Background: Evidence suggesting that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may be beneficial to bone health has sparked interest in the potential benefit of a vegetarian diet. However, other studies have raised a question regarding the adequacy of protein in such a diet.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to take a whole foods approach in examining the effects of foods high in protein on the risk of wrist fracture (WF) in a cohort with a significant proportion consuming a meat-free diet.
Design: A cohort study of women who completed two lifestyle surveys 25 years apart.
Subjects: One thousand eight hundred and sixty-five peri- and postmenopausal women at the time of the first survey.
Results: There was a significant interaction between meat consumption and foods high in vegetable protein. Among vegetarians, those who consumed the least vegetable protein intake were at highest risk for fracture. However, increasing levels of plant-based high-protein foods decreased WF risk, with a 68% reduction in risk (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.32, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13-0.79) in the highest intake group. Among those with lowest vegetable protein consumption, increasing meat intake decreased the risk of WF, with the highest consumption decreasing risk by 80% (HR = 0.20, 95% CI 0.06-0.66).
Conclusions: The finding that higher consumption frequencies of foods rich in protein were associated with reduced WF supports the importance of adequate protein for bone health. The similarity in risk reduction by vegetable protein foods compared with meat intake suggests that adequate protein intake is attainable in a vegetarian diet.