Dietary intake of protein is fundamental for optimal acquisition and maintenance of bone across all life stages; however, it has been hypothesized that intakes above the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) might be beneficial for bone health. We utilized the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines when preparing and reporting this systematic review and meta-analysis. A literature search strategy through April 11, 2017, was developed for the following 3 databases: PubMed, Ovid Medline, and Agricola. Included studies were those randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies among healthy adults ages 18 and older that examined the relationships between varying doses of protein intake at or above the current U.S. RDA (0.8 g/kg/d or 10%-15% of total caloric intake) from any source on fracture, bone mineral density (BMD)/bone mineral content (BMC), and/or markers of bone turnover. Twenty-nine articles were included for data extraction (16 randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and 13 prospective cohort studies). Meta-analysis of the prospective cohort studies showed high vs low protein intakes resulted in a statistically significant 16% decrease in hip fractures (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.84, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.73, 0.95; I2 = 36.8%). Data from studies included in these analyses collectively lean toward the hypothesis that protein intake above the current RDA is beneficial to BMD at several sites. This systematic review supports that protein intakes above the current RDA may have some beneficial role in preventing hip fractures and BMD loss. There were no differences between animal or plant proteins, although data in this area were scarce. Larger, long-term, and more well-controlled clinical trials measuring fracture outcomes and BMD are needed to adequately assess whether protein intake above the current RDA is beneficial as a preventative measure and/or intervention strategy for osteoporosis. Key teaching points: • • Bone health is a multifactorial musculoskeletal issue, and optimal protein intakes are key in developing and maintaining bone throughout the life span. • • Dietary protein at levels above the current RDA may be beneficial in preventing hip fractures and BMD loss. • • Plant vs animal proteins do not seem to differ in their ability to prevent bone loss; however, data in this area are scarce. • • Larger, long-term RCTs using women not using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are needed to adequately assess the magnitude of impact that protein intakes above the RDA have on preventing bone loss.
Keywords: Protein; bone; bone density; calcium; fractures.