Meat good for calcium absorption

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 7, 2005
by WLJ
The long-held perception that consumption of high protein foods such as meat causes excess calcium loss is not true, according to research funded by the Beef Checkoff Program. The two-year study was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
The research announced Jan. 28 confirms findings from other studies showing that protein from meat does not compromise calcium status. Meat protein can increase calcium absorption and has beneficial effects on bone health, said Dr. Sharon Miller, director of nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, one of the contractors of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which administers the Beef Checkoff Program. “The Beef Checkoff will use these study results to help health professionals understand the positive interaction between consumption of animal protein and calcium retention.”
The research has evaluated calcium retention in women eating diets with varying amounts of protein and calcium––high protein and high calcium, high protein and low calcium, low protein and low calcium.
Data shows that diets high in meat––comprising up to 20 percent of an individual’s intake––do not increase overall calcium loss, regardless whether calcium intake is low or high. Furthermore, eating recommended amounts of meat was especially beneficial when calcium intake was low because the protein helps better retain the calcium.
The study shows that the ideal diet is rich in protein but still within the dietary guidelines for meat sources and adequate servings of calcium. Miller said, “People can consume protein at the upper recommended range.”
In addition, Miller noted that consuming protein from sources such as beef is beneficial to bone health because beef contains amino acids and nutrients including zinc and phosphorous, which are important for bone building.
“Bone health is of particular importance for postmenopausal women, but bone health begins in childhood. Therefore, all consumers need to eat a nutrient-rich diet,” said Miller. “That’s why this research has such positive implications for both beef and dairy producers.”
The principle investigator of this clinical trial, Dr. Fariba Roughead, a research nutritionist and registered dietitian, said, “The data from this study, combined with recent findings from other controlled feeding and observational studies, provide strong evidence negating the long-held dogma that animal protein intake is deleterious to bone health. In contrast, the higher calcium retention and the favorable changes in the circulating amounts of important bone-building hormones suggest that a higher protein intake may be preferred, especially in postmenopausal women with typically low calcium intakes.”
The Beef Checkoff Program will communicate results of the study to health and nutrition professionals to help them better understand the positive correlation between protein consumption and calcium. — WLJ