Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Protein Saves Bone in Elders / April 6, 2001 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
ARS News and Information Search News and Info Science for Kids Image Gallery Agricultural Research Magazine Publications and Newsletters News Archive News and Info home ARS News and Information
Latest news | Subscribe

 

Protein Saves Bone in Elders

By Judy McBride
April 6, 2001

It’s no secret that people need ample calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones, even in their twilight years. Now, a study suggests that protein intake may be important in reducing bone loss in elders.

The 70- to 90-year-old men and women with the highest protein intakes lost significantly less bone over a four-year period than those who consumed half or less the protein. Animal protein, as well as overall protein intake, was associated with preserving bone.

The study was conducted by researchers with the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged, Research and Training Institute; Boston University; and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, all in Boston, Mass. Lead author Marian T. Hannan at the Hebrew center collaborated with Katherine L. Tucker at the USDA center and others. The USDA center is funded by the department’s chief scientific research agency, the Agricultural Research Service.

The findings run counter to studies of younger people that found diets high in protein, especially animal protein, cause the body to excrete more calcium. However, they confirm several other large population studies showing protein to have a positive overall effect on bone, according to Hannan.

With data from 615 participants in the Framingham (Mass.) Osteoporosis Study, the researchers examined the relationship between their protein intakes in 1988-89 and changes in bone mineral density four years later. They accounted for all factors known to increase risk of bone loss.

Participants who reported the lowest daily protein intakes--roughly equivalent to half a chicken breast--had lost significantly more bone in the hip and spine four years later than those with the highest intakes--equivalent to about nine ounces of steak and a cup of tuna salad.

The group with the next lowest intake--equivalent to about two cups of cottage cheese--also lost significantly more bone than the highest-intake group, but only at the hip. People can search the USDA food composition tables for the protein content of more than 6,000 foods at:

http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl

Scientific contact: Katherine L. Tucker, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, Mass., phone (617) 556-3351, fax (617) 556-3344, tucker@hnrc.tufts.edu.

Top | News Staff | Photo Staff

E-mail the web team Privacy and other policies Site map About ARS Information Staff Bottom menu

Home | News | Pubs | Magazine | Photos | Sci4Kids | Search
About ARS Info | Site map | Policies | E-mail us

Last Modified: 1/3/2002
Footer Content Back to Top of Page