Vegetarianism, bone loss, fracture and vitamin D: a longitudinal study in Asian vegans and non-vegans

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;66(1):75-82. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.131. Epub 2011 Aug 3.


Background/objectives: The effect of vegan diet on bone loss has not been studied. The aim of this study was to examine the association between veganism and bone loss in postmenopausal women.

Subjects/methods: The study was designed as a prospective longitudinal investigation with 210 women, including 105 vegans and 105 omnivores. Femoral neck (FN) bone mineral density (BMD) was measured in 2008 and 2010 by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (Hologic QDR4500). The incidence of vertebral fracture was ascertained by X-ray report. Serum levels of C-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (βCTX) and N-terminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PINP) were measured by Roche Elecsys assays. Serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and parathyroid hormone were measured by electrochemiluminescence.

Results: Among the 210 women who initially participated in the study in 2008, 181 women had completed the study and 29 women were lost to follow-up. The rate of loss in FN BMD was -1.91±3.45%/year in omnivores and -0.86±3.81%/year (P=0.08) in vegans. Lower body weight, higher intakes of animal protein and lipid, and corticosteroid use were associated with greater rate of bone loss. The 2-year incidence of fracture was 5.7% (n=5/88) in vegans, which was not significantly different from omnivores (5.4%, n=6/93). There were no significant differences in βCTX and PINP between vegans and omnivores. The prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in vegans was higher than in omnivores (73% versus 46%; P=0.0003).

Conclusions: Vegan diet did not have adverse effect on bone loss and fracture. Corticosteroid use and high intakes of animal protein and animal lipid were negatively associated with bone loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Aged
  • Asian People
  • Body Weight
  • Bone Density*
  • Bone Resorption / blood
  • Bone Resorption / etiology
  • Collagen Type I / blood*
  • Diet, Vegetarian* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / blood
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / etiology*
  • Peptides / blood*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vietnam / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Collagen Type I
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Peptides
  • collagen type I trimeric cross-linked peptide
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D