Meat Proteins & Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition usually associated with ageing in which bone density decreases, making us more susceptible to breaks and fractures.

Researchers from Cornell University have found that reducing the amount of meat in the diet may do more to reduce the risk of osteoporosis than increasing calcium intake. A series of studies conclude that reducing meat intake reduces the risk of losing bone density.

Whether dairy products offer protection from osteoporosis, however, is still undetermined, according to researchers. If dairy products are consumed in a diet high in animal protein, any potential benefit for increased bone density would be undermined.

That’s because animal protein, from dairy products, may leach more calcium from the bones than is ingested, said Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell and Director of the Cornell-China-Oxford Project, the most comprehensive project on diet and disease ever conducted.

Osteoporosis is a potentially disabling disease of later life in which the bones deteriorate and easily fracture, the disease affects 25 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women.

The research analysed the role of dietary calcium in bone density, by following closely the diets of 800 women from five counties that have very different diets in China. The researchers measured the women’s food consumption for three days, collected information on bone density and calcium absorption and excretion from blood and urine tests, and then looked at factors such as height, weight and age in their analysis.

Analyses of these data suggest that increased levels of animal-based proteins, including protein from dairy products, almost certainly contribute to a significant loss of bone calcium while vegetable-based diets clearly protect against bone loss.

This view is consistent with evidence comparing bone fracture rates among different countries, which shows that countries having the highest calcium intakes also have the highest fracture rates. It is also consistent with other studies on nutritionally rich ‘Western’ diets showing that low-calcium, vegetarian diets are associated with increased bone density.

Meat based diets tend to be high in fat and low in fibre whereas plant-based diets are generally low in fat and high in fibre and other substances such as antioxidants, which are proving to be important in preventing cancer.

Although dietary calcium intake is most often the focus of nutritional recommendations for osteoporosis, what’s important is the calcium balance, not just calcium intake. This is another case in which just looking at a single nutrient does not tell the whole story, but you have to consider the whole diet.


Although we know that calcium is an important element of reversing osteoporosis and we get that from dairy products, we also know that having too much depletes calcium. Calcium gives strength to the bones.

Eating foods rich in calcium like low fat yoghurt, non-fat milk, cauliflower, broccoli, sesame seeds, salmon, leafy green vegetables and almonds are all good foods full of calcium. Other foods include, lentils, grains, nuts, kidney beans and soy products. Protein helps keep muscles healthy and support the bones.

It’s also a good idea to cut back on alcohol, soft drinks and caffeine. All of those interfere with how the body absorbs calcium.

24 Aug, 2019

4 thoughts on “Meat Proteins & Osteoporosis

  1. I am slowly getting out of my insane way of eating, so I no longer contaminate my body with meat as much as I used to. Besides, I’m getting tired digestion problems.

    All it takes is a little more discipline to reach my goal of a meat free diet. I’ll stay tuned to this site to help me out in that regard.

    1. Thanks Tim. I’ll let you into a secret. From around the age of 28 I have struggled with the same digestion problems as you, brought about through eating meat.

      It took me many years to make the correlation between what I was putting into my mouth and what was making me sick.

      I love that you are being instrumental and pleased you’re on the road to a more healthy, meat free diet. As you say with discipline you’ll get there.

      I am a keen environmentalist and animal advocate I would always advocate us cutting out meat proteins, or at least cutting down on those.

      We all must do more to protect our health and work towards a future for generations to come.

      I will never tire of writing about these things.

  2. It’s taken generations, but people are slowly beginning to accept that we must be careful about the food we eat. There are proven direct links to all sorts of avoidable conditions and life threatening illnesses through our diets.

    It’s not easy to be 100% vigilant, but I do try and make sure I eat healthily as far a possible. As Tim says your site is a great source of information for issues like this.

    1. Thank you. Yes, having struggled with food for as long as I can remember I am aware of how sudden illness can strike.

      It doesn’t take a lot to tip me over the edge from being well to being ill, so writing about these things through my blog helps me too.

      As you say there are proven direct links to all sorts of avoidable conditions and life threatening illness, so it’s important we are aware of what those are.

      We all must do more to eat more fresh food. There are too many fast food chains that steal our children’s love of food and our health.

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