Protein provides benefit for adult bone and joint health, expert consensus reports

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17 May 2018 --- Dietary protein intake above the recommended levels may help reduce bone loss and fracture risk in seniors with osteoporosis, an expert consensus reports. Based on an analysis of major research studies, the review, published in Osteoporosis International, found that a protein-rich diet is beneficial for adult bone health. The consensus debunks the popular myth that too much protein may be damaging to bone health.

“Adequate intake of dietary protein, together with calcium, is needed for optimal bone growth in children and the maintenance of healthy bone at all ages. This message needs to be reinforced in view of currently circulating myths suggesting that too much protein causes 'acid load' and is damaging to bone health,” says Professor Rene Rizzoli, Professor at the Division of Bone Diseases of the Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine.

“In fact, in the elderly, we find that a common problem is not too much protein, but too little. This review of the literature confirms that a balanced diet with sufficient protein intake, regardless whether of animal or vegetable source, clearly benefits bone health when accompanied by adequate calcium intake. This is particularly important for seniors with osteoporosis, and individuals at risk of malnutrition due to acute or chronic illness, or recovering from an injury.”

Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have addressed the benefits and risks of dietary protein intakes for bone health in adults. However, this narrative review of the literature summarizes and synthesizes recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses and highlights key messages.

The key findings of the extensive literature review include:

  • Hip fracture risk is modestly decreased with higher dietary protein intakes, provided calcium intakes are adequate;
  • Bone mineral density (BMD), which is an important determinant of bone strength, appears to be positively associated with dietary protein intakes;
  • Protein and calcium combined in dairy products have beneficial effects on calciotropic hormones, bone turnover markers and BMD. The benefit of dietary proteins on bone outcomes seems to require adequate calcium intakes;
  • There appears to be no direct evidence of osteoporosis progression, fragility fractures or altered bone strength with the acid load originating from a balanced diet.

NutritionInsight has previously reported on the rising consumer demand for products that target bone health. World populations are getting older and, with age the risk of bone and joint health issues – such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis – increases. 

A 2017 DSM survey found that almost a third of consumers already take dietary supplements to keep their bones (32 percent) or joints (28 percent) healthy, and purchasing behavior is generally for relief products when they are already suffering from a complaint. Collagen peptides have proven to be a popular choice, but even probiotics seek to enter the busy market. 

However, clinical findings that influence the diet of those at risk from osteoporosis could be helpful in preventing the onset of bone and joint problems.

The expert consensus is endorsed by the European Society for Clinical and Economical Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) and the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).

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