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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Nov;66(5):1188-96.

Increased circulating concentrations of parathyroid hormone in healthy, young women consuming a protein-restricted diet.

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School of Allied Health, University of Connecticut, Storrs 06269-2101, USA.


Increasing dietary protein induces hypercalciuria and a negative calcium balance. Despite this, the influence of dietary protein on the parathyroid hormone (PTH) I-a-hydroxylase axis is not well understood. We therefore examined the effect of three amounts of dietary protein: low (0.7 g/kg), medium (1.0 g/kg), and high (2.1 g/kg) on mineral metabolism and the PTH-1-alpha-hydroxylase axis in 16 healthy women aged 26.7 +/- 1.3 y. By day 4, urinary calcium decreased significantly with the low-protein diet and increased significantly with the high-protein diet compared with the medium-protein diet (control). Also by day 4, there were striking elevations in serum PTH and calcitriol [1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D] in subjects consuming the low-protein diet. Serum PTH, by two different assays, was 1.5-2.4 times higher and by day 14 1.6-2.7 times higher during the low-protein diet compared with the medium-protein diet. This was accompanied by a significant increase in both nephrogenous cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a sensitive and specific indicator of PTH bioactivity, and serum calcitriol by day 14. In comparison, there were relatively minor changes in the calcitropic hormones with the medium- and high-protein diets. The stimulus for the elevation in PTH induced by protein restriction is unclear, but probably does not involve a simple renal mechanism and could reflect either a decline in intestinal calcium absorption, a reduction of bone turn-over, or both. Our data indicate that dietary protein is a powerful regulator of calcium metabolism. Further study is needed to both clarify the mechanisms by which these changes are induced and to better define the amount of dietary protein that will optimize skeletal health in young women.

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