Eat this, don’t eat that.
There is a never-ending chain of advice from health experts, and the latest tidbit is that healthier, plant-based diets may lead to broken bones. Seems you just can’t win.
A study published Sunday in the journal BMC Medicine involving nearly 55,000 healthy adults from the United Kingdom showed that vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes saw a 43% higher risk of bone fractures, specifically in the hips, legs and vertebrae.
The study’s questionnaire included diet, sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle and medical history between 1993 and 2001, and followed up with the subjects in 2010.
Fractures in older ages are common, but vegetarians have lower bone mineral density than non-vegetarians. Bone density is “a measure of the amount of minerals (mostly calcium and phosphorus) contained in a certain volume of bone,” according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Substantially lower dietary calcium and protein intakes have been reported among non–meat eaters.
“The study findings support a growing body of research on bone health with protein and calcium intake as well as BMI (body mass index),” Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida, who wasn’t part of the new study, told CNN. “Protein and calcium are the two major components of bone.”
Katherine Tucker, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, who also was not part of the study, told CNN that vegans and vegetarians “need to be very careful about getting the nutrients that they are missing if they’re not including products” rich with them.
The vast majority of study participants were white Europeans and women, so, according to Tucker, the findings “cannot be generalized to … other populations and further study is needed.”