Acid Diet (High-Meat Protein) Effects on Calcium Metabolism and Bone Health – Research Review

Cao JJ, Nielsen FH.  Acid diet (high-meat protein) effects on calcium metabolism and bone health. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Aug 16. [Epub ahead of print]

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Update recent advancements regarding the effect of high-animal protein intakes on calcium utilization and bone health.

RECENT FINDINGS: Increased potential renal acid load resulting from a high protein (intake above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8 g protein/kg body weight) intake has been closely associated with increased urinary calcium excretion. However, recent findings do not support the assumption that bone is lost to provide the extra calcium found in urine. Neither whole body calcium balance nor bone status indicators, negatively affected by the increased acid load. Contrary to the supposed detrimental effect of protein, the majority of epidemiological studies have shown that long-term high-protein intake increases bone mineral density and reduces bone fracture incidence. The beneficial effects of protein such as increasing intestinal calcium absorption and circulating IGF-I whereas lowering serum parathyroid hormone sufficiently offset any negative effects of the acid load of protein on bone health.

SUMMARY: On the basis of recent findings, consuming protein (including that from meat) higher than current Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is beneficial to calcium utilization and bone health, especially in the elderly. A high-protein diet with adequate calcium and fruits and vegetables is important for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.


For decades now, it’s often been thought, felt or claimed that a high dietary protein intake had a detrimental effect on calcium metabolism and bone health; certainly many groups promoting low-protein dietary approaches tend to echo/parrot this idea.