Eat Protein for Bone Health?

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Moms everywhere often encourage their kids to drink milk – the poster child for calcium – to help build strong bones. Calcium and vitamin D have long been documented as important nutrients needed for optimal bone health,1 but does dietary protein play a positive role as well? Or, could protein intake have a harmful effect on bone health?

To try to answer these questions, a group of prestigious bone health researchers, coordinated by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating 16 randomized controlled trials and 20 prospective cohort studies.2

The analysis demonstrated that protein intake seems to have a positive effect on bone mineral density, particularly for the lumbar spine. The researchers concluded that, “overall, the body of evidence shows that the effect of dietary protein on the skeleton appears to be favorable to a small extent and is not detrimental.”

While more research is needed to better understand the relationship, preliminary data demonstrates that protein may be a nutrient moms should be encouraging to optimize their children’s bone health.




1. National Institutes of Health. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. Bone Health for Life.

2. Shams-White MM, et al. Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:1528-43.

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