Is protein intake associated with bone mineral density in young women?

The range of protein intakes for optimizing bone  health among premenopausal women is unclear. Protein is a major  constituent of bone, but acidic amino acids may promote bone  resorption.

The objective was to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between baseline dietary protein and bone mineral density (BMD) among 560 females aged 14–40 y at baseline enrolled in a Pacific Northwest managed-care organization. The role of protein source (animal or vegetable) and participant characteristics were considered.

Dietary protein intake was assessed by using a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire in participants enrolled in a study investigating associations between hormonal contraceptive use and bone health. Annual changes in hip, spine, and whole-body BMD were measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between baseline protein intake (% of energy) and BMD were examined by using linear regression analysis and generalized estimating equations adjusted for confounders.

The mean (±SD) protein intake at baseline was 15.5 ± 3.2%. After multivariable adjustment, the mean BMD was similar across each tertile of protein intake. In cross-sectional analyses, low vegetable protein intake was associated with a lower BMD (P = 0.03 for hip, P = 0.10 for spine, and P = 0.04 for whole body). For every percentage increase in the percentage of energy from protein, no significant longitudinal changes in BMD were observed at any anatomic site over the follow-up period.

Data from this longitudinal study suggest that a higher protein intake does not have an adverse effect on bone in premenopausal women. Cross-sectional analyses suggest that low vegetable protein intake is associated with lower BMD.


Is protein intake associated with bone mineral density in young women? Beasley JM, Ichikawa LE, Ange BA et al. (2010) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (5):1311-1316


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