By Joel Fuhrman, MD • A model of this text was initially printed on

A research printed in November 2020 on 54,898 folks residing in the UK, 1,982 of whom had been vegan, discovered a better threat of complete and site-specific hip fractures in vegans in comparison with meat-eaters after a median follow-up of 17.6 years.1 The authors had been in a position to attribute a few of the threat of fractures to low BMI and decrease calcium and protein intakes amongst vegans.

A comparatively giant variety of vegans — 17% of vegan males and 28% of vegan girls — had BMI beneath 20, which could point out sickness or low muscle mass and will negatively have an effect on bone density. Notably, after they divided the vegans into teams by BMI, a considerably larger threat of complete and site-specific hip fractures was solely present in vegans with BMI beneath 22.5. Of course, chubby folks carrying extra weight have larger muscular tissues and bones, and fewer fractures — however they don’t dwell as lengthy.2,three

The query stays, can we get sufficient protein for glorious muscle and bone density, preserve a lifespan-favorable BMI, and nonetheless stop fractures?

In this research, the common protein consumption was 12.9% and 13.5% of energy for vegan women and men (which can be a bit low for the aged), and 16% and 17.three% for meat-eaters. Calcium consumption was 1,058 and 989 mg/day for meat-eating women and men, and 611 and 580 mg/day for vegan women and men. This low calcium consumption doubtless displays inadequate inexperienced greens by the vegans in the research.

The Study’s Disclaimer

senior men jogging

The authors famous these elements — BMI, calcium consumption, and protein consumption — didn’t absolutely clarify the distinction in fracture threat between meat-eaters and vegans, saying further unknown elements doubtless additionally contributed.

For instance, the researchers had no info on what dietary supplements members had been taking or what kind of train they engaged in. Rates of standard train had been low in all teams however larger in vegans; 29% of meat-eaters and 41% of vegans reported partaking in “moderate or high physical activity.”

Other Contributors to Vegan Bone Health

Insufficient vitamin D, energy coaching, or consumption of inexperienced greens and different bone-protecting plant meals might doubtlessly be contributors to extra fractures. In different research, diets larger in greens, fruits, minerals, and phytochemicals are linked to raised bone well being.Four-6

Plant Protein from Beans, Nuts, and Seeds

Plant-based protein sources for vegan bone health in wooden spoons

Vegans did devour extra legumes, nuts, greens, and fruits than meat-eaters. But on common, vegetable consumption was solely 173-200g/day, which is lower than two cups of greens every day.

Average legume consumption was 30g/day, which is simply one-sixth of 1 cup of beans or lentils. Average consumption of nuts was lower than one ounce/day. And seed consumption was not talked about in the research in any respect. This low consumption of entire plant meals suggests the vegans in the research had been doubtless getting too many energy from refined carbohydrates and processed meals.

More Plant Protein Improves Health and Lifespan

Certainly, the proof is conclusive high-animal protein eating regimen will increase most cancers threat and shortens lifespan,7-11 however we’d like adequate protein to assist muscle development and bone mass, particularly as we become old.12 One necessary factor to notice is that older adults are most weak to bone loss, osteoporosis, and fractures. Absorption and assimilation of protein and calcium decreases with growing old, rising the protein and calcium necessities for older populations in comparison with youthful folks.

The Nutritarian Difference

Protein and calcium-rich plant foods for vegan bone health

A Nutritarian eating regimen could also be low in animal protein, but it surely additionally comprises extra plant protein in comparison with most different plant-based diets. Getting sufficient protein on a vegan eating regimen isn’t tough, but it surely does require consideration to dietary selection. Relying on high-glycemic, low-protein meals like refined carbohydrates, rice, and potatoes for many of your energy will doubtless lead to insufficient protein in addition to a excessive glycemic load. This can be detrimental to bone well being as a better blood glucose stage isn’t good for the bones.13,14

Other high-credence research with giant numbers of members have corroborated this — that extra protein-rich plant meals result in higher well being and longer lifespan. And extra protein-rich animal merchandise result in worse well being outcomes and a shorter lifespan.11,15-19 The secret sauce right here is to eat extra protein-adequate plant meals.

A eating regimen with quite a lot of plant protein sources — beans (together with soybeans), seeds, nuts, and greens — supplies ample (however not extreme) quantities of protein and a extra full array of every important amino acid.20 Certain plant meals are larger or decrease in sure important amino acids, and quite a lot of meals ensures we don’t have a low consumption of any explicit one. This is necessary for bone well being since sure important amino acids, together with lysine, which is larger in legumes than many different plant meals, might facilitate collagen formation.20-22

Protein is Necessary for Bone & Muscle Mass

Protein wants are better for adults over roughly age 70.23,24 In addition to rising their consumption of legumes and seeds, older adults who expertise lack of bone or muscle mass with growing old may contemplate including a plant-based protein complement (akin to pea, hemp, or pumpkin protein).

Previous knowledge on bone well being in vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians from the Adventist Health Study suggests ample protein consumption is a vital technique for stopping fractures. Greater plant protein consumption was related to a decrease threat of wrist fractures in vegetarian girls. And better consumption of legumes and meat substitutes had been related to a decrease threat of hip fractures in women and men.22,25

protein content of plant foods chart

Calcium-Rich Foods

Most folks don’t devour sufficient calcium-rich plant meals akin to beans and inexperienced greens. Bone tissue is made up of principally calcium phosphate and collagen, with 99% of the calcium in the physique saved in our bones. Adequate dietary calcium is critical for sturdy bones. Although dairy merchandise will not be health-promoting, non-vegans most frequently get ample calcium due to dairy consumption. Plant meals can present ample calcium (together with different minerals, nutritional vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals). But vegans should take note of consuming these calcium-rich meals. How a lot calcium we soak up varies relying on the meals supply as you possibly can see in the desk beneath.26

absorbable calcium in foods chart
Note: Tofu is ready with calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride and calcium sulfate (generally referred to as nigari). Check the Nutrition Facts panel for calcium content material.

Nutritarian Diet vs. Starch-Based Vegan Diet

nutrition menu vs starch-based vegan menu graphic

Supplements: Vitamin D and K2

close up of supplements and water glass in hands of woman

In the research outlined above, the researchers didn’t have knowledge on what dietary supplements the members took. It is feasible that lack of supplementation, particularly vitamin D, might have contributed to the elevated fracture threat in vegans in the research.

About 35% of Americans don’t meet the advisable consumption of vitamin Okay. And for vitamin D, the quantity is even bigger – 70% don’t meet the advisable consumption every day.30  Nevertheless, it was unlikely the vegans had been extra poor in Vitamin D in comparison with the meat-eating cohort, although it nonetheless is one thing to pay attention to.

Vitamin D is necessary for bone well being as a result of it regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, that are main parts of bone tissue. Deficiency in vitamin D will increase the threat of fractures.31,32

An enormous quantity of analysis helps a blood focus of vitamin D (as measured by 25(OH)D) in the 30-45 ng/ml vary for fracture prevention.33 I like to recommend most individuals complement to attain such a blood stage, to allow them to keep away from extreme pores and skin growing old and pores and skin injury from an excessive amount of solar publicity. Two-thousand IU (50 mcg per day) is an acceptable dose for many adults to have the ability to obtain this favorable vary in the blood. Awareness of all parts that may have an effect on fracture threat and falls is necessary.

Green greens are the richest supply of vitamin K1; vitamin K2 is produced by microorganisms and is low in plant meals. Supplementation trials utilizing vitamin K2 in postmenopausal girls have discovered notable reductions in fracture threat: a 60% discount in vertebral fracture, 77% for hip fracture, and 81% for all non-vertebral fractures.34,35 I like to recommend getting K1 from inexperienced greens and supplementing with a reasonable dose of K2 to assist preserve bone density with growing old.

Appropriate Calcium Supplementation

For many individuals, inexperienced greens, beans, nuts, and seeds most definitely present sufficient calcium with out the want for dietary supplements. However, calcium necessities are larger for sure teams. Pregnant, nursing, and postmenopausal girls, in addition to these with osteopenia or osteoporosis, and people with a small urge for food for inexperienced greens, may contemplate including a small dose of supplemental calcium unfold out with every meal to make sure adequate calcium consumption. I like to recommend utilizing a decrease dose, food-derived calcium dietary supplements (entire powdered seaweed, for instance, at a dose of 200-300 mg/meal) so as to add to the calcium already in the meal. Thus avoiding an enormous quantity of concentrated calcium coming in . I don’t suggest high-dose (1000 mg or extra) calcium dietary supplements as a result of there’s preliminary (although nonetheless inconclusive) proof that these excessive doses could also be dangerous to the cardiovascular system.36,37


Food supplies the uncooked materials, however train is crucial for constructing muscle and sustaining bone mass.

Strength coaching and weight-bearing train (akin to operating and leaping) are efficient at constructing bone energy.38-40 These forms of train stimulate exercise in bone-building cells, resulting in denser, stronger bones.

The Meat of the Story

elderly woman showing off her arm muscles

The conclusion right here is that the current findings that vegans are at larger threat of fractures are per different research that present that listening to plant protein is necessary for these following vegan diets. A Nutritarian eating regimen is the gold-standard of plant-based diets as the dietary portfolio is wealthy in the most well being and longevity-promoting meals — that are additionally good for the bones. The proof is evident — to guarantee glorious well being and longevity, the clever and conservative use of some dietary supplements is indicated.

Let’s face actuality right here — a more healthy eating regimen is more healthy than one that’s much less wholesome. As ridiculous as that sounds many individuals are attempting to pawn off the concept that even a haphazardly designed eating regimen is ok so long as you don’t eat animal merchandise. The information level to the conclusion that many vegans will not be consuming healthfully sufficient. If you observe my recommendation on this article (or you’re already following a Nutritarian eating regimen), then that won’t be you!


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Tell us in the feedback:

  • Do you get sufficient protein and calcium in your eating regimen?
  • What plant-based sources of protein and calcium are your favourite?
  • If you’re vegan or plant-based, how else are you supporting your bone well being?

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