Does Protein Leach Calcium Out of Bones? A Research Update.


Does Protein Leach Calcium Out of Bones? A Research Update.

03, December 2014 8:00 AM

At one point early in my career as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I naively thought I knew everything there was to know about nutrition. I remember thinking this after attending a professional education conference in which I didn't learn anything new. This attitude has long since disappeared, as I continue to find the science of nutrition fascinating with new research emerging all the time!

One area that has changed is the understanding about the role protein has on bone health. It was once thought that protein leached the calcium out of bones, causing the body to lose calcium and bone strength. It is now known that bone growth is influenced by dietary intake of protein and calcium. Adequate dietary calcium and protein are essential to achieving optimal peak bone mass during skeletal growth and to prevent bone loss as people age.

This emerging research has found that although high protein intake increases calcium excretion, this is offset by increased intestinal calcium absorption. In other words, the body needs both protein and calcium, in the right proportions, for strong bones.1,2

Various other studies have shown that bone mineral density may actually benefit from higher-protein diets if the diet meets the recommended dietary allowance of calcium and vitamin D. And dairy products (fortified with vitamins A and D) induce more favorable changes in biochemical indexes of bone metabolism than calcium supplementation alone.3

It is also important to note that new research is finding many health benefits of higher protein intake. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is actually just a minimum amount needed to replace daily losses. Higher protein intake can help with weight management, satiety, healthy aging, diabetes management and blood sugar control as well as bone health. 

Milk and dairy products 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.4 Click here to learn more about the amount of protein and calcium in a glass of milk as well as the other nutrients in milk and milk products. 


Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Director, Resource Development and Marketing


Maureen is a registered dietitian nutritionist and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

1. Dawson-Hughes, B. Calcium and protein in bone health. Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 May;62(2):505-9.
2. Bonjour JP. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Dec;24(6 Suppl):526S-36S.
3. 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.
4. Rizzoli R.Dairy products, yogurts, and bone health.Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;99(5 Suppl):1256S-62S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073056. Epub 2014 Apr 2.

Tags: bone health Maureen Bligh protein

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