Vegans More Likely To Break Bones Than Meat Eaters, Study Finds

Vegans are at higher risk of breaking their bones than meat and fish eaters, according to new research conducted over almost 20 years.

A study of around 65,000 people across the U.K., of which nearly 2,000 were vegans, found those not eating meat or fish were 43 percent more likely to suffer any type of broken bone. Participants in the EPIC-Oxford study were followed for 18 years on average. Data showed 3,941 fractures occurred in total during this time, and the biggest difference was found in hip fractures, where the risk in vegans was 2.3 times higher than in people who ate meat.

The study, published in BMC Medicine, found: "Non-meat eaters, especially vegans, had higher risks of either total or some site-specific fractures, particularly hip fractures."

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 a 10-year period compared to people who ate meat."

In addition to a higher risk of hip fractures in vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians than meat-eaters, vegans also had a higher risk of leg fractures and breaks at other main sites, including the arm, wrist, ribs, and clavicle, the data showed. The authors said the study's findings did not account for poor bone health or accidents. "These risk differences were likely partly due to their lower BMI, and possibly to lower intakes of calcium and protein," the authors said.

More studies are needed to consider non-European populations and to explore the impact of age, sex, menopausal status, and BMI on findings, the authors said.

Dr. Tong said: "Well-balanced and predominantly plant-based diets can result in improved nutrient levels and have been linked to lower risks of diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

Vegan sausage rolls Plant Powered Expo 2020
Vegan sausage rolls for sale at the Plant Powered Expo 2020 in London, England Ollie Millington/Getty

"Individuals should take into account 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."

The Vegan Society, founded in Britain in 1944 and which coined the term "vegan", said there were 600,000 vegans in the U.K. in 2019, equivalent to 1.2 percent of the population. The society has reported a rise in people choosing to avoid meat and other animal products during the COVID pandemic. They say it could be due to the cost, convenience, or an increased concern for their own health, the environment, and animals.