Proven: Excessive Animal Protein Consumption Hurts More Than Just Your Bones - Save Our Bones

Savers know that animal protein is not emphasized in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. But what you may not know is just how damaging a high-protein diet can be.

In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that excessive animal protein, which includes dairy, meat, and eggs, not only causes bone loss. It also damages the liver and kidneys, vital organs for healthy bones and overall health.

But there’s more to this story, so today I share with you five top reasons why you should avoid too much animal protein.

First, I want to go over the healthful benefits of plant proteins.

Plant Protein Is “Real” Protein

If you have ever decided to go vegetarian or vegan, chances are you were a little worried about how you’d get enough protein. You see, there’s a mainstream myth that the only “real” protein is found in meat, poultry and the like, and that if you don’t eat those foods, you’ll become weak and unhealthy. But nothing could be further from the truth!

According to the FAO's 2009 report “The State of Food and Agriculture”, the consumption of animal protein in the form of meat was a staggering 279 lbs per person, per year in the United States (the third highest in the world, after Luxembourg and Hong Kong).

While the Osteoporosis Reversal Program does not promote vegetarianism, animal protein is recommended in small amounts. Too much protein creates an acidic body environment, causing bone loss and, as we’ll soon explain, vital organ damage.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein

Animal protein is assimilated fairly quickly, because your body does not have to build it from individual amino acids. But this quick utilization is not necessarily beneficial. On the contrary, slower synthesis is more healthful, allowing the body to “custom”-assimilate the protein you need from the various amino acids. And plant proteins provide a far greater variety of amino acids for your body to work with.

And unlike animal protein, plants are alkalizing. Plus don’t forget that plants contain an enormous number of essential, bone-rejuvenating Foundation Supplements and antioxidants, making plants a much more “complete” bone-building package.

So while eating a moderate amount of animal protein is fine, there’s just no need to load up on it. And science proves that there are many reasons to avoid it. We’re going to look at the top five of them next.

5 Ways Protein Harms Your Bones And Your Health

1. The Link Between Animal Protein And Cancer

As far back as 1982, researchers were searching for a link between cancer and animal protein, which was later conclusively shown. Cancer of the breast, prostate, and colon are especially implicated in connection with animal-based proteins. This is of particular concern for those over the age of 50, as a recent comprehensive study shows.

According to the 2014 study published in Cell Metabolism,

“Respondents aged 50–65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years.”1

Interestingly, the concern shifted from cancer to diabetes in all age groups assessed:

“…high protein intake was associated with … a 5-fold increase in diabetes mortality across all ages.”1

2. Protein Digestion Produces Harmful Byproducts

The digestion of protein is a demanding process that becomes more difficult as we age. Large amounts of hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes are required for animal protein to be broken down and assimilated. Digestion in general tends to become less efficient as we grow older, so this makes it even more of a challenge for older adults.

Even healthy protein digestion produces harmful and mostly acidifying byproducts such as uric acid, urea, and adenine (to name a few), because the body tries to convert protein to a carb-like energy source. Too much of these byproducts cause harm to the liver, kidneys, bones, and digestive tract. Speaking of your kidneys…

3. Protein Metabolism Overworks The Kidneys

It’s no secret that kidney disease is rampant in Western societies. In fact, if you have functional kidneys past middle age, it’s considered exceptional in some medical circles. One of the big culprits behind kidney disease is too much protein, and here’s why.

Your kidneys remove excessive acid from your system, and as noted above, acidic byproducts occur when protein is metabolized. High protein intake means your kidneys get overworked and stressed as they try to keep up with the toxic, acidic overload. As a result, kidney damage and malfunction can occur, and the excess acid can cause painful conditions like arthritis and gout.

4. Your Body “Knows” That Proteins Are Not Carbohydrates

Swapping out carbs for animal protein is a popular weight loss trick. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, and when people try to “trick” the body by denying it carbs and feeding it animal protein, their bodies simply won’t buy it.

Eating animal foods instead of carbohydrates creates an imbalance in the system. This can cause intense carb cravings, to the point that any weight loss that may have occurred is regained.

The Osteoporosis Reversal Program is based on the concept of balance – nutritional, physical, and emotional. Denying an entire group of bone-healthy foods in favor of an acidifying animal protein just doesn’t make any sense. Imbalances always create health problems.

5. High Protein Intake = Bone Loss

Your body has metabolic requirements for calcium that must be met. Calcium will be removed from your bones when all other available buffers has been used up, which occurs quickly when when you eat a lot of animal protein.

You see, calcium is an alkalizing mineral, and it’s required in large amounts to balance the acidic environment that occurs with protein ingestion.

In contrast to fats and carbs, animal protein contains nitrogen. When the body converts protein into energy, it extracts the nitrogen from the amino acids that make up the protein, which sets the stage for ammonia accumulation in the blood. Ammonia is a highly toxic substance which must be filtered out by the over-taxed kidneys.

An insightful study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that a diet with a higher proportion of animal protein to plant protein increases bone loss and the risk of hip fracture.2 Conversely, the study points out that,

“…an increase in vegetable protein intake and a decrease in animal protein intake may decrease bone loss and the risk of hip fracture.”2

So What’s The Best Way To Decrease Animal Protein In Favor Of Vegetable Protein?

The answer is simple: prepare and enjoy pH-balanced dishes that are rich in vegetable-based proteins. This is where the companion cookbook to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program comes in: Bone Appétit. With over 200 pH-balanced delicious recipes, it guides you through the process of planning and preparing bone-building meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert.

If you already have Bone Appétit, then you know how it, along with the included 30 Day Meal Planner, greatly simplify the process of preparing meals that rejuvenate bones and bring your system into the proper pH balance.

And balance is the key to healthy bones and overall well-being and vitality; imbalance is implicated again and again in bone loss and disease.

The good news is, it’s easy and fun to delve into the world of Bone Appétit for you and your family.

Enjoy eating your way to healthy bones!


1 Levine, Morgan E., et al. “Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population.” Cell Metabolism. March 2014. Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 407-417. Web.

2 Sellmeyer, Deborah E., et al. “A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. January 2001. Volume 73, No. 1, pp 118-122. Web.

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Comments on this article are closed.


    I love the idea of using lima beans but find that it gives me a lot of gas. I do pour out the soaking water and even throw out the next water after I’ve cooked the beans but it still bloats me a lot. What can I do?

  2. Tim

    Why do you have all these bad things to say about animal based protein, but then say you don’t recommend a vegan diet? Do you understand people actually listen to you! Stop telling people it’s unrealistic to live a vegan lifestyle please. It’s in fact very realistic, and if we all eat that way prices of vegan food will go down and the quality will go way up. You’re killing youself, and drastically killing the planet with all this meat eating!

  3. Pekka

    I’m confused by uour statement above ” animal protein contains nitrogen”. How does plant protein differ from animal protein in respect to nitrogen content?

  4. Marion

    Just to clarify, are you saying that you don’t need specific combinations of foods to get the right protein if you don’t eat meat? I was told that you need beans and grains or beans and nuts. Is this false?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Marion,
      It’s a common misunderstanding that protein must be consumed in a “complete” state to be healthful. But what most people don’t realize is that your body actually “builds” protein from the breakdown of any food you eat, in any combination. This means we can produce complete protein from just about any food because after digestion, there is no distinction of the source of the amino acids necessary to form protein.

      And of course, the less animal protein you consume, the less calcium you’ll excrete via the urine.

  5. Andrew

    Reading the article I began to seethe that someone could write such fiction. It bothered me enough that I felt it deserved an immediate response to re-educate those who had been damaged by its content.

    The problem is that the author interprets the new information (2014 Cell Metabolism Study) in a way that confirms his beliefs, while avoiding information or interpretations that conflict with other beliefs.

    Next time please use more than 2 references to support your argument.

    Next time use data from meta analyses and systematic reviews not randomised controlled studies.

    Maybe you should start by reading these studies-

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1613S-1619S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736L. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

    Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford).

    Key TJ1, Appleby PN, Spencer EA, Travis RC, Roddam AW, Allen NE.

    Public Health Nutr. 1998 Mar;1(1):33-41.

    Mortality in vegetarians and non-vegetarians: a collaborative analysis of 8300 deaths among 76,000 men and women in five prospective studies.

    Key TJ1, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, Appleby PN, Beral V, Reeves G, Burr ML, Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Kuzma JW, Mann J, McPherson K.

    • paula blake

      Vivian is not saying to avoid meat. But it seems there is much jealousy over her success. Have you been paid to respond with such animosity to discredit her?

  6. LYNNE

    I am confused. I have read that too much protein is bad for younger people but anyone over the age of 65 should make sure that they get lots of protein to save their muscles and bones. What kind of diet should we focus o?.

  7. Eileen

    Did these studies control for the quality of meat? I would certainly agree that people in Western countries eat too much animal protein. Many of the studies used by proponents of a vegetarian diet do not make a distinction between pasture raised grass fed animals and farmed industrial feed lot animals. There is quite a bit of difference in health outcomes. Also many vegetarian diets tend to be low fat, which turns out to be the worse of all possible diets.

  8. maartje

    sorry one more question
    Because I’m underweighted I need to eat more protein but…how can I get this without chicken/fish/eggs (my stomach can’t resist beans and beans also contains a lot of phytine acid)

    Vivian, what doe you eat on a regular day?

  9. Caroline

    There is a wonderful chart in The China Study (the largest and longest nutrition study ever conducted) that shows protein equivalents for animal protein versus plant protein. A plate of equal parts tomatoes, spinach, lima beans, peas, and potatoes has roughly the same amount of protein as a plate of equal parts beef, pork, chicken, and whole milk–that is, 33 or 34 grams of protein for 500 calories of energy for both plates. One doesn’t need to eat animal protein at all in order to have sufficient protein. It’s a lie that has been perpetrated by the beef and dairy industries for decades. Add to that the absolutely horrible conditions under which animals are raised for their eggs, milk, and flesh, and the only moral choice is to become a vegan. Further, consider the hormones, antibiotics, other chemicals, and genetically modified (GMO) corn and soy that is fed to most cows, pigs, and chickens–and the effect on your bones and the rest of your body. It may not feel easy to change our diet when we grow up eating animal products, but the switch can be made–and our bodies and minds will be so grateful for it.

    • paula blake

      I like your comment Caroline. From some of the negative comments I am starting to see, I feel there is some angst against our Vivian as she seems to be the #1 bones specialist. As I know most of these bone ladies on the web, I am convinced that some are paying writers to be negative.

  10. Kathleen Riley

    Perhaps, since there is so much concern about appropriate, acceptable daily quantities of animal protein, that Vivian could address this in a future article, one focused on specifics. Perhaps difficult since we all metabolize foods differently but just a general guideline would be helpful.

  11. Joan

    Is liquid collagen harmful to our bones?

  12. Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

    Good morning to the Save Our Bones community!

    As I mentioned in the article, all plant foods contain amino acids so your body can build the proteins it needs from a predominantly plant-based diet. When you eat a pH-balanced diet of 80% alkalizing and 20% acidifying foods, you will be getting plenty of plant-based protein and minimal animal protein.

    It’s not so much about exact portions of specific foods as it is about balance. 🙂

  13. Cindy

    What vegetables have protein or make protein? I felt like you only told us animal protein is bad and then want us to buy your book. That is not what you normally do. Feeling like I wasted my time reading this article because it left more questions than answers.

  14. Sheena

    Hi Vivian,

    I side with Mary.

    This is my question as well. I can understand if you eat animal protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack on it in-between then this will take a toll on the body. Conversely if you eat animal protein for one meal a day and have a fruit, veg and plant protein for the rest of the day, is this too much?

    Please advise

  15. Yvette

    I am 51 and have been vegetarian since I was 21 and vegan for at least the last 15 years. I ended up with low bone density through a stress-related eating disorder and rapid weight loss. I have reversed this by paying attention to my stress levels and an alkaline diet. My bone density and my health in general is great. People don’t believe I’m 51. Go animal free – it’s worth it for your bones, your general health, the environment and animals!

    • maartje

      I also have osteoporosis because of an eatingdisorder and my dietican tells me that you need a certain amount of protein for rebilding your bones
      (sorry for my englis)

      so where do you get enough protein from??

      And…I also wonder the same things as Mary

  16. Mary

    Just how much is too much animal protein? Surely there can be no hard and fast rule as we all need differing amounts which does not depend solely on our body weight but also on our metabolic make-up and activities? Is there any difference between dairy, the various different kinds of meat and fish or are they all equally harmful?

    • Gloria

      Good question, Mary! I, too, would be curious to know…

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