High Protein Diets and Bone Loss

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects 10 million American women, with millions more at high risk. When bones become less dense and more porous, they weaken and are more susceptible to fracturing or breaking. There are no warning signs that you have it and you usually find out about it after you’ve fallen and broken your wrist or hip. If you’re fortunate enough to get regular bone density tests, then you’ll have a heads-up on treatment options if you’ve been diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and broken bones are called “risk factors.” Many of these risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Older age
  • Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
  • Being small and thin
  • Certain race/ethnicities such as Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino although African Americans are also at risk
  • History of broken bones
  • Low sex hormones
    • Low estrogen levels in women, including menopause
    • Missing periods (amenorrhea)
    • Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men
  • Diet
    • Low calcium intake
    • Low vitamin D intake
    • Excessive intake of protein, sodium and caffeine
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Certain medications such as steroid medications, some anticonvulsants and others
  • Certain diseases and conditions such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases and others


There’s a significant amount of research that seems to indicate that diets high in animal protein can speed up bone loss. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but it’s believed that the acidity that is associated with foods containing amino acids [such as meat] may promote the loss of calcium.  The way our kidneys handle that acid can influence calcium regulation.  Another explanation could be that meat proteins influence the continual breakdown and buildup of bones. Just another reason to stick to a more vegetarian-style diet. The study showed that including eggs and dairy, in addition to beans, nuts, and other legumes were the least damaging to the bones as compared to the consumption of other animal protein. You can read more about this study by clicking on the following link: http://www.rodale.com/bone-density-loss-and-diet?cm_mmc=DailyNewsNL-_-2010_07_21-_-Top5-_-NA


There’s a lot you can do to help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • Make sure your diet is rich in Calcium and Vitamin D, and fruits and vegetables (which provide additional minerals important to the building of bone)
  • Get regular weight-bearingexercise, including walking, running, and weight lifting; do not smoke
  • Watch your alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

If you are in menopause or post-menopausal, you may want to consider an estrogen replacement or phyto-estrogen (plant-based) supplement. Make sure to talk to your gynecologist and discuss your options, as one recommendation does not apply across the board to all women.

To learn more about osteoporosis, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s website at http://www.nof.org/

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