Vegan diet means bones may be more brittle - study

broken bones vegan diet
More than 50,000 UK residents took part in the study. Photo credit: Getty.

While a vegan diet can result in a lower chance of heart disease and bowel cancer, new research shows it might not be great for clumsy folk. 

A study of more than 50,000 UK residents found that people who follow a plant-based diet are 43 percent more likely to break their bones. 

According to research published this week in the journal BMC Medicine, scientists found that compared with those who ate meat, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes on average had a 43 percent higher risk of breaking a bone, especially in their hips, legs and back. 

But the risk of fractures was partly reduced once body mass index (BMI) and calcium and protein intake were considered - meaning that those are probably nutrients you want to focus on upping no matter which diet you eat. 

The lead author of the study, Dr Tammy Tong from Oxford University, said it was the first comprehensive study on the risks of different diet groups.

"We found that vegans had a higher risk of total fractures which resulted in close to 20 more cases per 1000 people over a 10-year period compared to people who ate meat," she said. 

"The biggest differences were for hip fractures, where the risk in vegans was 2.3 times higher than in people who ate meat, equivalent to 15 more cases per 1000 people over 10 years."

But Dr Tong stressed that there were many benefits to a well-balanced and predominantly plant-based diet, including links to a lower risk of many diseases. 

"Individuals should take into account the benefits and risks of their diet, and ensure that they have adequate levels of calcium and protein and also maintain a healthy BMI, that is, neither under nor overweight."

Earlier this year, stats showed the number of New Zealanders who have made the switch to vegetarianism has surged. 

A recent survey by Colmar Brunton shows 15 percent of Kiwis aged 18 and over always or mostly eat plant-based meals - an increase of 50 percent in the last two years.