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Vegans are at a greater risk of bone fractures, if this study is to be believed

Published on:9 March 2021, 12:13pm IST
Vegans who don't get enough calcium and protein from their diet may face a greater risk of bone fractures, according to a new study.
Aayushi Gupta
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Learn how to protect your bone health on a vegan diet. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Protein and calcium are perhaps the most important nutrients for your bone health. However, if you’re a vegan, then you must know that you are at higher risk of bone fracture and poor bone health as compared to your meat-eating counterparts. The common reason for the adverse impact on bone health is the deficient nutritional value in a vegan diet than a meat-based diet. 

Recently, as per a research published by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR), the bone health of 36 vegans and 36 people following a mixed diet of both meat and plant-based foods, was determined with an ultrasound measurement of the heel bone. The results of the study indicated that people following a vegan diet had lower ultrasound values compared to the other group, showing poor bone health.

Further, to validate the results, scientists determined biomarkers in blood and excretion which aims at identifying the nutrients that might be linked to diet and bone health. Out of 28 parameters of nutritional content and bone metabolism, they identified twelve biomarkers that are associated with bone health like amino acid lysin, leucine, calcium, omega fatty acids, iodine, magnesium, and vitamin A and BY. 

The said validation step resulted in showcasing that combinations of biomarkers were present in lower concentrations in vegan, meaning that vegans intake fewer nutrients that are relevant for bone health as they are mainly found in food of animal origin.

Moreover, researchers at Oxford University in England found out that vegans have 43% higher risk of having bone fractures than meat-eaters anywhere in the body, this study was published in the Journal BMC Medicine

There are several studies that have proven that calcium and protein intake are important for bone health and people who follow vegan diets have lower intakes of dietary protein, body mass index (BMI), and dietary calcium, which are responsible risk factors of bone fractures. 

So, if you are following a vegan diet then it is critical for you to protect your bones.

Here’s how you may take some active steps towards better bone health:

1. Dietary protein: Adequate protein intake is essential for bone health and for preventing fractures and dislocations. Protein increases calcium absorption and hence, consider consuming plant-based protein foods such as peas, hemp, or pumpkin.

Turns vegans has downsides too! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Calcium: Low calcium intake is associated with the risk of bone fractures. Vegans may consume plant milk, beans, and leafy greens such as spinach and cabbage to fulfill the calcium need in their body.

3. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and it plays an important role in protecting bones. Natural light (sunlight) is the primary source of vitamin D for Vegans. Mushrooms and fortified orange juice are also sources of vitamin D for vegans. 

4. Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain calcium, vitamins, minerals, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, among other nutrients. These nutritional values are a perfect base for getting strong bones and muscles. You may include cabbage, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, papaya, oranges, red pepper, strawberries, sprouts, and pineapples in your diet.

5. Exercise: Staying physically active can help you maintain your bone health as it reduces the risk of osteoporosis and improves muscle strength as well.

Although a vegan diet affects your bone health adversely, consuming the right foods with healthy nutritional values could help you ward off a number of bone health-related ailments.

Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.