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.
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.