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Calcium and protein in bone health*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2007

Bess Dawson-Hughes*
Calcium and Bone Metabolism Laboratory, The Jean Mayer USD A Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, 711 Washington St, Boston, MA, 02111, USA
Corresponding author: Dr Bess Dawson-Hughes, fax +1 617 556 3305,
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Dietary protein has several opposing effects on Ca balance and its net effect on bone is not well established. It has long been recognized that increasing protein intake increases urinary Ca excretion. More recently, it has been observed that increasing dietary protein raises the circulating level of insulin-like growth factor-1, a growth factor that promotes osteoblast formation and bone growth. Other effects of protein on the Ca economy have been suggested in some studies, but they are less well established. Several studies have examined associations between protein intake and bone loss and fracture rates. In the original Framingham cohort subjects with lower total and animal protein intakes had greater rates of bone loss from the femoral neck and spine than subjects consuming more protein. In another study higher total (and animal) protein intakes were associated with a reduced incidence of hip fractures in post-menopausal women. In contrast, a high animahplant protein intake has been associated with greater bone loss from the femoral neck and a greater risk of hip fracture in older women. Higher total and higher animal protein intakes have also been associated with increased risk of forearm fracture in younger post-menopausal women. In a recent study it was found that increasing dietary protein was associated with a favourable (positive) change in bone mineral density of the femoral neck and total body in subjects taking supplemental calcium citrate malate with vitamin D, but not in those taking placebo. The possibility that Ca intake may influence the impact of dietary protein on the skeleton warrants further investigation.

Macronutrient Group Symposium on ‘Protein intake and chronic disease’
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2003



This material is based on work supported by agrant (AG10353) from the National Institutes of Health and by the US Department of Agriculture, under agreement no. 58-1950-9001. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the view of the US Department of Agriculture


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