Vegetarian Diets Promote Bone Health
PCRM Responds to New Study on Eating Habits and Bone Density
WASHINGTON—A study was published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on vegetarian diets and bone density. The study appears to have been misinterpreted by some reporters as suggesting that vegetarian and vegan diets might lead to decreased bone health. This is not what the study showed.
The study’s results suggest that vegetarian diets may be associated with slightly lower bone mineral density. "But the magnitude of the association is clinically insignificant," as the study’s lead researcher, Tuan Nguyen, explained in the paper’s conclusion.
Other studies have found that vegetarian and vegan diets have no clinically detrimental effect on bone health. Indeed, one recent study by the same researchers found that a lifelong vegan diet has no adverse effects on bone mineral density compared to an omnivorous diet. Many epidemiological studies show that high dairy intake is actually associated with increased fracture risk.
"Vegetarian diets can help people build strong bones, and plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer," says Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina Asheville and author of Building Bone Vitality, a new book about bone loss and osteoporosis prevention. "To build strong bones and healthy bodies, people need weight-bearing exercise and low-acid, plant-based diets rich in fruits and vegetables."
A scientific review on the role of dairy in bone health published in Pediatrics in 2005 showed that the majority of studies on this subject have found no relationship between bone health and dairy consumption or dietary calcium intake. The level of dairy product consumption in the United States is already among the highest in the world, and yet our osteoporosis and fracture rates are also among the highest.
Dairy also poses health concerns. Fluid milk has become the single largest source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the diets of American children. A study from the Harvard Medical School found that drinking milk actually increases the risk of childhood obesity. Fat from dairy products is associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.