Insufficient nutrition intake likely to affect bone health of non-meat eaters

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Vitamin D rich food
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Vegan diets, that avoid the use of any animal derived products, are considered healthy and many follow this, but recent research indicates that they may have a substantial risk of increased bone fracture chances. 

Compared to those who consume meat, the vegans and those who adopt a vegetarian diet with lower calcium and protein intake have a 43 percent higher risk of bone fracture.

Vegetarians and people who ate fish but not meat have a higher risk of hip fractures, compared with the non-vegetarians, according to newly published research in the journal BMC Medicine.

However once body mass index (BMI), dietary calcium and dietary protein consumption were taken into consideration, the risk of fractures was partly decreased.

Tammy Tong from the University of Oxford in the UK and author of the study said, “We found that vegans had a higher risk of total fractures which resulted in close to 20 more cases per 1,000 people over 10 years compared to people who ate meat.”

Mr. Tong added, “Fracture in older people are common, but the risk in vegans was 2.3 times higher than in people who ate meat, equivalent to 15 more cases per 1000 people over 10 years.”

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The study was conducted in 50,000 people who participated in the EPIC-Oxford study. Most of the participants in the study were vegans. When they were recruited in the study, 29,380 of the total participants ate meat items, 8,037 ate fish but not meat, 15,499 were vegetarians and 1,982 were vegans.

“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. 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,” added Mr. Tong.

“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. 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,” he concluded.

How to protect bone health in vegan diet?

Calcium rich food

Eat sufficient protein: Intake protein-rich food at least three servings per day of legumes which include beans, peanuts, peanut butter and soy foods. Vegans over the age of 50 should try to consume at least four servings of these foods.

Get enough calcium: The easiest approach is to try to eat at least two cups a day of foods that contain well-absorbed calcium. Include food items like beans, almonds, navel oranges, and tahini in your diet. If you struggle to eat these foods, another option is calcium-fortified fruit juices.

Don’t forget Vitamin D: While humans have evolved to produce a lot of vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight but this is not always a reliable approach in the modern world. Smog, clouds and sunscreen all interfere with the production of vitamin D. Natural sources of vitamin D are only a handful of foods, so most individuals rely on fortified foods or supplements for this nutrient. It can help people up to an extent to get sufficient vitamins.

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Engage in exercise: Nutrition is a crucial thing for bone health, but at the same time there is nothing worse for bone health than being a couch potato. The exercise that provides impact and develops muscle mass and strength is important to keep bones healthy.

Ensure enough Vitamin B12: Poor vitamin B12 level has been related to poor bone health in elderly individuals in particular. It’s essential to ensure a good source of vitamin B12 in the form of cyanocobalamin for all vegans, regardless of age. Cyanocobalamin is a human-made form of Vitamin B12. This will help to get enough vitamins which is needed for a healthy life.