Protein and osteoporosis

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What about the claim that high-protein diets cause osteoporosis? In inactive people, some studies have shown that increased protein intakes lead to elevated calcium excretion. This is because high-protein intakes increase the acidity of the blood, and the body must "leach" calcium from the bones to buffer the acidity. The researchers theorized that this calcium loss could lead to accelerated osteoporosis, especially in women.

While this phenomenon has been observed in sedentary individuals, there's no clearly established link between high-protein intake and osteoporosis. Women with risk factors for osteoporosis should be more cautious, but if you're athletically inclined and participate in aerobic and resistance exercise, you'll have fewer risk factors. Weight training and weight-bearing exercise increases bone density. Here's what Herbert and Shubak-Sharpe had to say on the subject:

"Our typical high-protein, high-meat diets have also been implicated as a factor in the development of osteoporosis, but these claims may be the results of misinterpreting scientific research. Studies have shown that adding purified protein supplements and amino-acid mixtures that have had their phosphate removed do increase excretion of calcium by the kidney in both animals and humans. However, several long-term controlled human studies carried out by Herta Spencer, M.D., at the Hines VA Medical Center in Illinois have shown that high intakes of protein from natural protein sources such as meat, which have their phosphate intact, do not significantly increase calcium loss."

A post-menopausal sedentary woman would not be well advised to go on a high protein diet, but if you're a bodybuilder, or even if you just train with weights recreationally, then you'll have denser bones than someone who doesn't work out. Therefore, extra protein should not be a cause for concern.

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