Protein-packed foods are unquestionably the hottest items in the marketplace, for their benefits from muscle building to weight management, blood sugar control to healthy aging. But, what about the age-old story about protein leaching calcium out of bones?
Scientists have studied this issue of protein intake and bone health for years. Indeed, it was once thought that higher protein diets caused the body to lose calcium. However, newer research has found that high protein intake also increases intestinal calcium absorption, offsetting its effect on calcium excretion. More simply, the body needs both protein and calcium, in the right proportions, for strong bones.
Various other studies have shown that bone mineral density may actually benefit from high-protein diets if the diet meets the recommended dietary allowance of calcium and vitamin D. In other words, eating foods rich in calcium offsets a possible protein-calcium loss relationship. This intuitively makes sense, as protein is an important part of bones!
Milk and dairy foods provide both the calcium and protein that bones need, in the right proportions, making it an excellent food to consume throughout life to build and maintain strong bones. A glass of milk contains 8-10 grams of protein, about one-fifth the daily recommendation for a 135-pound person.
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Bonjour JP. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6 Suppl):526S-36S.
Kerstetter, J.E. et al. The impact of dietary protein on calcium absorption and kinetic measures of bone turnover in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2005; 90(1):26-31.