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Vegans May Be More Likely to Break Bones

Largest study of its kind sees increased risk for those who don't eat animal products
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2020 8:47 AM CST

(Newser) – The largest study of its kind suggests that those who don't eat meat are more likely to suffer bone fractures. Vegans, who shun both meat and dairy, appear to have the greatest risk relative to vegetarians and pescatarians, particularly when it comes to hip fractures, reports CNN. To keep things in context, New Scientist explains that the overall risk to vegans in the study was still pretty small, "equating to about an extra 20 bones broken per 1,000 people over 10 years." The research in BMC Medicine, which draws from a long-running study of about 65,000 people in Britain that began in the early 1990s, found that vegans suffered broken hips at about the twice the rate as meat-eaters. Vegetarians and meat-eaters also had an increased risk for broken hips, though at a smaller rate of 25%.

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When it comes to broken bones of other kinds, vegans had a higher risk than meat-eaters there as well, but not vegetarians and fish-eaters. Some caveats: This study involves mostly white Europeans, and vegans have better options today than in the 1990s, including plant-based milks fortified with calcium. Another factor: Part of the increased risk might be chalked up to a simpler factor than the complexities of diet: Vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower BMIs than meat-eaters, which gives them less of a cushion when they fall. Researcher Tammy Hong of Oxford says at Eureka Alert that the takeaway for vegans and vegetarians is to keep an eye on their protein and calcium and supplement if necessary. She also notes that participants had an average age of 45 when the study began, adding that the risk might be higher for elderly vegans and vegetarians. (Read more vegan stories.)

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