I was recently speaking with a women’s circle group about protein consumption during their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s (years of life). There was a room full of women who were asking lots of questions about how much protein they should consume to prevent muscle loss and strive for optimal health during aging. One woman raised her hand and asked “What about animal protein and calcium? I heard that eating too much animal protein can make your bones brittle?” Wow! I was so impressed by her question because this is something that is talked about (lots) in the nutrition world.
I thought I would share my answer here in case any of you have the same question.
Animal Protein and calcium intake do go hand in hand. Many people have read that increasing animal protein intake may increase calcium excretion…and therefore lead to poor bone health and a potential for more fractures (wrist, spine and hip). Not a good thing. However, in the past 2-3 years we have learned more about the topic and now realize that higher protein intake actually leads to a higher absorption of calcium. Very cool!
So how much is a lot? Well, it seems that those who get ~800mg of calcium/day AND who eat high amounts of protein (85+grams/day) seem to have the lowest risk of developing a fracture.
If you don’t have higher intakes of both (800mg of calcium and 85+grams of protein) you may be a greater risk for poor bone health so it is important to think of protein and calcium together when meal planning.
So eat up…enjoy those lean animal proteins and get some calcium. You’ll be helping your bones as well as your muscles!!
1. Shapses SA, et al. Hormonal and dietary influences on true fractional calcium absorption in women: role of obesity. Osteoporos Int. 2012
2. Sahni S., et al. Protective effect of high protein and calcium intake on the risk of hip fracture in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2010.