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Protein and Calcium

It has been commonly believed that protein negatively affects bone health. However, recent studies strongly support a diet that includes adequate amounts of protein for optimal bone health.

Protein and urinary excretion of calcium

Some studies have shown that a high protein intake increases urinary excretion of calcium.1,2 The increased calcium excretion was believed to be due to bone resorption.3 However, recent studies using better methods to assess calcium metabolism, indicate that protein may be beneficial as it enhances calcium absorption.4 Therefore, the higher urinary calcium in the urine that is seen in some studies with high protein intakes appears to be due to increased intestinal absorption of calcium and not resorption from bone.

Protein and bone health

There is substantial evidence indicating that protein can actually have a positive impact on bone, particularly when both calcium and vitamin D intakes are adequate in the overall diet.5-10 Many studies have shown that diets containing adequate amounts of calcium and protein could help adults to maintain bone mass and prevent bone loss and fractures.9,11-13

In conclusion

Studies support the consumption of diets that contain adequate amounts of calcium and protein. It is therefore recommended that people follow Canada’s Food Guide and be sure to consume foods containing both protein and calcium such as milk, yogourt and cheese for optimal bone health.


  1. Linkswiler HM et al. Protein-induced hypercalciuria. Fed Proc, 1981. 40(9): 2429-33.
  2. Kerstetter JE et al. Dietary protein, calcium metabolism, and skeletal homeostasis revisited. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(3)): 584S-592S.
  3. Kerstetter JE et al. High protein diets, calcium economy, and bone health. Top Clin Nutr. 2005; 19(1):57-70
  4. Kerstetter JE et al. The impact of dietary protein on calcium absorption and kinetic measures of bone turnover in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab.2005; 90:26-31.
  5. Bonjour JP. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. J Am Coll Nutr, 2005. 24(6 Suppl): 526S-36S.
  6. Kerstetter JE et al. Changes in bone turnover in young women consuming different levels of dietary protein. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 1999. 84(3): 1052-5.
  7. Metz JA et al. Intakes of calcium, phosphorus and protein, and physical-activity level are related to radial bone mass in young adult women. Am J Clin Nutr, 1993. 58(4): p. 537-42.
  8. Bell J and Whiting SJ. Elderly women need dietary protein to maintain bone mass. Nutr Rev, 2002. 60(10 Pt 1): p. 337-41.
  9. Dawson-Hughes B and Harris SS. Calcium intake influences the association of protein intake with rates of bone loss in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr, 2002. 75(4): p. 773-9.
  10. Whiting SJ et al. Dietary protein, phosphorus and potassium are beneficial to bone mineral density in adult men consuming adequate dietary calcium. J Am Coll Nutr, 2002. 21(5): p. 402-9.
  11. Hannan MT et al. Effect of dietary protein on bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res, 2000. 15(12): p. 2504-12.
  12. Promislow JH et al. Protein consumption and bone mineral density in the elderly: the Rancho Bernardo Study. Am J Epidemiol, 2002. 155(7): p. 636-44.
  13. Munger, R.G. et coll. Prospective study of dietary protein intake and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr, 1999. 69(1): p. 147-52.

Keywords: protein , calcium

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