Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine identify yet another reason to indulge in a vegetarian diet. Yes! Uncooked vegetarian food has been found to play a critical role in the development of lightweight, yet healthy bones. Surprisingly, individuals consuming such a diet have been found to have a low bone mass.
The study was conducted among a group of 18 individuals aged between 33 and 85 years, under a strict vegan diet, devoid of any animal product. The diet had however, an abundant supply of uncooked fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds and legumes in a dash of olive oil. All the study participants had been consuming the above diet for an average of 3.6 years.
The diet pattern and the health effects of this group were compared to those who ate a traditional American diet consisting of cooked food, animal products and refined carbohydrates. Care was taken to ensure that the control group was matched to the experimental group on the basis of age, sex and socioeconomic status.
Upon analysis of the obtained data, several important findings were uncovered. First, those who had been consuming raw food were found to have significantly lower body mass indices. Secondly, the bone mass in the hip and lumbar spine region was much lower compared to the control group. This meant an increased risk for fracture and osteoporosis.
Turning on to the other side, the experimental group was found to have lower levels of inflammation, as revealed by reduced levels of C-reactive protein. Inflammatory response triggers the production of this protein by the liver. In addition, lower levels of Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) were also found. Increased levels of this protein have been linked to an increased risk for prostate and breast cancer. Vitamin D levels of those under the vegan diet were much higher.
Based on the above finding, the researchers have arrived at few important conclusions. People who consume raw food have a low body fat, lighter bones, higher levels of Vitamin D and reduced levels of inflammatory markers. The bone turnover, is however normal. In addition, they were more susceptible to osteoporosis and osteopenia (severe bone loss), which is clinically insignificant.
This observation in the raw food vegans is marked contrast to that observed in menopausal women who have reduced bone mass, increased fracture, osteoporosis risk and high levels of inflammatory markers in their blood (cytokines). More studies are clearly indicated to better understand the risk-benefit ratio associated with a raw vegan diet.