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High protein intake may prevent osteoporosis?

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By David Liu, Liu PHD

Saturday Feb 2, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in Korean Journal of Family Medicine suggests that high intake of protein may help prevent osteoporosis in the Korean population.  Be aware that high protein is a relative term.  The term high protein used in the study may not be the same as high protein in the United States and other developed countries.

For the study,  J. Kim from Kyung Hee University School of Medicine in Seoul, Korea and colleagues analysed data from participants in the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 4. The participants were 19 years or older and have never received any treatment for osteoporosis. Protein intake for all participants was estimated based on a one-day dietary information.

The researchers found that the group with the highest intake of protein were significantly unlikely to develop lumber osteoporosis, compared with those in the lowest protein intake.  This finding held true in both men and women.

Specifically, after adjustment for confounders, women having lower protein intake were 39 percent more likely to develop osteoporosis and men with lowest intake were 31 percent more likely to develop osteoporosis.

The researchers concluded "Sufficient daily protein intake lowered the prevalence of osteoporosis in Korean adults. Further prospective studies are necessary to verify the preventive effect of adequate protein intake on osteoporosis."

The finding may not be applicable to people in the West because whether the protein intake is high or low is relative.  Usually, Korean people do not eat as much protein as people in the West.  That means that this study does not necessarily suggest that eating more meat or protein helps prevent osteoporosis in the Westerners.

After all, the researchers acknowledged that "the association between daily protein intake and osteoporosis is still controversial."

Eating too much protein can actually increase risk of osteoporosis, according to other studies.  High protein intake can lead to osteoporosis because protein cause the kidney to excrete more calcium in the urine, leading to loss of calcium which is a cause for osteoporosis.

Older men should consume 56 grams of protein per day and older females should eat 46 grams of protein per day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.

High protein intake can also cause kidney stress and increase risk of cancer.  High protein affects renal function and leads to the production of insulin growth factor-1, which is associated with increased risk for some cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

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