There has been a lot of hype about the EPIC-Oxford study and that they show higher bone fractures in vegans. A number of different plant-based doctors and YouTubers have covered the topic with their hypothesis of what may be the cause. Is it nutrient deficiency, or perhaps the study is flawed? One my my favorite vegan / plant-based dieticians, Jack Norris, covered the topic in depth with 6 articles on Vegan Health UK. Without boring you of ALL the details, I wanted to briefly highlight the areas of concern as well as the nutrients that are not likely to be of concern for vegans.
A very quick summary is:
- Resistance training and activities that involve jumping are the most effective ways to maintain and increase bone mass.
- β-carotene was the only nutrient that I believe could explain a significant amount of the higher fracture rate among vegans. This surprised me since many vegan foods are high in β-carotene…but you do have to eat them!
- Zinc, iodine, and selenium (especially in the U.K.) might have played a role in the higher fracture rates, so please make sure you’re aware of these nutrients (see Daily Needs).
Concerning The Paper:
It is an observational study and based on self-reporting in the UK so that is a bit limiting for the study.
The fracture rate was high among vegan women with low body mass index (BMI). Perhaps not eating enough calories, and making themselves a little on the frail side.
Jack’s Comments About Various Nutrients:
β-carotene / Vitamin A: This IS a nutrient of concern for some vegans but easy to get from diet. If you don’t eat your carrots, you may be deficient!
Zinc: Zinc intakes lower in vegans in the studies from Switzerland and Germany. This is generally not a concern for most vegans (found in cashews, oats, and quinoa), but a nutrient to consider supplementing.
Selenium: NOT a nutrient of concern for bone fractures though vegans in Germany were deficient, MAY be a nutrient of concern for thyroid issues but is easily remedied by eating a small handful of Brazil nuts monthly.