporosis International.

The recommended dietary allowance for adults is 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight, but older adults may need as much as 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Further research is needed to clarify the impact of dietary protein on fracture risk. If you are an older adult and you have osteoporosis, ask your doctor about getting enough dietary protein. Also see your doctor if you have chronic kidney disease, because a high-protein diet can worsen it.