Vegans are more likely to suffer fractured bones than people who have meat and fish in their diet, according to new research.
A study based on data from nearly 55,000 people – of which nearly 2,000 were vegans – found that those who were not meat eaters were 43% more likely to suffer any type of broken bone.
The participants in the EPIC-Oxford study were followed for 18 years on average.
The results showed 3,941 fractures occurred in total, 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 has been published in BMC Medicine and 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.
However, data on whether the fractures were caused by poor bone health or accidents was not available.
Dr Tong added: “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.
“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.”
According to the Vegan Society, there were 600,000 vegans in the UK in 2019, equivalent to 1.2% of the population.
The society has reported a rise in people choosing to avoid meat and other animal products during the coronavirus pandemic.
They say it could be due to the cost, convenience or an increased concern for their own health, the environment and animals.