Calcium, veganism and strong bones

Posted on 13 April 2010

A recent study that compares bone fracture rates across different diets has thrown up some interesting results.

The EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) group researched the theory that persons who avoid dairy products (a major source of dietary calcium) will be at greater risk of bone loss or fractures.

Their study of fracture risk by diet group showed that “among subjects consuming at least 525 mg/day calcium” (equivalent to RDA in the UK) there was no difference in self-reported fracture rates between meat eaters and vegans. Compared with meat eaters, the corresponding incidence rate ratios were 1.05 for fish eaters, 1.02 for vegetarians and 1.00 for vegans. What does this mean for us? It means that “an adequate calcium intake is essential for bone health, irrespective of dietary preferences”.

However, the study also highlighted some worrying statistics. Compared with meat eaters across the whole population group, actual fracture incidence rate ratios 1.01 for fish eaters, 1.00 for vegetarians and 1.30 for vegans. In this population sample, fracture risk was similar for meat eaters, fish eaters and vegetarians. The higher fracture risk in the vegans appeared to be a consequence of their considerably lower mean calcium intake.

So what does this mean? It means that a significant section of the vegan community have not adapted their diet to consume an adequate quantity of calcium. If we forego dairy products then we must consider other food sources of calcium and include them regularly in our diet.

This study does not indicate that the vegan diet is unhealthy. But it does show that vegans can be at greater risk of calcium defficiency if they do not consume a balanced diet. As vegans, we need to set a good example and show non-vegans that our diet is healthy. Therefore, it’s up to us to make sure we consume enough calcium. Food sources that are rich in calcium include:

  • Molasses;
  • Seeds (sesame seeds are especially good);
  • Nuts;
  • Carob;
  • Pulses, e.g. soya beans, tofu, tempeh, haricot beans, miso-fermented soy bean curd;
  • Parsley;
  • Dried figs;
  • Sea plants;
  • Leafy green vegetables, e.g. bok choy, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, artichokes, okra and broccoli;
  • Grains, e.g. oatmeal;
  • Fortified soy milk.

Don’t be another statistical victim!


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Posted in Category  International Vegan News  /   3 Comments »
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Comments [3]

  1. Eva Campbell says:

    i always take calcium supplements to my bones strong*;.

  2. vegansa says:

    Have done now, thx. :)

  3. Rob says:

    You haven’t mentioned green leafy vegetables.