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Vegan Health & Nutrition Discussion Forum

Lately my mother-in-law (who broke her wrist and discovered she has low bone density) has been laying it on thick about how a vegan diet will make me more susceptible to osteoporosis. I will likely start taking a supplement because I am a 30 year old woman and it certainly can't hurt me to have more calcium. But I'm just wondering what others thoughts are on this?

Thanks everyone!

Responses (2)

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    Posted by anahidscv at 11/05/15 15:37:48


    Is your mother-in-law vegan? Please read this article and do the research yourself.

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    Posted by Robinwomb at 11/06/15 03:12:17

    I'm going to be honest here and share that I do have severe osteoporosis. I was first diagnosed via dexa in 2006 at the age of 34. I had a dexa scan because the year prior I had lost both of my ovaries and was/am in surgical menopause. I wanted a baseline score of where my bones were and was shocked that my bone density was so low (t score -3.2 spine and -1.8 hip). Aside from losing my ovaries, some other risk factors were being small, being on thyroid meds for many years, and I was smoking at that time (I quit smoking in 2006 the day of that first DEXA and have stayed quit). Genetics are also a predicter in my case.

    Many prescription drugs can also cause bone density loss, including anti depressants (SSRIs in particular), birth control (in particular the Depo Provera shot), acid inhibitors, thyroid meds etc. Acid from a diet high in meat and dairy can contribute to bone loss. Restriction food intake can lead to bone density loss, and not getting enough weight bearing exercise. Being very thin can contribute as well. You have to look at far more than just calcium. Some of the highest rates of fractures and osteoporosis are in countries with the highest rate dairy milk consumption and animal protein. HOWEVER, these countries also tend to be far from the equator and vitamin D intake is lower. Vitamin D is a hormone and is crucial in helping calcium get into the bones. Adequate vitamin D is more important than loading your body with calcium.

    I still continued to lose bone density despite taking loads of calcium. I went vegan in early 2011 and have been strict vegan since. I still lost bone density despite taking supplements and eating healthy. I even lifted heavy weights at the gym (I regularly lift 20 lb dumbells and 50 lb barbell etc). In 2012 I was running a lot and suffered several minor stress fractures in my pelvis. It would still be two more years before I finally gave in and went on an osteoporosis medication. My latest DEXA scan in 2014 was -3.8 T score spine and -1.8 hip. The one before that was in 2010 and my spine t score had been -3.0 so yes I did lose a lot of bone density as a vegan. But here is why. I suffered with an eating disorder and was underweight from 2008 to 2014. As an omnivore and a vegan I struggled with restricting. I went through periods of semi recovery but not until that last DEXA scan did I finally get serious and get healthier. In 2014 I finally reached a normal healthy weight for the first time in six years. I also had to go on an osteoporosis shot (Prolia) because my bones are so bad. It was not a decision I made lightly. I have worked really hard at being healthier and eat FAR MORE than I used to. Next year I will have another DEXA scan and hopefully have better news to report.

    That said, I know of long term vegans who do not have bone density issues and are fine. I also know far more long term omnivores who consumed dairy all their lives and have severe osteoporosis. My mother in law is one. She doesn't go a meal without dairy and she has terrible bones and now has a hunched back.

    There are many plant foods that are bone promoting, such as low oxylate leafy greens (kale, bok choy, collards, broccoli), blackstrap molasses, sesame seeds, almonds, tahini, white beans, tofu, and plant milks to name a few. Also take into consideration a variety of minerals and vitamins that are important in bone health...magnesium, K, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin C, etc all of which are abundant in plant foods when you eat a variety and enough of them. The number one thing is to eat enough plant food, and work your muscles and bones. Stay away from bone robbing substances like too much coffee and soda pop. If you do take a calcium supplement, dissolve a pill in water and see how long it takes to break down. If it takes longer than 45 minutes, the pill is worthless. Also be sure to get a vegan D supplement and/or get some sunshine! Very important. And for the record, I supplement with D2 ergocalciferol and I have my D levels tested twice per year as a medical monitoring of my bones and the med I am on. Vegan d supplements have been effective enough to keep my d levels in normal range.

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