The study shows that vegetarian women are more likely to fracture their hips later in life

Vegetarian women are more likely to suffer hip fractures later in life than frequent meat eaters, according to a UK study.

Researchers analyzed the health and diet records of more than 26,000 women and found that over a period of about 22 years, vegetarians were one-third more likely to break a hip than regular meat eaters.

The reasons for the increased risk are unclear, but researchers suspect that some vegetarians may not be getting enough nutrients for good bone and muscle health, making them prone to falls and fractures.

“The message for vegetarians is that you don’t give up your diet, because it’s healthy for other things and respectful of the environment, but be careful to plan well and don’t miss out on the nutrients you exclude when you don’t eat meat. or fish,” said Dr James Webster, a researcher at the University of Leeds.

Vegetarian diets are often considered healthier than meat-based diets and may reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. But the study published in BMC Medicine highlights the importance of a balanced diet, no matter what people eat.

“It’s likely that vegetarians, for one reason or another, and potentially because of the lower intake of important nutrients, have weaker bones and lower muscle mass, and both predispose people to hip fractures,” Webster said.

About 90% of hip fractures are related to falls, which are more common in older people, who tend to be more frail and have weaker bones. But fractures can often lead to greater frailty, which increases the risk of more falls and worse frailty.

The researchers suspect that vegetarians are more likely to be underweight than meat eaters, and that in addition to having weaker bones and muscles, they may also have less fat, which can act as a cushion when people fall.

Given the findings, Webster said vegetarians may want to consider eating cereals fortified with added iron and vitamin B12 for bone health and to make sure they get enough protein, through foods like nuts, legumes and beans

The researchers drew on data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, which tracks women over time to assess links between diet and health. The records of 26,318 women aged 35 to 69 years revealed that 822, or 3%, had hip fractures over a period of approximately 22 years. About 28% of the women were vegetarians and 1% were vegans.

The researchers compared the rate of hip fractures in vegetarians, pescatarians (those who eat fish but not meat) and occasional meat eaters with frequent meat eaters. Regular meat eaters ate meat at least five times a week.

Webster said more work is needed to see if vegetarian men have a similar risk of hip fractures. Previous work suggests that vegetarian men and women have poorer bone health on average compared to meat eaters “but the risk of hip fracture in male vegetarians remains unclear,” he said.

Eating less meat is one of the most important lifestyle changes people can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Research from the University of Leeds last year found that non-vegetarian diets created 59% more emissions than vegetarian diets.

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In a paper published in 2020, senior nutritional epidemiologist Dr Tammy Tong and others at the University of Oxford found that, compared to meat eaters, vegetarians had a 25% higher risk of fractures hip, with an even high risk for vegans at age 31. %.

Vegetarians in the Leeds study had a lower body mass index (BMI) than regular meat eaters, lower protein intake and lower vitamin D intake, “all of which are potential risk factors for the hip fracture,” he said.

“Vegetarians should pay particular attention to maintaining a healthy body weight and ensuring they have an adequate intake of protein and other nutrients important for bone health, including calcium and vitamin D.”

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