By Alan Mozes
The rise in risk was not confined to vegans, who eat no meat, fish, dairy or eggs. The researchers also identified a notably higher risk for hip fractures among those who eat fish but no meat (pescatarians), and among vegetarians who swear off both meat and fish, but do consume dairy and/or eggs.
The findings follow several decades spent tracking diet and fracture risk among roughly 55,000 Britons. All had enrolled in the EPIC-Oxford study between 1993 and 2001. (EPIC, or European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition, is one of the world’s largest cohort studies.)
For this look at diet and fracture risk, “we analyzed data collected over 18 years, on average, and found that vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians had higher risks of hip fractures than meat eaters,” said lead author Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford.
“[Hip fracture] risk in vegans was 2.3 times higher than in people who ate meat, equivalent to 15 more cases per 1,000 people over 10 years,” she said. “In addition, vegans also had a higher risk of fractures anywhere in the body, as well as fractures of the legs and vertebrae when compared to the meat eaters.”
Tong and her colleagues published their findings online Nov. 22 in the journal BMC Medicine.
Of the initial pool of 55,000 people, just over 29,000 were meat eaters (omnivores), about 8,000 were pescatarians, 15,500 were vegetarians and nearly 2,000 were vegans.
Diets were assessed when participants enrolled in the EPIC-Oxford study, and again in 2010. (Supplement intake was not assessed.) Fracture risk was tracked through 2016 through National Health Service records collected in England, Scotland and Wales.
During that time, over 3,900 fractures occurred: 566 broken arms, 889 broken wrists, 945 broken hips, 366 broken legs, 520 broken ankles and 467 fractures of other bones, including the ribs, spine or collarbone.