As women age, a common problem they face is thinning of the
bones - also called osteoporosis. Bone mineral density, or
BMD, is a measure of bone strength related to fracture risk
and the weight-bearing capacity of the skeleton. Eating calcium
is recommended to maintain bone strength; are there other
nutrients women need for strong bones?
To determine the association between total, animal, and vegetable
protein consumption in those 55 years or older, the authors
of a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology
administered a diet questionnaire to almost 600 women
and 400 men. These individuals, all residents of the Rancho
Bernardo senior living community in California, were also
examined to determine bone density initially and four years
women, eating higher amounts of animal protein (e.g., meat,
fish, eggs, and dairy products) was related to increased bone
density. The added bone strength from consuming more animal
protein was more dramatic in women who had less calcium in
their diets. In both men and women, eating more vegetable
protein (e.g., soy or beans and rice) was linked to lower
bone density, however.
This information does not imply that you shouldn't be a vegetarian
or eat soy products. The study does suggest, however, that
if you don't regularly eat meat, be sure to eat enough protein
and include additional calcium in your diet. Protein is by
itself a critical component of bones, making up a quarter
of their total mass and roughly half of their volume.
Promislow JHE, Goodman-Gruen D, Slymen DJ, et al. Protein
consumption and bone mineral density in the elderly: The Rancho
Bernardo Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 2002:155(7),
For additional information on women’s health, visit http://www.chiroweb.com/tyh/women.html.