For a long time, there have been claims about the negative effect of vegetarian diet to a person’s bone density. Although this notion has been around for quite some time, there are only a limited number of defined studies which could support this claim.

Recently a group of scientists from Vietnam and Australia through a set of peer-review sources on the subject has proven that individuals on vegetarian diet have bone mineral density (BMD) at least 5% lower when compared with their non-vegetarian counterparts.

The study conducted by Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan of Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research and their team analyzed and compared the eating habit of about 2700 male and female (vegetarians and non-vegetarian) from different country.

According to Professor Nguyen, there has been a string of debates about the effect of a vegetarian diet to one’s bone density. However, the lack of clinical samples and some discrepancies on the results have cause confusion among experts and laymen as well.

Professor Nguyen added that some of the researches they analyzed have revealed that people from countries with high vegetable consumption tend to have lower chances of having hip fractures. Thus, it implies that eating vegetable can be good for the bones. On the other hand, some studies emphasized that vegetarians usually have lower bone density. The contradicting results have caused much confusion.

However, Professor Nguyen explains that many lifestyle and dietary factors should be looked at and not solely the BMD when assessing the fracture risk of an individual.

The escalating number of both vegetarians and cases of osteoporosis shows that there is an imperative need to address this problem.

For the set of the chosen studies, the team of scientists imposed strict standards in analyzing. The studies were all original and involve people above 18 years with non-vegetarian and vegetarian diets as variables, and consider BMD or bone mineral density as outcome. Of the 922 studies they considered, only 9 studies met the criteria they have set. ‘Vegetarian diet’ was operationally defined. The term actually includes four major types of diet which is: semi-vegetarian, lactoovovegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan.

The researchers believe that their study, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has answered some relevant questions. Professor Nguyen commented that the word ‘vegetarian’ was not clearly defined, so they deemed it needed to compare the varying impacts of each vegetarian diet. According to the results they have yielded, there was no significant difference between meat eaters and ovolactovegetarians. Meanwhile, the difference between vegans and meat eaters was only small, thus they came to the conclusion that vegetarians group as a whole have lower BMD compare to meat eaters group. However, the researchers clarified that the relation of this to fracture risk cannot be concluded.