Thursday, July 02, 2009

Oh My Poor Bones!

So yesterday, the results of yet another study into "vegetarianism" and its impact on bone density were released. This one is apparently a bit more comprehensive, involving the results of several studies. According to a piece about it on the Australian Science Alert website called "Vegan Bones a Bit Less Dense":

Researchers in Australia and Vietnam searched all peer-reviewed literature on the subject, selecting nine studies for analysis. The nine studies compared bone mineral density (BMD) of meat eaters and vegetarians from around the world, including 2749 men and women.

Their results showed that people on vegetarian diets have BMD roughly 5 per cent lower than non-vegetarians.

The article quotes one of the leaders of the study, Professor Tuan Nguyen, as reassuring people that

"Many studies tell us, for example, that countries with a high rate of vegetable consumption have a low risk of hip fracture. This implies that vegetable consumption is good for bone health.”

“Other studies have highlighted lower BMD measurements among vegetarians and have come to the opposite conclusion.”

“The truth, of course, encompasses many dietary and lifestyle factors. While BMD is important, it is not the only thing that contributes to fracture risk.”

Now, although the piece on the study is called "Vegan Bones a Bit Less Dense", the piece goes on to use the term "vegetarian" in describing the subjects of the mere 9 out of 922 peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic that Professor Nguyen's group found worth of including in their own results--less than 10 per cent of previous studies done on the topic. His group ended up looking at results for subjects who followed a number of supposed types of vegetarianism, including in their definition of the term those popular "vegetarians" who eat animals:

The term ‘vegetarian diet’ included 4 types of vegetarian diet: semi-vegetarian (excluding meat); lactoovovegetarian (excluding meat and seafood); lactovegetarian (excluding meat, seafood and eggs but not milk and dairy products); and vegan (excluding all foods of animal origin).
In conclusion, Nguyen emphasized that the difference in bone density between meat eaters and vegans is "small" and that "whether the difference translates into increased fracture risk has yet to be resolved".

Another story about this study, again out of Australia, quotes Nguyen as stating outright that "the study found vegans were no more likely to be treated for bone fractures than non-vegans" and that vegans tend to be healthier, living longer and with lower rates of hypertension and heart disease. So basically, a vegan's bones may be 5% less dense than those of an omni, but there's no conclusive evidence that this means anything whatsoever in terms of a higher incidence of breaking said bones (in fact, the opposite may be true) or of the development of osteoporosis, and furthermore, vegans tend to live longer by avoiding one of the major killers in Western society--heart disease.

Five bucks says that by this time next week, the US media will have jumped on this, regardless, with milk industry types and their public relations people (think Center for Consumer Freedom) reinterpreting the results for their own agenda and praising the benefits of dairy, while warning people of the dire consequences of following an animal-free diet. Five bucks, I tell ya.


Claire said...

I'm not going to take that bet. ;-)

Oh, and how much do you want to bet that they make the connection to vitamin D, claiming that veg*n diets are naturally vitamin D deficient compared to omni ones? You just wait and see...

M said...

Vegan diets, for sure, since vegans don't consume eggs or all of that D-fortified cow's milk.

It's awfully sad how predictable it's gotten, honestly. Every single time I see a story about some recent study that has anything that's not 100% positive to say about vegetarianism or veganism, the most mainstream of news providers hop on it and sift the worst bits of sentences out of it and then turn it into a sensationalist little snippet worthy of a Fox News broadcast, and then others hop on that revised account of it so that the actual facts from the original story end up forgotten. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for it to run its full course.

Stephanie E. said...

It didn't take long:

M said...

Yup. I was reading that earlier today. They even have a little meaningless poll asking vegetarians if they'll start eating meat now to strengthen their bones, or wait for more proof before changing their lifestyles. Because obviously, it's all about eating meat.

Here's a shortened version of the URL (yours is missing the last couple of characters):

Lucas said...

PCRM's take -

Also I came across this a couple months ago. same study Ms. Lanou of PCRM refers to in link above

Cavall de Quer said...

Here's an interesting link about bone strength:
Bet no-one will be after competitive cyclists to shape upi......