April 20, 2009

Vegan, non-vegetarian bone density same

Australian and Vietnam scientists say they've have discovered the bone density of vegan Buddhist nuns and non-vegetarian women is identical.

Professor Tuan Nguyen of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from the Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, compared the bone health of 105 post-menopausal vegan nuns and 105 non-vegetarian women. They said the women matched in every other physical respect.

For the 5 percent of people in Western countries who choose to be vegetarians, this is very good news, said Nguyen. "Even vegans, who eat only plant-based foods, appear to have bones as healthy as everyone else. Bone health in vegetarians, particularly vegans, has been a concern for some time, because as a group they tend to have a lower protein and calcium intake than the population at large.

In this work we showed that although the vegans studied do indeed have lower protein and calcium intakes, their bone density is virtually identical to that of people who eat a wide variety of foods, including animal protein.

Nguyen and Lan said they chose to study Buddhist nuns because their faith requires them to observe strict vegan diets all their lives.

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Osteoporosis International.