Related Topics: Menopause, Nutrition, Osteoporosis

Worried About Osteoporosis? Avoid A High Protein Diet

A link has been made between a diet high in animal protein and a loss in bone density in older women. So could changing your diet but adding bioidentical progesterone and an osteoporosis supplement could improve your bone health and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

AnnA Rushton

Most women naturally tend to put on a little weight as they get older and quite frankly very few of us like it. One of the most popular diets of recent years has been the Atkins diet which is based around a fairly high protein intake with reduced amounts of fat and carbohydrates.

This has certainly been successful for many women in helping them to lose weight but it now appears that particularly for menopausal and postmenopausal women it could cause problems in terms of bone loss.

Your diet and bone risk

Research from Purdue University published online in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences has established a link between such diets and an increased likelihood of bone loss leading to osteoporosis. Currently, 1 in 3 women and one in 12 over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis. And osteoarthritis affects around 8 million people in the UK over the age of 40.

It is known that when overweight, postmenopausal women reduce their energy intake to successfully lose weight, they can lose less lean body mass if they consume higher amounts of protein particularly of lean meats, such as pork, beef and chicken, in their diet.

Wayne W. Campbell, professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue, stated that they also found that “these older women lost bone mineral density faster than women who consumed normal protein diets that did not contain any meats. This finding is of concern for this age group as they are more susceptible to osteoporosis.”

These studies are only small in scale. The first one studied 28 women’s individual daily diets which they then reduced by 750 calories to achieve a one-and-one-half-pound weight loss each week for 12 weeks.

The  women ranged in age from 43-80 with 15 on meat-free diets with protein from vegetarian, dairy and egg sources, and this made up 18 percent of each woman’s energy intake. This amount of protein was comparable to the recommended dietary allowance of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

The diets for the other 13 women included 30 percent of energy from protein with 40 percent of the protein from lean meats and 60 percent of the protein from vegetarian, dairy and eggs.

The good news is that the women, on average, lost about 19 pounds each, but unfortunately those who ate the higher-protein, meat-containing, diet lost bone mineral density as well.

Time to reduce your meat intake?

The second study was larger and consisted of 43 postmenopausal women who each ate a 1,250-calorie diet for nine weeks. All participants consumed the same 1,000-calorie vegetarian diet, but 15 women also received 250 calories from chicken breast meat, 14 women received 250 calories from beef and 14 women received 250 calories from shortbread cookies and sugar-coated chocolates.

Although the cookie and chocolate part of the diet certainly sounds more like my kind of calories, what this study produced was that again all of the women who ate the energy-reduced diets successfully lost weight, but the groups that consumed the higher-protein meat-containing diets also lost bone mineral density compared to the control group.

How to help yourself

Two hormones are needed for bone health: oestrogen to clear away old decaying bone and progesterone to build new bone. You also need a range of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium and boron among others.

Supplementing with either a combination progesterone/oestrogen cream if low in oestrogen, or bioidentical progesterone to build bone and oppose any excess oestrogen as occurs with a lot of weight gain, is the best place to start.

Research shows that older women are at risk of losing bone when they lose weight, but it is clear that a high protein diet is not perhaps the healthiest way to go for bone health.

If you have any concerns about osteoporosis – or family history of it – then you might want to consider a vegetarian high protein diet or another regime that will lose the weight without losing the bone mass.

A very simple self-help tip is to put on those boots and walk every day as it is one of the best methods of helping build up bone mass and avoiding painful conditions like arthritis.

Helpful information:

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Pedro | 7:19 am, February 21st, 2012

Question: Do low-carb diets cause bone loss?

Answer: One of the frequent claims of people opposed to low-carb diets is that eating this way will cause bone loss. The reason for this fear is that increasing protein in the diet beyond a certain level will tend to produce more calcium in the urine. It was assumed by many that this calcium must be coming from the bones, and that low-carb diets, which are generally higher in protein, would lead to bone loss. This led to a number of studies over the last few years to investigate this point.

Although the evidence is accumulating, the scientists conducting the studies continue to be “surprised” by the result that more protein in the diet at the very least causes no harm, and in most studies improves bone density rather than causes bone loss. This makes some intuitive sense, since bones are one of the most protein-dense tissues in the body. Several of the studies suggest that increased protein intake improves calcium absorption from food.

Whether adding protein improves bones may be partly a function of how much protein the person was eating to begin with. But it is interesting that in several studies comparing the bones of people eating the standard “recommended daily requirement” of protein (.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight) with those eating more protein found that those who ate more protein than the standard recommendation had less bone loss.

A 2006 study focused on low-carb diets, rather than protein intake per se. Subjects were limited to 20 grams of daily carbohydrate for one month, and to 40 grams of carb for an additional two months. There was no problem with increased “bone turnover” (a short-term indication of potential bone loss) during this period of time. The lead scientist on the study, John L. Carter, has been quoted as saying that he was “shocked” at the results.

Of course, eating enough protein is not the only way to protect our bones. Sufficient intakes of calcium and Vitamin D, weight bearing and strengthening exercise, and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol can all help keep our bones strong throughout our lives.

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