A new study from Germany suggests vegan diets might be bad for bone health.
The study from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found vegans on vegan diets consume fewer nutrients relevant for the strength of their skeletons. These nutrients are mainly found in food of animal origin, which vegans abhor. The study authors, however, said studies are needed to clarify these findings.
A vegan diet, which is associated with followers of veganism, is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy.
The study, "Risks and benefits of a vegan diet," included only 72 men and women. Of this total, 36 were vegans while the other 36 were people who followed a mixed-food diet.
Ultrasound measurements at the heel bone were used to determine bone mass, which is a key indicator of bone health. On average, the study found participants that followed a vegan diet had lower ultrasound values compared to the other group. This result indicates poorer bone health.
The bone health of all participants was assessed at the heel bone using ultrasound measurements. Information on age, smoking status, education, body mass index, physical activity and alcohol consumption was also collected.
"A vegan diet is often considered health-conscious," according to says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "However, our scientific findings indicate that a vegan diet does affect bone health."
The study used biomarkers in blood and urine to identify nutrients that might be related to diet and bone health. It used 28 parameters of nutritional status and bone metabolism to assess bone health.
By doing so, the study identified 12 biomarkers most strongly associated with bone health. Among these biomarkers are the amino acid lysine and vitamins A and B6.
In most cases, the combination of these biomarkers was present in lower concentrations in vegans. This might be a possible explanation for the poorer bone health among vegans.
One of the major health risks arising from poor bone health is osteoporosis, which is a condition more prevalent among the elderly that causes bones to become weak and brittle.
The likelihood of a person developing osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass he attain by the time he reaches the age of 30 and how rapidly he loses it after that.
The higher a person's peak bone mass, the less likely a person is to develop osteoporosis as he ages. Osteoporosis is affected by amount of calcium in a person's diet. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.