Vegetarian food has gained popularity in recent years. These are often regarded as a healthier dietary choice, with previous evidence showing that a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, compared to an omnivorous diet.
There is also a worldwide call to reduce the consumption of animal products in an effort to combat climate change.
Researchers from the University of Leeds said that therefore understanding the risk of hip fracture among vegetarians is becoming increasingly important for public health.
In the study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, the team examined the risk of hip fractures in occasional meat eaters, carnivores (fish eaters but not meat eaters) and vegetarians, compared to regular meat eaters.
Among 26,318 women, 822 hip fractures occurred over about 20 years. After adjusting for factors such as smoking and age, vegetarianism was the only diet group with a higher risk of hip fracture.
“Our study highlights potential concerns about the risk of hip fractures in women following a vegetarian diet. However, it is not warning people to give up vegetarian diets. As with any diet, it is important to understand individual circumstances. and what nutrients are essential for a balanced healthy lifestyle,” said lead author James Webster, a doctoral researcher in the School of Food Science and Nutrition in Leeds.
Vegetarian diets can vary widely from person to person and can be healthy or unhealthy, just like diets that include animal products. It is concerning, however, that vegetarian diets often result in low intakes of nutrients that are associated with bone and muscle health. These types of nutrients are generally more abundant in meat and other animal products than in plants, such as protein, calcium and other micronutrients.
“Low intake of these nutrients can lead to reduced bone mineral density and muscle mass, which can make you more vulnerable to hip fracture risk. This may particularly suggest an increased risk in vegetarians for further research. This makes it important to better understand these factors, whether it is specific nutritional deficiencies or weight management, so that we can help people make healthier choices,” Webster said.
The research team also found that the average body mass index among vegetarians was slightly lower than the average among regular meat eaters. Previous research has shown a link between a low BMI and a higher risk of hip fracture.
A low BMI can indicate that people are underweight, which can mean poor bone and muscle health and a higher risk of hip fracture. The team said further investigation is needed to determine whether a low BMI is a cause of the higher risk in vegetarians.
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