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According to a long-term study in BMC Medicine, vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians might be at higher risk of bone fractures.
The study involved about 55,000 volunteers of varying diets. The researchers found that vegetarian and fish-based diets share a small increase in the risk of bone fracture, as veganism puts people at a 43% higher risk of causing fractures.
They began recruiting people in 1993. The study looked at 15,500 vegetarians, 2,000 vegans, 8,000 pescatarians, and 29,380 meat-eaters over 18 years and searched for occurrences involving bone fractures.
Over the study, a total of 3,931 fractures were recorded. Those who were on diets without meat had higher incidences of fractures of ribs, as well as arms, ankles, the hip, and other significant bones.
This study looked at previous research that lower calcium and protein intake is connected to poorer bone health with a lower BMI.
The researchers said there isn’t enough evidence to conclude how diets could increase fracture risk. However, bone fracture risk partially declined when the study only accounted for differences in those factors. Without accounting for those factors, non-meat-eaters are at 1.3 times the fracture risk.
Currently, the study is just a correlation, and more research is needed to discard a reason for why the risk is heightened in vegans.
The vegan group had a much smaller sample size, which should be considered when concluding, and the supplementing calcium, as well as other minerals, weren’t accounted for.
The researchers suggested the difference may be in how calcium is taken in. Different factors may account for calcium uptake, including Vitamin D levels, which can differ between diets.
The scientists wrote that further studies would be necessary to incorporate certain ethnicities to the mainly white Europeans used in the study groups as generalization results across other ethnicities or populations are very limited.
Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming ever more popular over the last decade.
Veganism has over quadrupled in the United Kingdom between 2014-2019, and 6% of Americans say they are vegan, which is a 500% increase from 2014, with those turning to new plant-based alternatives for environmental, ethical, and health reasons, according to The Vegan Society.
Although these diets are trending upward, the need for more research into their application increases as well, upholding adequate levels of calcium and protein in these diets requires better dietary monitoring, and research like this will be vital in finding different ways to apply these diets with less risk to the brain and body.