Do vegetarians have a higher risk of hip fracture?

Do vegetarians have a higher risk of hip fracture?

It’s a conundrum. You want to eat healthier with more vegetables, fruits, grains, and less red and other fatty meats. But you worry you may not be getting enough protein from a meat-free diet.

“Protein is needed for just about everything in your body, from healthy organs, muscles, skin and hair to the processes that give you energy and help fight illnesses,” says Dr. Alexander Riordan, an orthopedic surgeon at Aurora Health Care. “It’s also the key building block for building and maintaining strong bones.”

In a research study, scientists looked at the risk of hip fractures in women based on their diet preferences. More than 26,000 women were included in the study.

The women, ages 35-69, were grouped by their diet: regular meat-eaters (ate five or more servings of meat per week), occasional meat-eaters (ate less than five servings of meat per week), pescatarian (ate fish but no meat) or vegetarian (ate neither meat nor fish). The incidence of hip fracture was tracked over a period of about 22 years.

After analyzing the results, the researchers concluded the women who were vegetarian had a higher risk of hip fracture compared to those who were regular meat-eaters. There was no difference in risk found in women who were occasional meat-eaters or pescatarians compared to regular meat-eaters.

“We know through many research studies a plant-based diet is associated with less heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases,” Dr. Riordan says. “But it’s important to get enough protein, which is certainly doable even if you’re avoiding meat.”

To help you choose plant-based foods that are protein-packed, Dr. Riordan recommends including these in your diet:

  • Soy products like tofu, tempeh and edamame
  • Lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Nuts like peanuts and almonds
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Dark green vegetables like broccoli and kale

Do you have hip pain? Take a free online quiz to learn more. 

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.