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More chance of hip fracture for vegetarian women – large-scale British study

A study has found that vegetarian women have 33% more chance of breaking a hip later in life than those who eat meat, possibly because vegetarians “often have lower intakes of nutrients that are linked with bone and muscle health”.

The large-scale study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, looked at 26 000 women in the UK aged between 35 and 69 and assessed the risk of hip fracture among vegetarians, pescatarians and occasional meat-eaters, compared with women who regularly eat meat.

The University of Leeds team assessed data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, which track the group of women over time to assess links between diets and health, reports The Independent.

Of the group, 28% are vegetarian, while 1% is vegan.

Over 20 years, researchers found 822 hip fractures among the women, the elevated risk of a hip fracture found only among those who were vegetarian.

“Our study highlights potential concerns regarding risk of hip fracture in vegetarian women,” said lead author James Webster.

“However, it is not warning people to abandon vegetarian diets – as with any diet, it is important to understand personal circumstances and what nutrients are needed for a balanced healthy lifestyle.”

He said vegetarian diets often have lower intakes of nutrients linked with bone and muscle health. “These types of nutrients generally are more abundant in meat and other animal products than in plants, such as protein, calcium and other micronutrients.

“Low intake of these can lead to lower bone mineral density and muscle mass, making you more susceptible to hip fracture risk.”

Co-author professor Janet Cade added: “Hip fracture is a global health issue with high economic costs, causing loss of independence, reducing quality of life, and increasing risk of other health issues.

“Plant-based diets have been linked with poor bone health, but there has been a lack of evidence on the links to hip fracture risk. This study is an important step in understanding the potential risk plant-based diets could present over the long-term and what can be done to mitigate those risks.”

Study details

Risk of hip fracture in meat-eaters, pescatarians, and vegetarians: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study

James Webster, Darren Greenwood & Janet Cade

Published in BMC Medicine on 11 August 2022

Abstract

Background
The risk of hip fracture in women on plant-based diets is unclear. We aimed to investigate the risk of hip fracture in occasional meat-eaters, pescatarians, and vegetarians compared to regular meat-eaters in the UK Women’s Cohort Study and to determine if potential associations between each diet group and hip fracture risk are modified by body mass index (BMI).

Methods
UK women, ages 35–69 years, were classified as regular meat-eaters (≥ 5 servings/week), occasional meat-eaters (< 5 servings/week), pescatarian (ate fish but not meat), or vegetarian (ate neither meat nor fish) based on a validated 217-item food frequency questionnaire completed in 1995–1998. Incident hip fractures were identified via linkage to Hospital Episode Statistics up to March 2019. Cox regression models were used to estimate the associations between each diet group and hip fracture risk over a median follow-up time of 22.3 years.

Results
Among 26,318 women, 822 hip fracture cases were observed (556,331 person-years). After adjustment for confounders, vegetarians (HR (95% CI) 1.33 (1.03, 1.71)) but not occasional meat-eaters (1.00 (0.85, 1.18)) or pescatarians (0.97 (0.75, 1.26)) had a greater risk of hip fracture than regular meat-eaters. There was no clear evidence of effect modification by BMI in any diet group (p-interaction = 0.3).

Conclusions
Vegetarian women were at a higher risk of hip fracture compared to regular meat-eaters. Further research is needed to confirm this in men and non-European populations and to identify factors responsible for the observed risk difference. Further research exploring the role of BMI and nutrients abundant in animal-sourced foods is recommended.

 

The Independent article – Vegetarian women are ‘more likely to break hips’, study finds (Open access)

 

BMC Medicine article – Risk of hip fracture in meat-eaters, pescatarians, and vegetarians: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Regular exercise reduces hip fracture risk in post-menopausal women

 

Meat protein increases CVD risk by 60% but nut and seed protein beneficial

 

Human cells less able to absorb protein from ‘vegan’ meat’ – Ohio study

 

Even obese vegetarians who smoke and drink have healthier biomarkers than meat-eaters

 

Pro-vegetarian diet lowers heart risk

 

 

 

 

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