If you’re vegan, you may be more prone to breaking bones, study says

Study Says Vegans May Outlive Us All Published in The Journal of Nutrition, a study conducted of 840 people eating five different diets found that vegans had the healthiest results. Study participants gave blood, urine and fat samples which were then examined by scientists for various biomarkers. The study found that vegans had the highest levels of an antioxidant called carotenoids, which has been found to decrease the risk of disease. This is presumably because vegans consumed more vegetables and fruits

The risk of bone fractures is heightened by a plant-based diet, according to a study published online Monday.

The study found that vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes have an average of a 43% higher risk of bodily fractures compared to meat-eaters. They were also found to have a greater risk of fractures on the hips, legs and vertebrae, according to a Sunday news release.

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“This is the first comprehensive study on the risks of both total and site-specific fractures in people of different diet groups,” said lead study author Dr. Tammy Tong, Nutritional Epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford. “We found that vegans had a higher risk of total fractures which resulted in close to 20 more cases per 1000 people over a 10-year period compared to people who ate meat.

“The biggest differences were for hip fractures, where the risk in vegans was 2.3 times higher than in people who ate meat, equivalent to 15 more cases per 1000 people over 10 years.”

A prospective cohort study of men and women called EPIC-Oxford gathered 65,000 people throughout the U.K. between 1993 and 2001. Research from that study found that out of approximately 55,000 of them, 29,380 ate meat, 8,037 didn’t eat meat but ate fish, 15,499 were vegetarians and 1,982 were vegans at the time of recruitment.

Participants’ eating habits were assessed upon recruitment and again in 2010. On average, they were followed for 18 years until 2016 for the occurrence of fractures. In total, 3,941 fractures occurred including 566 arm breaks, 889 wrist fractures, 945 hip fractures, 366 leg breaks, 520 ankle fractures. Additionally, 467 fractures occurred at other main sites, specified as the vertebrae, ribs and clavicle.

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While vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians have a higher risk of hip fractures compared to meat-eaters, vegans also had a greater risk of breaking their legs and having other main site fractures. After taking body mass index (BMI) into account, researchers saw no notable differences in the risks between diet groups for arm, wrist or ankle fractures. Differences in the risk of bodily and site-specific fractures was reduced in part after taking into account BMI, dietary calcium and dietary protein intake.

”Previous studies have shown that low BMI is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures, and low intakes of calcium and protein have both been linked to poorer bone health,” Tong said. “This study showed that vegans, who on average had lower BMI as well as lower intakes of calcium and protein than meat-eaters, had higher risks of fractures at several sites.

“Well-balanced and predominantly plant-based diets can result in improved nutrient levels and have been linked to lower risks of diseases including heart disease and diabetes,” she continued. “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.”

For more on the study, including its limitations, see the news release here.

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