Protein and Bone Health
Should you consume a lot of protein if you have (or are at risk for) osteoporosis or osteopenia (thinning of bones)? A recent review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the answer.(1)
Protein has been shown to be both beneficial and harmful to bone mass in certain studies. Protein makes up the structural matrix of bone (makes up 50% of the volume of bone). Protein helps to maintain muscle mass and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) is often associated with the loss of bone, esp. in seniors.
On the other hand, increased protein intake has been reported to cause increased urinary calcium excretion. This can result in a negative calcium balance and some studies suggest that there is an increased risk of fracture or osteoporosis. High protein intake can increase acid production in the body and higher acid levels (lower pH) are associated with bone loss.
A careful review of the research indicates that as long as calcium intake is sufficient, high protein diets are associated with greater bone mass and fewer fractures. With respect to the acid/alkaline balance of the body, if your diet is like the typical Western diet consisting mostly of grains and proteins, your system will be very acidic and that will be negative for bone health. Such a diet has been associated with osteoporosis and urinary calcium loss. On the other hand, if your acidic high protein diet is balanced by a healthy intake of alkanizing fruits and vegetables, then you will have a pH balanced system.
To summarize: to ensure stronger bones, combine a moderate high protein diet with plenty of calcium, Vitamin D, and lots of alkanizing fruits and vegetables.
1. Heaney RP, Layman DK. Amount and type of protein influences bone health. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 87(supplement):1567S-70S.