Protein intake and fracture risk: A double-edged sword?
My Alkaline For Life® diet classifies protein foods as acid-forming, which makes many people wonder if a lower protein intake might be better for bones. But protein is essential for bone health and almost half of all bone (by volume) is actually made of protein in the form of the flexible bone protein matrix which contains embedded mineral crystals. Several studies show that protein intake above the current RDA — around 50 g a day for females and 63 g for males — can actually benefit bone.
There is a caveat about high protein intake
If you increase your protein intake you must balance it by taking in more foods and supplements that provide vital alkalizing compounds to buffer any excess acid produced when your body metabolizes dietary proteins. See my article on the benefits of protein for more details.
This recommendation for protein intake is supported by a paper presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR). Researchers analyzed 12-year follow-up data from the Framingham Offspring Study, looking for correlations between hip fracture risk and high-protein diets, and how fracture risk might be offset by higher intake of calcium.
Acidifying protein can damage bone by causing a loss of calcium in the urine. The study’s finding showed that, in people who take in high amounts of protein and low amounts of calcium (less than 800 mg a day), hip fracture risk is almost 3 times higher than those with a lower protein intake. However, those who have high animal protein intake and 800 mg of daily calcium exhibit an 85% reduction in hip fracture risk.
So high-protein intake does not necessarily damage bone and can instead be good for bone tissue. But for that to happen, you simply must offset the impact of protein’s acid-forming nature. These researchers found that a good way to compensate is to take in more calcium in order to reduce the loss of calcium through the urine. At the Center for Better Bones, we believe that the best way to balance a high-protein diet is to take in a full range of alkalizing compounds from food and supplements.
You can keep your acid load in check with our Better Bones, Better Body Ph Test Kit.
Sahni, S, Cupples, L, McLean, R, et al. 2009. Protein intake: A double edge calcium-related sword for hip fracture risk. ASBMR 31st annual meeting, Presentation number 1056.