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Acid released in the metabolism of meat and animal products may indirectly contribute to osteoporosis, say researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSC).
Deborah Sellmeyer, MD, UCSC lead researcher and a endocrinologist, who followed 1,035 community-dwelling white women older than age 65 for an average of seven years, says she was surprised to find that women who ingested the largest amount of animal protein, and released the most acid in the process, suffered 3.7 times more hip fractures than women in the least acidic group.1
Sellmeyer thinks the connection between bone loss and meat consumption is related to the kidneys’ ability to excrete the acid buildup, which decreases with age. In its efforts to neutralize the acid, the body begins to loot the bones for acid-neutralizing calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate.
Although calcium-rich foods can help the body make up for some of the loss, some nutritionists think additional fruits and vegetables produce acid-neutralizing bases as well. For example, 5 ounces of broccoli and 5 ounces of tomatoes could balance the acid load from a 5-ounce serving of lean beef. "We definitely need protein, there’s no doubt about it, but we just need to look more closely at the sources of that protein and obtain them more often from vegetable sources," says Sellmeyer. "All of us need to eat even more vegetables than we think."
1. Sellmeyer DE, et al. A high ratio of dietary animal protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Study of the Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Am J Clin Nutr 2001; 73: 118-122.