STATEWIDE OSTEOPOROSIS RESOURCE CENTER
 

Protein

 

Why is protein important?

Adequate protein intake is important for maintaining the structure and function of several organs and systems of your body including your skeletal muscles and bones. Enough protein is necessary during youth and young adulthood to reach peak bone mass. In adulthood, adequate protein helps to maintain bone mass, bone quality, and bone strength.

What foods contain protein?

It's easy for most people to get the protein they need from a varied diet. Protein is found in many foods of animal origin like meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. It is also available from vegetable sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

For more information about the protein content of selected foods, click on The USDA National Nutrient Database listed according to nutrient content or listed alphabetically.

How much protein is recommended each day?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight or .36 grams per pound of body weight. This amount is expected to meet the needs of most healthy adults. Athletes, growing children, nursing mothers, and people who have undergone surgery may need more protein per pound of body weight.

Do most people get the recommended amount of protein?

In the United States, most people exceed the RDA for protein from the food that they eat in a typical day with the exception of older adults. It is important to pay special attention to the protein intake of older adults. It is important for older adults to should include a palm-sized portion of protein (about the size of a deck of cards) at each meal.

How does low protein intake influence the bone health of older adults?

In older adults, low protein intake may be related to lower bone mass, muscle weakness, poor coordination, and slower reaction time. This may lead to an increased risk for falls. Low protein intake may be associated with overall poor nutritional status or frailty. It is common for poorly nourished older individuals to have a reduced layer of soft tissue to cushion and protect the hip in the event of a fall. In fact, research indicates that older adults with protein intakes below the recommended levels have higher rates of hip fracture.

How does protein intake influence recovery after fracture?

In addition to the role of adequate protein in the prevention of bone loss and/or fracture in older adults, protein is one of the key nutrients responsible for improved outcome after a fracture. In clinical trial, it was found that patients post hip fracture have demonstrated that an increase in protein intake, from low to the recommended levels, resulted in reduced bone loss, fewer medical complications, and significantly shortened the length of hospital stay after fracture.

Is animal or plant-based protein better for my bones?

There is no evidence that the source of protein, animal versus vegetable, influences calcium balance or bone metabolism. Most of the recent studies show no significant difference in the effect of plant-based versus animal-based protein on bone mass or hip fracture risk in older women.

Is too much protein intake bad for my bones?

It is clear that an excessive intake of protein increases calcium loss through the kidneys (into the urine) but that does not mean that it is will result in bone loss. In fact, most studies have found that when dietary calcium is adequate, the high protein intakes typical of the American diet do not have adverse effects on bone health. On the other hand, high protein intakes may be harmful if calcium intake is low. To avoid any potential risk to healthy bones, it is important to get the recommended amount of calcium each day.