Any vegan or vegetarian knows how often the question, "But how do you get your protein?" is asked. Let's just say it's a lot.
A recent review in Nutrition Review examined vegan and vegetarian diets and their consequences for bone health and found that this question might have some merit.
As the study summarizes, there are certain lifestyle factors that affect bone health, with nutrition being one of them. While scientists know that certain nutrients, such as calcium, clearly impact bone health, the role of other nutrients is not as clear. Some of the nutrients easily found in animal products—protein, B12, zinc, and n-3 fatty acids, for example—have less known roles.
To understand how vegetarian and vegan diets impact bone health, this review included data from over 37,000 people. In the end, it found that vegans and vegetarians generally had lower bone mass density at the femoral neck (hip joint) and lumbar spine (lower spine) and that vegans also had higher fracture rates.
1. Vegan and vegetarian diets can provide many health benefits. For example, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are chronic diseases that the study sites as benefiting from this type of diet. Eating a plant-based diet can provide those same benefits as well.
2. Planning ahead should allow for the nutrients needed for bone density. A vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet can be great for overall health and, with consideration, can provide the nutrients needed for bone health.