Sunday, July 03, 2005

High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet Promotes Strong Bone Health

A health expert at The Observer Magazine takes on the question about whether eating high amounts of protein, as many who are on a low-carb lifestyle do, is bad for your bones as many critics of livin' la vida low-carb frequently claim.

Dr. John Briffa, a noted advisor on issues of health in the UK, tackles the all-important question about whether more protein in your diet is good for your bones or if it causes your bones to lose calcium and weaken.

Inquiring minds want to know. So here's his educated answer:

Support for this theory recently came from a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers examined the relationship between protein consumption and bone health in 1,000 women averaging 75 years in age. Higher protein intakes were associated with improvements in the bone density in the hip, and the quality of the bone in the heel. This study is part of a considerable body of research into protein intake and bone health. As is often the case in science, the findings of these studies are not utterly consistent. Yet most studies have found higher protein intakes to be associated with improved bone density.

I referenced this same research study last week in a blog entry entitled "Study: Low-Carb Has Metabolic Advantage Over Low-Fat Diets." It showed better weight loss for those women who ate a low-carb, high-protein diet. Dr. Briffa also points out that the higher protein contributed to better bone density as well in the study participants.

However, as positive as Dr. Briffa is about the health benefits to your bones because of more protein, he is a doctor after all with all of his preconceived notions about what is considered "healthy." Needless to say, he's not a big fan of Atkins or low-carb programs by any stretch of the imagination.

He describes the low-carb lifestyle as a diet with an "extreme carbohydrate restriction."

While the first two weeks you are "restricted" to 20 grams of carbohydrates, you quickly go up from there. I probably eat as many as 80 grams of carbs per day now that I am maintaining. I do not feel restricted in the least bit and do not consider my eating habits as "extreme." Unless, of course, you want to count just how "extreme"-ly good the foods are that I get to eat! ;-)

Furthermore, Dr. Briffa bemoans the fact that you supposedly cannot eat a lot of fruits or vegetables when you are livin' la vida low-carb which makes it "unlikely to represent a particularly healthy way to attain and maintain a healthy weight for seasons to come."

I wish I had a dollar every time I've heard this excuse. I'd be a millionaire by now! Low-carb programs do not prevent you from enjoying lots of great fruits and vegetables that your body wants and craves for healthy, nutritious nourishment. Foods such as lettuce, green beans, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cauliflower, and much more are all acceptable on just about every phase of the low-carb lifestyle. When you are in the maintenance phase, you may enjoy just about any fruit or vegetable that you want as long as it remains within your daily allowable carb total. Be smart about it and don't go eating a bunch of bananas or raisins.

Despite his clear objection to the low-carb lifestyle, Dr. Briffa does come to its defense by stating the scare tactics of the anti-Atkins crowd claiming low-carb is bad for your bones is unfounded. But Dr. Briffa explains that research has found that protein in your diet helps your body absorb protein from your stomach which raises calcium levels in your urine and distributes calcium throughout your body if you are livin' la vida low-carb. This runs counter to the false argument so often repeated that protein sucks all the calcium out of your bones. It is a lie repeated by low-carb opponents to frighten people from trying the low-carb lifestyle for themselves.

Dr. Briffa concludes: "The evidence suggests that eating meat, fish and eggs is likely to contribute to bone health, as well as fruit and veg, which 'alkalinise' the body, offsetting any calcium-leeching effects dietary protein may have. It seems that those eating a diet rich in such primal foods are likely to feel it in their bones."

Hey, what do you know? A doctor that gets it right with his medical observations regarding low-carb. Although he would not recommend low-carb because he is under the assumption that it is nutritionally incomplete, Dr. Briffa certainly provides ample medical research as evidence that this way of eating is not unhealthy for your bones.

You can send Dr. John Briffa a question or comment by e-mailing him at


Blogger Regina Wilshire said...

Interesting entry Jimmy!

I have to say it "bugs" me every time I see "high protein" as a descriptor for "low-carb" though. The IOM considered a range of protein intake between 10-35% to be within the AMDR (acceptable macronutrient distribution range). I've yet to meet anyone who exceeds 35% of their calories from protein.

The IOM also notes that "while no defined intake level at which potential adverse effects was identified, the upper end of the ADMR is based on complementing the ADMR for carbohydrate and fat for the various age groups."

So far as protein intake leeching calcium from the bones - a few things to keep in mind when it comes to calcium absorption:

1. First you need to have sufficient calcium in your diet

2. Calcium requires adequate Vitamin D

3. Vitamin D regulates calcium binging proteins that function in bone and is dependent on Vitamin K

4. Adequate potassium intake reduces urinary excretion of calcium

5. High sodium and/or caffeine may increase calcium loss

6. Fiber - the type found in wheat and oats - may interfere and limit time during digestion to allow calcium to be absorbed

7. Oxalic acid (spinach, beets, celery, pecans, tea, cocoa) can bind with calcium and form an insoluble complex that's excreted

8. Phytic acid (grains & soy) lower availability slightly

7/04/2005 7:51 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS, Regina, as always for your statistically accurate information. As for equating high-protein with low-carb, I only go along with that notion because most people who are livin' la vida low-carb are eating a LOT more protein now than they did before. THANKS for writing and Happy 4th!

7/04/2005 10:30 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Dear Jimmy , a few comments -

We are about the same size body wise -

I'm 6' 4" - 200 pounds(from 270)
Your 6' 3" I think - 230 pounds(from 410)

I'm know friend of either Fat or Sugar -

I gained my weight eating tons of cheese(a pound or two of cheese per day) and up too 20 Almond Joy bars a day - when gaining weight -

I didn't eat this way all the time - candy bar wise - but when I did - I'd gain a few pounds and all the cheese would prevent any weight loss - more or less -

So I gained weight binging on candy bars a few times or more per month -

I lost weight eating mostly raw foods - lettuce and the like - which I love -

At my current 200 pounds - I'm still 10-15 pounds fat-loose skin too heavy -

So my Plan Of Attack is this -

Reduce my raw carbs a bit -

Limit myself to - two or three raw eggs a day while losing weight as opposed to 6-8 eggs while at a stable no loss weight

Calories count -


Eating 50 to 100 grams fish protein a day -

and limiting my dairy to small amounts of whey and very little cheese - yogurt - cottage cheese - tiny amount of butter

So basically - it's a 100 grams of protein from the eggs and fish -

A 100 calories of dairy or so -

And the rest raw veggies and raw fruit and some totally dry beans/lentils - wheat/barley - brown rice/millet -

I prefer eating raw - everything except the fish -tuna/salmon/mackerel

I don't eat beef or chicken - so these aren't even options for me -

I've found a new way to eat banana's by the way - I cut a one inch section and eat the skin and all - it taste's funky - good actually -

So now I'm a bona-fide banana skin eater and I eat my tangerines whole too - skin and all - all at ounce -

I have found that when I eat cooked foods - I tend to lose self control somewhat - this is fine as far as the fish goes - but leads to problems with roasted nuts(peanut butter) and dairy

All my life - I've tended to not get enough protein on a daily basis which has lead to eating too much carbs or sugar or fat - more or less

As far as eggs and fish - I think both compliment a blood fat profile - eggs increasing HDL particle size and fish thinning the blood a little and improving the 3 to 6 profile -

So that's my plan -

Lose this final 10 pounds of fat/skin or so

And start putting on more muscle at the same time -

Can't be done ? - Watch Me -

There's no deprivation in any of this - The 100 grams of fish and the two or three eggs and raw veggies and some dry seeds and raw fruit - 1000-1500 calories - more than keep me full

and it's closer too 1000 calories most of the time - if I'm burning my own body fat and getting about 100 grams protein a day - what's the point eating any more when I feel full -

So it's a question of science and not of any thing related to deprivation

If I'm making any kind of statement here - it's this

100 Grams fish and two or three eggs - for the final attack on my body fat -

and limiting other fats to almost nill or very little -

The point - fat and sugar are both important to get rid of body fat -

This is a question of science - not personal opinions -

Excess fats inhibit fat loss and they do not provide the level of satiety that proteins do -

If a person can get ripped eating high fat and low carb - it's more than fine with me -

But as in your case Jimmy - you hit 230 pounds Dec 2004 - and still have 20-30 pounds of fat-skin to lose -

So - something needs to change - to get rid of that final 30 - for you

But as were so much alike - I'll keep you posted on my progress or lack there-of -

If I can get rid of what remains of my man-boobs and stomach fat-skin - while increasing muscle mass at the same time -

So - can anyone else ?

8/27/2007 7:30 AM  

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