Eating protein may protect elderly bones

May 1, 2001 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition for Older Adults

Eating protein may protect elderly bones

Elderly people who do not consume enough protein may be at risk for osteoporosis, a recent study from Harvard Medical School suggests.

According to the report, elderly people who consumed the least amount of protein lost significantly more bone than those who ate the most protein, regardless of their age, weight, smoking habits, calcium intake and use of estrogen. The findings suggest that protein may join the ranks of calcium and vitamin D in keeping bones strong and protecting against osteoporosis, fractures and falls.

The study of 615 elderly people found that the average protein intake was about 68 grams a day -- higher than recommended levels of about 55-65 grams a day for men and roughly 45-55 grams a day for women.

About one-quarter of adults in the study consumed less protein than these guidelines recommend. Low intake of protein from meat sources was associated with greater bone loss from the thigh and spine.

Some studies have suggested that very high levels of protein can interfere with calcium levels in the body, but this occurs primarily with extremely high levels of protein, not often seen in the elderly.

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