Meat-free Diets Tied to Greater Risk of Breaking Bones

by Iswarya on Nov 23 2020 10:24 AM

Meat-free Diets Tied to Greater Risk of Breaking Bones
People who don’t eat meat are more at risk of breaking bones, especially their hips, reveals a new study. The effect may arise from a lack of calcium and protein in their diet and the fact that they tend to be thinner and so have less flesh to cushion a fall. The findings of the study are published in the journal BMC Medicine.
Several past studies have shown that vegetarians have weaker bones than meat-eaters, but it was unclear if this had any meaningful effect on their risk of fractures.

The new research took the support of a long-running study called EPIC-Oxford, initially set up to look at whether diet impacts cancer risk by following the health of approximately 65,000 people in the UK from 1993 onwards. The study showed people’s typical diet and tracked their health through hospital records.

By 2010, vegans had broken a hip at over twice the rate of meat-eaters, while vegetarians and fish eaters had a smaller rise in risk, of about 25 percent. Vegans but not vegetarians and pescetarians also had a greater risk of breaking other bones.

The overall level of risk to vegans was comparatively small, equating to about an extra 20 bones broken per 1000 people over ten years. But the fracture rate is expected to be higher in the elderly, who break hips more often, as the average age of participants at the start was 45, states researcher Tammy Tong at the University of Oxford.

When people’s diets were examined, meat-eaters consumed more calcium and protein. Calcium is an essential component of bones, and protein could aid calcium absorption from food. “Unless they are actively supplementing, it’s quite unlikely that vegans will have an adequate intake of calcium just from the diet,” states Tong.

But people eating a vegan diet today may have raised calcium levels. “In the 1990s, there was less fortification of plant milk,” she states.

Heather Russell, a dietitian at the Vegan Society in the UK, remarks: “It’s certainly possible to look after your bones on a well-planned vegan diet, but people need the information to make healthy choices.”

Studying the same group of people has previously shown that being vegetarian is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of cancer after 15 years and about a 20 percent lower rate of heart disease, and a 20 percent higher risk of a stroke.