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Vegan diet may lead to poorer bone health: Boost your calcium and protein intake with these foods

Several other studies have linked low calcium and protein intake among vegans or vegetarians to poor bone health.

A vegan diet is often considered health-conscious. But a new study say people consuming vegan diet may have poorer bone health compared to those who follow a mixed-food diet. Here's what vegans can do to boost their bone health.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : March 8, 2021 11:35 AM IST

Veganism has become a trend with more and more people choosing to cease the use of animal products, particularly in diet, to limit the exploitation of animals. But is being vegan or eating plant-based diet healthier than other vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets? The debate on this has been going on for years. Adding another point to this debate, a new study has suggested that people consuming vegan diet may have poorer bone health.

"A vegan diet is often considered health-conscious. However, our scientific findings indicate that a vegan diet does affect bone health," researcher Andreas Hensel from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, said in a statement.

The researchers used ultrasound measurement of the heel bone to determine the bone health of vegans as well as people following a mixed-food diet. They found that people following a vegan diet had lower ultrasound values compared to the other group that follows a mixed-food diet. This indicates poorer bone health.

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Hensel and his team also identified a pattern of twelve biomarkers that play an important role in bone health from 28 nutrition- and bone-relevant parameters from blood or urine. They found that vitamins A and B6, the amino acids lysine and leucine, omega-3 fatty acids, selenoprotein P, iodine, thyroid-stimulating hormone, calcium, magnesium and a-Klotho protein in combination were positively associated with bone health. On the contrary, lower concentrations of the hormone FGF23 were observed at higher ultrasound levels in this pattern.

According to the researchers, the results indicate that vegans consume fewer nutrients that are relevant for the skeleton and are mainly found in food of animal origin. However, they noted that further studies are needed for clarification.

Vegan diets linked to higher risk of bone fractures

A study published in the journal BMC Medicine in November 2020 also found that vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes had a 43 per cent higher risk, on average, of experiencing bone fractures than people who ate meat. In particular, people eating a vegan diet, face a higher risk of fractures of the hips and legs, as well as other main site fractures, such as the clavicle, ribs, and vertebrae, the study said.

Vegetarians and pescatarians those who do not eat meat but do eat fish also had a higher risk of sustaining hip fractures than people who ate meat, according to the study led by Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Previous studies have also suggested that vegetarians have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than those who ate meat.

A low BMI is also associated with a higher risk of hip fractures and studies have found that those who follow vegan or vegetarian have lower BMIs than those who eat meat. Several other studies have linked low calcium and protein intake among vegans or vegetarians to poor bone health.

Thus, ensuring adequate intake of calcium and protein as well as maintaining a healthy BMI is important for bone health and reduce risk of bone fractures. Vegan foods high in calcium include soy foods, Beans, Peas, and Lentils, nuts, seeds, fortified foods and drinks. Sources of protein for a plant-based diet: chia seeds, tofu, sprouted whole grain bread, quinoa, hemp seeds, broccoli, and lentils.

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