Don’t Eat Dairy? Do This to Strengthen Bones, Study Says
Despite the many health benefits that stem from plant-based eating, research has indicated that vegans are more prone to fractures or lower bone mineral density. But new research states that vegans who do strength training show similar bone strength to omnivores who do strength training. This new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism aims to prove if resistance training can prevent diminished bone strength in plant-based dieters.
With approximately six percent of the United States now following a vegan diet, the Austrian researchers hoped to find a solution to the higher fracture risk among those following a plant-based diet. The research compares vegans who strength train, vegans who only do other forms of exercise including swimming or biking, and omnivores who strength train. The study found near-equivalent data between the vegan and omnivores participating in resistance training.
“Veganism is a global trend with strongly increasing numbers of people worldwide adhering to a purely plant-based diet,” Christian Muschitz, MD, of St. Vincent Hospital Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria, said in a statement. “Our study showed resistance training offsets diminished bone structure in vegan people when compared to omnivores.”
To conduct the study, the research team analyzed data from 43 men and women on a plant-based diet for five years or more to 45 men and women following an omnivore diet for a similar time frame. The researchers concluded that strength training could serve as the solution for vegans worried about weaker bone strength or lower bone mineral density.
"People who adhere to a vegan lifestyle should perform resistance training on a regular basis to preserve bone strength," Muschitz said.
Building Muscles on a Plant-Based Diet
Worried that eating vegan hurts your chances of getting into shape and building muscles? Similar to the recent bone strength research, another study published this January found that plant-based protein can build muscle as well as animal-based whey.
Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo's Hamilton Roschel analyzed how muscle developed among vegan and omnivore dieters. The two groups consumed the same level of protein over a three-month period, showing no significant difference in whole muscle, muscle mass, or muscle fiber.
“A high-protein, exclusively plant-based diet (plant-based whole foods plus soy protein isolate supplementation) is not different than a protein-matched mixed diet (mixed whole foods plus whey protein supplementation) in supporting muscle strength and mass accrual, suggesting that protein source does not affect resistance training-induced adaptations in untrained young men consuming adequate amounts of protein,” the researchers wrote.
Vegan Diets Help Women's Bone Strength
While some research indicates that vegan diets lead to weaker bones, a plant-based diet is proven to improve the longevity of bone strength in women. This June, researchers found that women who consume plant-based protein reduced their risk of frailty in older age by up to 42 percent.
The study also found that even replacing just five percent of protein consumption with plant-based sources can have tremendous benefits in older age. A similar reduction happened when the researchers examined the relationship between different animal proteins. The researchers found that replacing dairy protein with non-dairy animal protein was linked with a 14 percent lower risk of frailty.
Now, more consumers over 65 years old are following flexitarian diets. For years, the plant-based movement has been driver by Millennials and Gen-Z-ers, but recently a survey found that 54 percent of UK consumers over 65 years aimed to eat a flexitarian diet. With mounting evidence that plant-based diets can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and frailty, older generations are adopting healthier, plant-centric foods.
Bottom Line: Vegans Can Weight Train to Improve Bone Strength
Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna found that vegans who strength train show similarly strong bones to omnivores who strength train. Pumping iron could be the solution to the potential of a higher risk of fractures among vegans.
Worried that your vegan diet is hurting your strength? Here's what to eat for bone health.