(NaturalNews) (Natural News) A study of the bone health of long term vegan women showed density that surprised many western physicians. Comparing the bones of over two hundred vegan and non-vegan women, researchers were caught off-guard by the finding almost identical density levels, despite the vegan womens' intake of substantially lower amounts of calcium and protein.
Culture teaches us what to eat and how to eat it
There is a lot of concern about the ability of vegetarian and vegan diets being able to meet the required nutritional intake, particularly with regard to nutrients that are in the greatest abundance in animal products. Some of their main concerns are about the amount of dietary calcium, vitamin B12, and iron. There is a lesser concern about amounts of dietary protein, but even western medicine has now reluctantly acknowledged that protein from non-animal sources is abundantly available from nuts, legumes and other sources.
It is true that many vegans and vegetarians are at risk for anemia, but this may be a problem with cultural adaptation rather than lack of alternative bioavailable food sources. Since the standard American diet derives its calcium from dairy sources, and iron and B12 from meats, conventional medical doctrine expects elimination of these foods to result in deficiencies in the nutrients they supplied.
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The implications of these deficiencies aren't immediately apparent. Calcium, for example, is far easier to absorb early in life, but around the mid-thirties, women stop maintaining their bone density as well, and calcium stores are faster to deplete. For women, calcium and iron are of particular importance, because of their steady consumption by the processes of the reproductive system.
Because of this, a diet deficient in calcium and iron may not have any noticeable impact until the onset of menopause. Life course studies are limited by time and funding, and in order to show conclusive evidence of the negative impact of vegan diets, the studies would have to appraise long-term diets, and show corresponding evidence of its impact on the end result. Because the body stops efficiently absorbing calcium, the body largely relies on the reserves already in the bone tissue. For women, menopause marks a sudden reduction in hormone levels, particularly for estrogen, which normally guards bone density. Post-meopausal women are thus at a greatly increased risk for bone fractures.
Reconsidering the food pyramid from the other side of the world
The study examined the diets of Buddhist nuns, who are required to follow a strict vegan diet. People typically join the faith very early in their lives, usually in early adolescence; the women studied had been life-long vegans. The women had far lower protein and calcium intake than the non-vegetarian group, and in many cases, less than half the amount. This suggests that the source of the nutrients also impacts its absorption, and that western diets may recommend higher levels because of absorption interference.
About the author: Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general. In 2010, Michelle created RawFoodHealthWatch.com, to share with people her approach to the raw food diet and detoxification.
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