Protein, Phosphorus, and Sodium
The American diet tends to contain too much, rather than too little
have shown that excessive dietary protein may promote bone loss. With
protein intake, the urinary excretion of calcium also rises, because
mobilized to buffer the acidic breakdown products of protein. In addition,
acid methionine is converted to a substance called homocysteine, which is also
apparently capable of causing bone loss.
Animal studies have shown that excessive intake of phosphorus can cause
osteoporosis, as well. The effect of dietary protein on osteoporosis might be
explained in part by the phosphorus content of many high-protein foods
because phosphorus does appear to have an adverse effect on bone health.
High-phosphorus beverages such as colas (which also contain a lot of sugar
and caffeine) are among the worst foods imaginable for someone trying to
Several studies have shown that individuals who consume a vegetarian diet
have stronger bones later in life than those who eat animal flesh.9,10
However, other studies have failed to find a difference in bone mass
between vegetarians and meat eaters.
A substantial minority of human beings also appears to be Susceptible to
of high-sodium intake. When these individuals ingest moderate amounts of salt,
their urinary excretion of calcium increases markedly." In people with this
sodium-dependent hypercalciuria, ingestion of too much salt probably
risk of both kidney stones and osteoporosis. In today's fast paced society,
emphasis is placed on readily available, easily prepared food, which can be
on the shelf for prolonged periods of time. The food technology industry has
developed many ways to achieve these goals. Unfortunately, the nutritional
of processed, adulterated food is far inferior to that of fresh, perishable
Modern food is bleached, radiated, extracted with organic solvents,
enormous temperatures and extremes of acidity or alkalinity, and
thousands of chemicals designed to preserve, texturize, color, or otherwise
the food so that it will look, feel, and taste like the real thing.
Hundreds of articles have been written about how these harsh processing
can affect the nutritional value of food. One I example is the possibility
processing can promote lysine deficiency. Lysine is one of the eight
acids from which protein molecules are synthesized in the body. Studies have
shown that when proteins are subjected to alkali treatment (as in the
isolated soy protein or textured vegetable protein), a substantial amount
of the lysine
is destroyed.l2 Exposure of lysine to temperatures of 250¡C for one hour also
caused significant losses of lysine.l3 Heating proteins even at moderate
temperatures in the presence of sugars such as lactose, glucose, or sucrose
destroy significant amounts of lysine.14 Thus, in the baking of pies, cookies,
breads, and other grain products, where flour and sugar are heated together,
substantial amounts of lysine may be lost.
You might assume that, with all of the protein in the American diet, it
difficult to develop a deficiency of an amino acid. The problem is,
amino acid imbalance can be just as damaging as amino acid deficiency. Animal
studies have shown that the ratios of essential amino acids in the diet are as
important as the absolute amount of each. If a single amino acid, such as
being systematically destroyed by food processing, then ingesting more of
all of the
amino acids will not correct a relative lack of lysine.
It is therefore possible that millions of Americans are marginally
deficient in Iysine,
even if their diet is high in protein. The modern epidemic of herpes simplex
infections is certainly consistent with that possibility. Lysine is known
to inhibit the
growth of herpes viruses and oral supplementation with Iysine has been
prevent recurrences of herpes simplex outbreaks in susceptible
Since the doses of lysine that were effective against herpes infections
(312 to 3,000
mg/day) are similar to the amounts obtainable in the diet, it is possible
lysine deficiency is a factor in the increased incidence of herpes simplex
It is also possible that lysine deficiency contributes to the development of
osteoporosis. Individuals with a rare genetic condition known as lysinuric
intolerance develop osteoporosis during childhood. In lysinuric protein
defect in the kidneys causes large amounts of lysine to be lost in the
have suggested that lysine deficiency is the cause of osteoporosis in
this disorder.17 Although the typical American diet would not result in Iysine
deficiency that severe, it is possible that prolonged, subtle lysine
by harsh food processing techniques could have an adverse effect on bones.
The reduction in vitamin and mineral intake resulting from refining of
foods can be
made even worse by farming techniques that deplete the soil of essential
Traditional methods of farming include using manure and compost to increase
trace mineral content of the soil. In modern times, however, with the
producing higher crop yields per acre, farmers use large amounts of inorganic
fertilizers, which are often deficient in important trace minerals and
disturb soil mineral balance. For example, the use of ammonia as a
essential minerals such as magnesium' manganese, zinc, and copper to be
from the soil.18 Repeated application of inorganic fertilizers, which are
essential trace minerals, can further reduce the soil concentration of
minerals. Many scientists and nutritionists are unaware of the effect the
can have on the mineral content of edible plants i Indeed, nutrition
contend that mineral-deficient soil will reduce crop yield, but will not
affect the nutritional quality of crops that do grow. However, the facts
otherwise. The presence of a "goiter belt" in the midwestern United States
the fact that foods grown on iodine-deficient soil can cause iodine
relationship between mineral concentrations in soil and food is also
the epidemics of selenium deficiency that have occurred in cattle grazing
selenium areas of the country. As another example, dairy cattle an horses are
sometimes stricken by a condition known as grass staggers, characterized by
unsteady gait and twitching and spasm of the muscles. This disorder can be
either by supplementing the diet with magnesium or by adding magnesium to the
soil.19 It appears that overuse of nitrates, phosphates, and potassium
fertilizers depletes the soil of magnesium and causes a deficiency of this
grazing animals. In the Florida Everglades the soil is low in copper. Domestic
animals grazing in this area develop copper deficiency which makes them
susceptible to sus~ taining bone fractures. But, when copper is added to
fractures no longer occur.20 In another study, the manganese content of
directly related to the manganese content of -the soil. Addition of calcium
to the soil (a common practice by modern farmers) decreased the
manganese by turnips.
These studies indicate that modern farming practices deplete the soil of
minerals, resulting in lower levels of these minerals in our food. The
mineral content of our diet is further reduced by overconsumption of
nutrient-depleted foods, such as sugar and white flour. The net result is
that the food
we consume today contains far less of many vitamins and minerals than it
did in the
past. One of the major theses of this book is that chronic, low level
a wide range of micronutrients may increase the risk of developing
In summary, many factors related to the modern American diet may promote
not only osteoporosis, but other chronic diseases, as well. A health-promoting
diet is one that emphasizes fresh, unprocessed foods, such as whole grains,
fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes Animal foods, dairy
products, and salt should be used in moderation, and sweets, caffeine, refined
flours, and chemical food additives should be avoided as much as possible.
While some studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake improves health,
others have shown that even small amounts of alcohol are not good for you.
Certainly, excessive alcohol intake can cause many different problems,
including osteoporosis. The human body is remarkably resilient and is
capable of withstanding numerous stresses, but it is also true that the more
closely you follow the principles of good eating, the healthier you will be.
1. Lemann, J., Jr., W. F. Piering, and E. J. Lennon. 1969. Possible role of
carbohydrate-induced calciuria in calcium oxalate kidney-stone formation.
No Engl J Med 280:232-237.
2. Lawoyin, S., et al. 1979. Bone mineral content in patients with calcium
urolithiasis. Metabolism 28:1250-1254.
3. Yudkin, J., Dr. 1973. Sweet and dangerous. New York: Bantam Books,
112. Saffar, J. L, et al. 1981. Osteoporotic effect of a high-carbohydrate
(Keyes 2000) in golden hamsters. Arch Oral Biol 26:393-397.
4. Schroeder, H. A. 1971. Losses of vitamins and trace minerals resulting
from processing and preservation of foods. Am J Clin Nutr 24: 562-573.
5. Hollingbery, P. W., E. A. Bergman, and L K Massey. 1985. Effect of
dietary caffeine and aspirin on urinary calcium and hydroxyproline excretion
in pre and postmenopausal women. Fed Proc 44:1149.
6. Heaney, R P., and R R Recker. 1982. Effects of nitrogen, phosphorus, and
caffeine on calcium balance in women. J Lab Clin Med 99:46-55.
7. Hernandez-Avila, M., et al. 1991. Caffeine, moderate alcohol intake, and
risk of fractures of the hip and forearm in middle-aged women. Am J Clin
8. Spencer' H., et al. 1985. Alcohol-osteoporosis. Am J Clin Nutr 41:847.
9. Marsh, A. G., et al. 1980. Cortical bone density of adult
lacto-ovo-vegetarian an omnivorous women. J Am Diet Assoc 76:148-151.
10. Marsh, A. G., et al. 1983. Bone mineral mass in adult
lacto-ovo-vegetarian an omnivorous males. Am J Clin Nutr 37:453-456.
11. Silver,J., et al. 1983. Sodium-dependent idiopathic hypercalciuria in
renal-stor formers. Lancet 2:484-486.
12. de Groot, A P., and P. Slump. 1%9. Effects of severe alkali treatment of
prose on amino acid composition and nutritive value. J Nutr 98:45-56.
13. Breitbart, D. J., and W. W. Nawar. 1979. Thermal decomposition of
Iysine. J Agric Food Chem 27:511-514.
14. Hurrell, R. F., and K J. Carpenter. 1977. Mechanisms of heat damage in
8. The role of sucrose in the susceptibility of protein foods to heat
J Nutr 38:285-297.
15. Griffith, R S., A. L Norins, and C. Kagan. 1978. A multicentered study
of Iysine therapy in herpes simplex infection. Dermatologica 156:257-267.
16. Griffith, R S., et al. 1987. Success of L-lysine therapy in frequently
recurrence herpes simplex infection. Dermatologica 175:183-190.
17. Carpenter, T. O., et al. 1985. Lysinuric protein intolerance presenting as
child hood osteoporosis. N Engl J Med 312:290-294.
18. Hall, R. H. 1981. The agri-business view of soil and life. J Holistic Med
19. Ebeling, W. 1981. The relation of soil quality to the nutritional value of
plant crops. J Appl Nutr 33(1):19-34.
20. Rose, E. F. 1968. The effects of soil and diet on disease. Cancer Res
21. Hopkins, H. T., E. H. Stevenson, and P. L Harris. 1966. Soil factors and
food composition. Am J Clin Nutr 18:390-395.