Reports show wrist fractures are the most commonly occurring fracture in women under 75 in the U.S. and Europe. Because some studies show that vegetarians consume less protein than non-vegetarians, there has been concern that a vegetarian diet may not provide enough protein to maintain healthy bones. Studies by Thorpe et al examined diet practices and wrist fracture numbers over a 25-year period of 1,865 women who participated in AHS-1 and AHS-2.

Findings:

  • Women who reported fractures were more likely:
    • To be older
    • To have a history of fractures
    • To report low or no vigorous physical activity
    • To have experienced menopause more than 15 years earlier
    • To have never used hormones
  • Among vegetarians, increasing vegetable protein reduced the risk of fracture
  • Among those who ate the lowest amount of vegetable protein, increasing meat intake decreased the risk of fracture.
  • Curiously, for non-vegetarians, the risk of fracture tended to increase when consuming higher levels of plant-based protein foods. One possible explanation is that the sodium in processed protein foods competes with calcium in the kidneys.
  • Additionally, the risk of arm, elbow and hip fractures for Adventists was lower than for the general population.

Related publications from AHS-2:

Effects of meat consumption and vegetarian diet on risk of wrist fracture over 25 years in a cohort of peri- and postmenopausal women.

The effect of vigorous physical activity and risk of wrist fracture over 25 years in a low-risk survivor cohort.