Protein Is Good For You…Right? Does it make your bones brittle?

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.


Live Strong: Bone Health for Adults

Live Strong:  Bone Health for Adults

What is Osteoporosis?

Although many of us have heard of osteoporosis before, we may wonder what it really is. Osteoporosis is simply a disease of the bones, and happens when bones lose the minerals that make them strong. When bones lose their minerals, they become like fragile honeycombs, full of tiny holes and easy to break. Many mature adults are impacted by osteoporosis every day. Bones can become more fragile as we enter the mature years. Senior adults are often more susceptible to falls and events that may challenge bones. Staying strong by caring for bone health through exercise and nutrition can help mature adults live longer, healthier lives and avoid weak bones.

Filling Up: Some Good-for-Bones Foods

The Mayo Clinic, one of the foremost medical centers in the USA, relates that “It’s never too late… to do something about osteoporosis.” In fact, studies show that adding calcium and Vitamin D to your diet as a mature adult can slow down bone loss and how fast fractures occur. Other studies indicate that eating fruits and vegetables may also help bone density. Adding foods like yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs can help you get the calcium and Vitamin D that helps bones stay strong. Some fish, such as tuna, sardines, or salmon can also give your bones an additional Vitamin D boost!

Get Moving!

Exercise is also an important component of bone health. Studies show that physical activity can lower your risk of falling. And physical activity can help keep your bones healthy. Click Osteoporosis Handout for just a few ideas for ways you can stay active for better bones, and a better you.

Guest Blogger:  Mary Catherine Shafer

References and photos:

“Eating fish may thwart “silent” brain damage”

“Exercise is Key for Health in Older Adults”

International Osteoporosis Foundation,

Carter ND, Kannus P, Khan KM (2001) Exercise in the prevention of falls in older people: a systematic literature review examining the rationale and the evidence. Sports Med 31:427

“Vegetables, Not Fruit, Help Fight Memory Problems In Old Age”

Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, et al. (1999) Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 69:727.

Chapuy MC, Arlot ME, Duboeuf F, et al. (1992) Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in the elderly women. N Engl J Med 327:1637.

“Exercise for Older Adults, A Crozer-Keystone PSA”