- Vegans who do not get enough calcium and protein from their diet may have a greater risk of bone fractures, according to a new study.
- Researchers found that vegans had a 43% higher risk of bone fractures and specifically higher risk of hip, leg and vertebral fractures than people who ate meat and dairy products.
- They found that vegans who make sure to include calcium-rich foods in their diets can lower their risk, but that is more of an effort.
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One study found that vegans had a 43% higher risk of bone fractures than omnivores.
According to a study published today in BMC Medicine, vegetarians and pescatars also had an increased risk, but it was lowered as they made a concerted effort to include protein- and calcium-rich foods on their plates.
Even after adjusting for protein and calcium intake, vegans still had a significantly higher risk of fractures than people consuming dairy products and / or meat, suggesting that another variable is involved, such as deficiencies in vitamin B1
Despite these findings, the researchers said that people should not have to give up a plant-based diet as it is possible to get your necessary nutrients without eating animal products, it may just require some planning.
Less calcium and protein may be due in part
Researchers from the universities of Oxford and Bristol analyzed data from 54,898 men and women from the UK over an average of 18 years of follow-up.
They looked at fractures from all causes, including accidents, so they could not determine if broken bones were directly caused by a particular diet. But they believe that protein and calcium consumption are a key component.
Overall, participants who did not eat red meat generally had a higher risk of hip fractures than their carnivorous counterparts – a statistic that rang even after adjusting for lifestyle variables such as income and education.
Vegans in the study tended to have lower levels of both nutrients in their diets. This makes sense because meat, eggs and fish are rich sources of protein and dairy products are an important source of calcium for non-vegans.
Vegans also tended to have a lower body mass index (or weight / height ratio), which is also a risk factor for fractures.
“Previous studies have shown that low BMI is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures, and low calcium and protein intakes have both been associated with poorer bone health,” says Dr. Tammy Tong, lead author of the study and nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said in a press release.
Vegan diets can still be healthy
A well-balanced vegan diet can include things like beans, quinoa, oats and soy for protein. For calcium, darkness, leafy vegetables and chia seeds are good plant-based sources. But it is also not a bad idea to supplement other nutrients like vitamin D, whether you are vegan or not.
There is ample evidence that veganism can also have health benefits. Previous studies have linked a plant-based diet to lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and less chance of developing diabetes and / or obesity.
As a result, it is important to take the study with a grain of salt to consider which diet may be best for each person’s unique health needs.
“Individuals should take into account the benefits and risks of their diet and ensure that they have adequate levels of calcium and protein and also maintain a healthy BMI, that is, neither under nor overweight,” Tong said in the press release.
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