Whey Protein Supplementation and Higher Total Protein Intake Do Not Influence Bone Quantity in Overweight and Obese Adults Following a 36-Week Exercise and Diet Intervention

J Nutr. 2017 Feb;147(2):179-186. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.240473. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


Background: Controversy exists concerning the effects of higher total protein intake (TPro) on bone health, which may be associated with reduced bone mineral density (BMD). However, whey protein (WP) may induce bone formation because of its basic component, milk basic protein.

Objective: This study assessed the effects of WP supplementation, TPro, and change in TPro (postsupplementation - presupplementation) on BMD and bone mineral content (BMC; total body, lumbar spine, total femur, and femoral neck) in overweight and class I obese middle-aged adults following an exercise intervention.

Methods: This analysis used data from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled 36-wk WP supplementation trial, wherein participants consumed a 1.7-MJ (400-kcal) supplement (0, 20, 40, or 60 g WP/d) along with their otherwise unrestricted diet while participating in a resistance and aerobic exercise intervention (3 d/wk). TPro was the summation of WP and habitual dietary intakes (4-d food record). Statistical analyses for WP were based on group and bone data [n = 186, 108 women; mean ± SD age: 49 ± 8 y; body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2): 30.1 ± 2.8], whereas TPro was based on dietary and bone data (n = 113, 70 women; age 50 ± 8 y; BMI 30.1 ± 2.9).

Results: WP supplementation, regardless of dose, did not influence BMD or BMC following the intervention. By using a multiple linear regression model, TPro (expressed as g/d or g · kg-1 · d-1) and change in TPro (expressed as g/d) were not associated with responses over time in total or regional BMD or BMC. By using a cluster analysis approach [<1.0 (n = 41), 1.0-1.2 (n = 28), and ≥1.2 g · kg-1 · d-1 (n = 44)], TPro was also not associated with responses in total or regional BMD or BMC over time.

Conclusion: WP supplementation and total dietary protein intake did not negatively or beneficially influence bone quantity in overweight and obese adults during a 9-mo exercise intervention. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00812409.

Keywords: bone mass; bone mineral content; bone mineral density; dietary protein; exercise; whey protein.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Dietary Proteins*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / metabolism*
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Whey Proteins

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00812409