Veganism might be a concept started in good faith but in the long term, its followers might lose the strength in their bones. Recent research by Oxford University has shown that those who follow a vegan diet are at a 43 per cent higher risk of bone fracture compared to those who eat meat.
The findings, newly published in the journal BMC Medicine by Oxford University researchers, have raised concerns that a recent increase in the popularity of veganism, especially in Britain, will cause health problems unless adherents plan their diets. The National Health Service advises vegans to consider how they obtain enough calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
The study was conducted on nearly 50,000 participants living in the UK. It also found that vegetarians and people who ate fish, but not meat, had a higher risk of hip fractures, compared to those who ate meat. However, the risk of fracture was slightly reduced once body mass index (BMI), dietary calcium and dietary protein intake were taken into account.
The research is a first comprehensive study on the risks of both total and site-specific fracture in people of different diet groups, according to the lead author of the research, Dr Tammy Tong. Dr Tong is a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford.
Veganism has grown in popularity in Britain in recent years. The number of vegans in Britain more than doubled to 6,00,000 between 2016 and 2019, according to surveys by the Vegan Society published this year, reports The Independent.
To cater to this increasing trend, food manufacturers have created a number of plant products designed to replicate red meat, such as vegan sausage rolls and burgers that “bleed”, with beetroot juice.
Speaking about the research, Dr Tong said that earlier studies have shown that low BMI is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures, and low intakes of calcium and protein have resulted in poorer bone health. The recently published study showed that vegans, who on an average had lower BMI as well as lower consumption of calcium and protein than meat-eaters, had higher risks of fractures at several sites.
Dr Tong suggests that a well-balanced and plant-based diet can result in improved nutrient levels and can lower the risks of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. People should consider the benefits and risks of their diet, and ensure that they have adequate levels of calcium and protein and also maintain a healthy BMI, that is, neither under nor overweight.