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Vegan diet not linked to bone loss

Postmenopausal vegans and meat-eaters have similar bone density, despite vegans' lower calcium and protein intake.

Vegan diet not linked to bone loss

Postmenopausal vegans and meat-eaters have similar bone density, despite vegans' lower calcium and protein intake. Vegan diets are free of all animal products, including eggs, dairy products, honey etc. One concern has been that female vegans might not get enough certain nutrients, including calcium, to maintain a healthy bone mass. To find whether a lifelong vegan diet has any negative effect on bone health, researchers from Vietnam identified 105 Vietnamese nuns whose average age was 62 years, and 105 meat-eaters of the similar age group. Bone scans were used to find the bone density in the spine, hip and body as a whole. It was found that nuns following a strict vegan diet had bone mass that was comparable to women their age who ate meat. The rates of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis were also comparable; 17 per cent of vegans had osteoporosis in the hip area, as did 14 percent of non-vegetarians. This was despite the fact that vegans generally consumed about half as much calcium and protein as compared to meat-eaters. The reasons of the findings were not clear, but may have to do with the nuns' intake of soybeans, which studies suggest may lessen postmenopausal bone loss, possibly due to estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones. Whether the findings extend to all vegan women is not entirely clear, as Buddhist nuns have a different overall lifestyle from the general population. One difference that the researchers noted is that they may be more physically active in their daily lives, with activities such as gardening. Regular exercise, particularly weight-bearing activities that make the body work against gravity, is known to build and maintain bone mass.
Osteoporosis International
April 2009
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