Vegans are at higher risk of breaking their bones than those who eat meat, new study claims.
A study on more than 55,000 participants, including 2,000 vegans, found that people who don't eat meat or fish were 43 percent more likely to break their bones.
It's not like vegans are more likely to trip and fall or anything like that, but the study says that these people are more likely to break their bones in such incidents.
While the causes aren't clear, researchers suggest it might stem from vegans not eating enough calcium and protein. Or from having a lower body mass index (BMI).
This study, by EPIC-Oxford, followed participants for 18 years on average.
After controlling variables like physical activity, sex, smoking, dietary supplement intake, and alcohol use, the study found 3,941 fractures occurred during this time.
The results also showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than those who ate meat.
Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though, to a lesser extent.
Also, vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians had a higher risk of leg fractures and breaks at other parts, including the arm, wrist, ribs, and clavicle.
This study is in the BMC Medicine journal.
Lead author Dr. Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, said:
"We found that vegans had a higher risk of total fractures which resulted in close to 20 more cases per 1,000 people over 10 years compared to people who ate meat."
One explanation for these cases may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein.
Calcium helps your body build strong bones, particularly before age 30. After this age, your body begins to lose bone mineral density. And lower bone mineral density means higher risks to fractures.
However, consuming enough calcium through a proper diet and supplement can help offset losses.
Protein, on the other hand, helps your body absorb calcium when consumed in normal amounts.
Other studies have also shown that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower protein and calcium levels.
When researchers accounted for vegans who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risks decreased but remained significant.
The second explanation is the body mass index (BMI).
Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which increases bone fracture risk, more so in the hips.
In the study, vegans with a low BMI suffered hip fractures. That could be because having a higher body mass provides a cushioning effect when you fall.
So, does a vegan diet necessarily lead to weak bones? Not entirely.
However, it's safe to say that people who don't consume meat, dairy, and eggs should be extra vigilant about consuming enough essential nutrients.
Dr. Tong also stressed that there were many benefits of a well-balanced plant-based diet.
He said previous studies show vegans are linked to lower risks of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
"People should take into account the benefits and risks of their diet. So ensure [you] have adequate levels of calcium and protein and also maintain a healthy BMI. That is, neither under nor overweight."