Experts have included one more issue in the list of drawbacks of plant-based diets. They have said that such diets are linked with a higher risk of bone fractures. A large longitudinal study has found that vegans and vegetarian people might be at a higher risk of bone fractures as compared to people who eat meat. The findings of the study have been released in the journal BMC Medicine. As per the US National Cancer Institute, fractures are common among old age people and adults. However, past studies have shown that vegetarian people have a low bone density as compared to non-vegetarians. Bone density can be defined as the number of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus found in a certain volume of bone. People who do not eat meat are identified with considerably lower intakes of calcium and protein. The link between vegans and a higher risk of bone fractures has been uncertain until now.
This has been the first large-scale study, which has looked at the risk of total fractures and fractures at different parts of the body in people having different diet regimes. The lead author of the study Dr. Tammy Tong has said that there have been nearly 4.1 more cases of fractures among vegetarian people and 19.4 more fracture incidents per 1000 people having plant-based diets over a time span of 10 years. Nearly 55000 healthy adults have been given a questionnaire consisting of questions on their diet, socio-demographic traits, lifestyle, and medical history from 1993 to 2001. Experts have divided them into categories such as meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians (no fish and no meat but diet included dairy products and eggs), and vegans (no animal product). In 2016, experts have found a total of 3941 fractures among the participants. They have found that vegans with low intakes of calcium and protein have been at a 43 percent greater risk of fractures on hips, vertebrae, and legs. While vegetarians and fish eaters have been at a higher risk of hip fractures as compared to meat-eaters. Nevertheless, experts have said that the risk has been reduced when they have considered their BMI (Body Mass Index) and enough intakes of calcium and protein. However, the risk has been on the higher side for vegans.
The findings of the study coincide with other researches as well, which has found a link between bone health, calcium and protein intake, and BMI. Other experts have said that there are many limitations to this study like the majority of the participants in the study have been white European women. Therefore, the findings of the study cannot be generalized to others. The authors of the study have not been able to derive any data on calcium supplementations. They as well have not been able to find causes behind reported fractures. Nutrient intake of the participants has been self-reported by the participants themselves, it has not been objectively evaluated. Hence, there is a need for further researches to validate the findings of this large-scale study.