The bone density of elderly women can be significantly strengthened by animal protein, according to researchers in California.
Writing in the latest edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, led by Dr Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, said they had investigated the link between bone mineral density (BMD) and animal, vegetable and total protein levels.
The study focused on 572 women and 388 men between the ages of 55 and 92. The researchers assessed the protein consumption of the participants using food frequency questionnaires, and were able to show a clear correlation between animal protein consumption and BMD measured four years later.
The protein/BMD link was particularly strong in women, with statistically important increases in BMD shown at the hip, femoral, neck, spine and total body.
In contrast, neither men nor women showed any benefit in terms of BMD as a result of vegetable protein consumption, and indeed the data showed a negative association.
"These findings, along with the intriguing observation of a negative association between vegetable protein consumption and BMD, have significant implications for osteoporosis prevention strategies and warrant further investigation in elderly cohorts," Dr Barrett-Connor concluded.