Protein consumption is an important predictor of lower limb bone mass in elderly women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun;81(6):1423-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.6.1423.


Background: The effect of protein intake on bone density is uncertain, and evidence exists for beneficial effects of both low and high protein intakes.

Objective: The objective was to study the relation between protein consumption and bone mass in elderly women with allowance for other lifestyle factors affecting bone metabolism.

Design: We conducted a cross-sectional and longitudinal study of a population-based sample of 1077 women aged 75 +/- 3 y. At baseline, protein consumption was measured with a food-frequency questionnaire, and bone mass and structure were measured by using quantitative ultrasound of the heel. One year later, hip bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

Results: Subjects consumed a mean (+/-SD) of 80.5 +/- 27.8 g protein/d (1.19 +/- 0.44 g protein/kg body wt). Regression analysis showed a positive correlation between protein intake and qualitative ultrasound of the heel and BMD after adjustment for age, body mass index, and other nutrients. The dose-response effect was best characterized by protein consumption expressed in tertiles, such that subjects in the lowest tertile (<66 g protein/d) had significantly lower qualitative ultrasound of the heel (1.3%) and hip BMD (2.6%) than did the subjects in the higher tertiles (>87 g protein/d).

Conclusion: These data suggest that protein intakes for elderly women above current recommendations may be necessary to optimize bone mass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcaneus / diagnostic imaging
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control*
  • Pelvic Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonography


  • Dietary Proteins