Vegans and vegetarians may be at greater risk for bone fractures than meat eaters, according to a large, longitudinal study published [November 22] in the journal BMC Medicine.
Nearly 55,000 relatively healthy adults from the UK answered a questionnaire on diet, socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle and medical history between 1993 and 2001. Researchers categorized them by diet then and at follow-up in 2010: meat eaters, fish eaters (pescatarians), vegetarians (no meat or fish but dairy and/or eggs) and vegans (nothing from animals).
The authors found 3,941 total fractures by 2016. In comparison to meat eaters, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes on average had a 43% higher risk of fractures anywhere and in the hips, legs and vertebrae. Vegetarians and pescatarians had a higher risk of hip fractures than meat eaters, but the risk was partly reduced when the researchers considered body mass index and sufficient consumption of calcium and protein.
“The study findings support a growing body of research on bone health with protein and calcium intake as well as BMI (body mass index),” said Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Protein and calcium are the two major components of bone.”