Introduction: Osteoporosis is a pervasive disease with a high price tag. Over 200 million people worldwide have the disease. Major health initiatives include recommendations for dairy products. However, approximately two percent of Americans choose to follow a vegan diet. Despite the general acceptance of dairy products as a necessary component of a healthy diet to prevent osteoporosis, some studies have demonstrated that a vegan diet may be equivalent, or even superior, to this accepted wisdom. This paper explores whether the potential deficiencies of following a vegan diet result in an adverse effect on bone health.
Methods: Literature search was performed using PubMed, Mantis, and the Cochrane Library databases. Search terms included osteoporosis, vegan and vegetarian and bone health, in combination with one another. Articles that discussed the impact of vegetarian or vegan diets on osteoporosis were selected.
Results: Vegan diets are at risk for deficiencies in protein, calcium, and vitamin D3. Dairy products are a common source of calcium in the American diet. The relationships among vegan diets, bone loss, and fracture rates have been equivocal.
Discussion: The importance of protein, calcium, and vitamin D on bone health is well established. Although at risk for deficiencies in these areas, some literature suggests that well-balanced vegan diets may be adequate to maintain bone health. Higher than normal intakes of fruits and vegetables have been shown to support healthy bones. Since vegan diets are ideally high in fruit and vegetable intake, this may explain these findings.
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