Research supports the hypothesis that higher total protein intake during weight loss promotes retention of lean soft tissue, but the effect of dietary protein quantity on bone mass, a lean hard tissue, is inconsistent. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the effect of dietary protein quantity [higher protein (HP): ≥25% of energy from protein or ≥1.0 g · kg body wt-1 · d-1; normal protein (NP): <25% of energy from protein or <1.0 g · kg body wt-1 · d-1] on changes in bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC; total body, lumbar spine, total hip, femoral neck) following a prescribed energy restriction. We hypothesized that an HP diet would attenuate the loss of BMD/BMC following weight loss in comparison to an NP diet. Two researchers systematically and independently screened 2366 publications from PubMed, Cochrane, Scopus, CINAHL, and Web of Science Core Collection and extracted data from 34 qualified publications. Inclusion criteria included the following: 1) healthy subjects ≥19 y; 2) a prescribed energy restriction; 3) measurements of total protein intake, BMD, and BMC; and 4) an intervention duration of ≥3 mo. Data from 10 of the 34 publications with 2 groups of different total protein intakes were extracted and used to conduct a random-effects model meta-analysis. A majority of publications (59%) showed a decrease in bone quantity following active weight loss, regardless of total protein intake. Statistically, the loss of total BMD (P = 0.016; weighted mean difference: +0.006 g/cm2; 95% CI: 0, 0.011 g/cm2) and lumbar spine BMD (P = 0.019; weighted mean difference: +0.017 g/cm2; 95% CI: 0.001, 0.033 g/cm2) was attenuated with an HP versus an NP weight-loss diet. However, the clinical significance is questionable given the modest weighted mean difference and study duration. Higher total protein intake does not exacerbate but may attenuate the loss of bone quantity following weight loss.
Keywords: bone mineral content; bone mineral density; dietary protein; energy restriction; lean hard tissue; meta-analysis; systematic review; total protein intake; weight loss.
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