Researchers have found that vegans with lower calcium and protein intake had a 43% higher risk of experiencing bone fractures than people who ate meat.
According to a newly published study, among the study participants eating a vegan diet, there were close to 20 more cases of fractures per 1,000 people over a 10-year period. In particular, vegans faced a higher risk of fractures of the hips and legs, as well as other main fractures, such as the clavicle, ribs, and vertebrae.
“This is the first comprehensive study on the risks of both total and site-specific fractures in people of different diet groups,” says Tammy Tong, lead author and a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Risk with vegetarian and Pescatarian diets
According to the study, vegetarians and pescatarians — those who do not eat meat but do eat fish, also had a higher risk of sustaining hip fractures than people who ate meat.
Over the course of the study, 3,941 fractures occurred in total, including 566 arm, 889 wrist, 945 hip, 366 leg, and 520 ankle fractures and 467 fractures at other main sites, which the researchers established to mean the clavicle, ribs, or vertebra.
The authors observed no significant differences in risks between diet groups for arm, wrist, or ankle fractures once they took BMI into account.
Diet and bone health
Earlier studies have linked calcium and protein intake to bone health. Researchers have seen that low BMI is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures but a lower risk of ankle fractures.
A 2019 analysis found that vitamin D and calcium supplements combined were effective in fracture prevention.
“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,” says Tong. “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.”