Bone health benefits of vegan diets confirmed

Bone health benefits of vegan diets confirmed
Bone health benefits of vegan diets confirmed

The study provided evidence of poorer bone health for those on a vegan diet. The researchers also found a combination of nutrition-related biomarkers that may promote bone health.


In recent years, the plant-based type of food has become more and more popular in Western countries and even in Russia, especially given the fashion for everything that has the prefix "eco". People are more likely to choose to become vegetarians or vegans (tougher option: avoiding eggs, dairy products, refined or processed foods, preservatives, alcohol, caffeine, any stimulants, and animal products). Moreover, they explain their choice not only with compassion for animals and care for the world around them, but also with alleged health benefits.

Indeed, there is evidence that this type of diet can protect against many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, or cancer. Nevertheless, it has been said for several days that the vegan diet does not carry the required amount of vitamins and macronutrients: the rejection of animal products, in particular, is associated with lower bone mineral density and is fraught with an increased risk of fractures. Our skeleton is a dynamic and metabolically active collection of bones, cartilage, tissues and ligaments, extremely sensitive to its microenvironment, scientists note. Therefore, eating habits are considered an important factor affecting his condition.

For example, calcium and vitamin D are major determinants of bone health and are considered potentially important nutrients for vegans, as are omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins B12 and A, minerals zinc, selenium, and iodine. On the other hand, plant-based diets offer important bone-protecting nutrients such as vitamin K and folic acid.

The aim of the new study was to identify differences in bone health between vegans and omnivores, and to identify nutritional biomarkers associated with bone health (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids). The authors of the work were German scientists from the notorious Charite clinic in Berlin, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Martin Luther University and the University of Potsdam. The results are published in the journal Nutrients.

The study, which was conducted from January to July 2017, included 72 people aged 30-60 years with a body mass index of less than 30, without diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and pregnancy. Half of them adhered to the vegan diet (on average for 4, 8 years), and the other half had no restrictions. That is, they ate at least three servings of regular meat or two servings of processed meat per week. All participants donated fasting urine and blood samples, kept detailed food diaries, underwent anthropometric measurements (weight, height and waist circumference), quantitative ultrasound examination of bone health, and talked about their lifestyle.

There were no differences between the groups in anthropometric indicators, physical activity, smoking, education or alcohol consumption. However, compared to “omnivores” (33.3%), vegans (97.2%) took supplements more often, especially with vitamin B12 (91.7%). As a result, it turned out that people who refused animal products had lower bone ultrasound readings compared to the second group, they also showed lower levels of calcium in the urine, the concentration of zinc, selenoproteins and a lack of total fatty acids.

“Vegans had a higher concentration of α-cloto protein (regulates the body's sensitivity to insulin. - Ed.). But “omnivores” had higher concentrations of vitamins A and B2, while vegans showed higher concentrations of vitamin K1 and folate. We did not find any differences in the concentration of vitamins B12 and B6. However, vegans showed higher concentrations of glutamine and lower concentrations of lysine, while there were no differences in other amino acids (eg, alanine, arginine, leucine, and proline). Scientific evidence suggests that some specific nutrients, derived primarily from food sources of animal origin, are found in lesser amounts in vegans, which can adversely affect bone health,”the authors write.

Thus, scientists found that 12 out of 28 biomarkers contribute the most to bone health: lysine, iodine (in urine), thyroid-stimulating hormone, selenoprotein P, vitamin A, leucine, α-clotho protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium / magnesium (in urine), vitamin B6, and fibroblast growth factors (FGFs).

Of course, larger studies are needed for far-reaching conclusions. However, taking into account other scientific work, it can be argued that vegans get fewer nutrients from their diet that are vital for bone health and are mainly found in foods of animal origin.

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