Chew on this: 06/16

Protein and your bones

By Jayne Powers

Learning what people eat can be great food for thought.

When presenting information about pre-workout nutrition at a private club in Washington, D.C., I asked participants what they typically eat before working out. The majority said they paired protein with water.

Well, they got half of the answer right. You could also say they hit on the right answer but left out one very important macronutrient—carbohydrates, which gives us energy.

As for protein, it helps repair and re-build muscle tissue, particularly after a vigorous workout.

How much protein to eat each day is debatable, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle mass (think bodybuilders). As a guideline, the Institute of Medicine recommends that most adults get 10 to 35 percent of their total daily calories from protein.

Some individuals go on a high-protein diet, thinking that it will help them lose weight and lose it faster. That is true, according to a recently released study, “Controversies Surrounding High-Protein Diet Intake: Satiating Effect and Kidney and Bone Health.”

The study, published in the May 2015 issue of Advances in Nutrition, examined the evidence from other studies on whether or not a high-protein diet promotes weight loss and maintenance.

According to the study, protein makes you feel fuller and leads to eating less and losing more. Whether you can keep the weight off is a different story.

Understanding how protein works to bring satiety is complex. Let’s just say there’s a lot going on inside your body, particularly in your gut and brain when you eat. All sorts of chemicals and hormones are triggered and released.

Protein produces a feeling of increased satiety, especially if the protein comes from non-meat sources. I’d also like to point out that these sources, of course, would be incomplete proteins because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids to support human life.

The study also reviewed the evidence about whether or not a high-protein diet is good for your bones and your kidneys. The study gave a thumbs-down to consuming too much protein if you have a chronic kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation supports that view.

If you don’t have a problem with your kidneys, little evidence exists that a high-protein diet would be harmful to healthy individuals, though it does increase risk for kidney stone formation.

That part of the study’s findings was the most conclusive.

Whether a high-protein diet is good for your bones was the most controversial and divided researchers into two opposing camps, both of which had convincing arguments.

But one fact appears to be certain: Our bodies don’t use protein as productively as when we were younger, therefore, it appears we need more to keep our bodies in optimal working condition.

High-protein diets, according to the study, could “positively affect” the regulation and support of calcium in your body. Maintaining a harmonic state for the absorption of calcium is vital and enables bones to stay strong, or, that is, dense with bone minerals.

Age works against us to maintain such a state, and eating more protein may mitigate bone loss, which may result in osteoporosis—now an epidemic disease worldwide. At present, one in four women over 70 years of age will have at least one fracture in her lifetime.

“The global increase in individuals suffering from osteoporosis means that modifiable factors, such as nutrition, are of paramount importance,” the study says.

The study also notes the findings of the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which found that women who consumed higher amounts of protein had a lower risk of hip fracture.

Moreover, the study found that higher protein consumption increased the absorption of calcium through the intestines.

Other researchers disagreed with these findings, calling for a need to clarify whether a high-protein diet is a good or bad thing for bone health.

Overall, the researchers conclude, “the consumption of a high-protein diet appears to be more advantageous than deleterious.”

Do I give a high-protein diet a thumbs-up?


I wouldn’t recommend a high-protein diet for the simple reason that it is not sustainable and ignores other important nutrients, if protein is eaten at the expense of other foods.

For example, there is no fiber in the sources of protein that swim or walk on land. Our bodies need fiber to help keep our cholesterol in check as well as our bowels.

If you choose to increase your protein intake, check with your health-care professional to ensure you’re a good candidate and be rigorous and methodical for why it might make sense for you.

Jayne Powers, MA, is a certified nutritionist and personal fitness trainer based in Washington, DC. Her column, Chew on This, speaks from the science of the current state of knowledge about all facets of nutrition. Find her online at, or email your fitness questions to

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Jayne Powers, MA, is a certified nutritionist and personal fitness trainer based in Washington, DC. Her column, Chew on This, speaks from the science of the current state of knowledge about all facets of nutrition. Find her online at

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