Vegetarian diets linked to higher risk of broken hips, study finds

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You’ve likely heard about vegetarianism. It’s a way of eating where people don’t eat meat or fish. Some people do it for ethical reasons, others for health reasons, and some because they simply prefer plant-based foods.

Now, there’s a catch. A big study from the University of Leeds in the UK found that both men and women who don’t eat meat may have a higher risk of breaking their hips.

Understanding the Risk: How the Study Was Conducted

The research team at Leeds looked at a lot of data – 413,914 people to be exact.

These were men and women who gave information about their diets as part of the UK Biobank project, a big study aiming to improve the health of future generations.

Everyone in the study was sorted into one of four groups.

There were those who ate meat regularly (five or more times a week), those who ate meat less often (fewer than five times a week), pescatarians (people who eat fish but not meat), and vegetarians (people who eat dairy but not fish or meat).

Hip Fractures: The Main Findings

The research team followed the people in the study until 2021, looking at hospital records to find any cases of hip fractures.

Hip fractures were found in 3,503 of the participants. That’s less than one percent (0.8%) of the people in the study.

But here’s the surprising part. Vegetarians had a 50% higher risk of breaking their hip compared to regular meat eaters, no matter if they were men or women.

This means, out of 1,000 people studied for 10 years, there would be about 9.5 cases of hip fractures in vegetarians compared to 6.5 cases in regular meat eaters.

Pescatarians had a slightly higher risk (8%) compared to regular meat eaters. However, this was not a significant difference.

The Reasons Behind the Increased Risk

What’s causing this higher risk? The researchers think it could be because vegetarians often have lower body mass index (BMI).

BMI is a measure that helps understand if a person has a healthy body weight for their height. If it’s too low, it means the person is underweight, which can lead to weaker bones and a higher risk of fractures.

The researchers also found that vegetarians were about 17% less likely to get enough protein compared to meat eaters. Protein is a key nutrient that helps to keep our muscles and bones strong.

The Takeaway: A Balanced Diet and Healthy BMI

Despite the findings, it’s important to remember that the risk of hip fractures is still relatively low. Even though the risk is 50% higher for vegetarians, this only translates to about 3 more cases per 1,000 people over 10 years.

And let’s not forget the other health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Eating a plant-based diet can lower the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease.

What this study tells us is that if you’re a vegetarian, you need to be careful about getting a balanced diet with enough protein, and also maintain a healthy body weight.

That way, you can enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet while also keeping your bones healthy.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about vitamin K deficiency linked to hip fractures in old people, and these vitamins could help reduce bone fracture risk.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people, and eating yogurt linked to lower frailty in older people.

The study was published in BMC Medicine.

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