Vegetarian women at higher risk for hip fracture, study finds

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A recent study found that middle-aged women in the United Kingdom who followed a vegetarian diet had a 33 percent higher risk of hip fracture compared to those who ate meat.

The study was published in the journal, BMC Medicine, and conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds. The study involved 26,318 women from the U.K. and compared the rate of hip fractures among those who were occasional meat eaters, vegetarians, and pescatarians to regular meat-eaters.  

“Vegetarian diets can vary widely from person to person and can be healthy or unhealthy, just like diets that include animal products,” said the study’s lead author, James Webster, PhD, of the School of Food Science and Nutrition at University of Leeds in a statement. ““However, it is concerning that vegetarian diets often have lower intakes of nutrients that are 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.”

Amongst all the participants, 822 women experienced hip fractures. The study found that vegetarians were at a 33 percent higher risk of experiencing a hip fracture than those who ate meat regularly. Researchers found no statistically significant difference in the rate of hip fractures among occasional meat-eaters, pescatarians, and regular meat-eaters.

“Low intake of these nutrients can lead to lower bone mineral density and muscle mass, which can make you more susceptible to hip fracture risk,” said Webster. “This makes it especially important for further research to better understand factors driving the increased risk in vegetarians, whether it be particular nutrient deficiencies or weight management, so that we can help people  make healthy choices.”