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Vegetarian Diets for Preventing Osteoporosis

Aug 18, 2008
You know that eating a vegetarian diet can decrease the incidence of heart disease and certain types of cancers. You also know that it can make you leaner and healthier. But so many of the health studies are done on men? What about women and the impact of a vegetarian diet on their health as they age?

Diets that are high in protein, especially animal protein, tend to cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. These three substances are the main components of urinary tract stones. British researchers have advised that persons with a tendency to form kidney stones should follow a vegetarian diet. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that high animal protein intake is largely responsible for the high prevalence of kidney stones in the United States and other developed countries and recommends protein restriction for the prevention of recurrent kidney stones.

For many of the same reasons, vegetarians are at a lower risk for osteoporosis. Since animal products force calcium out of the body, eating meat can promote bone loss. In nations with mainly vegetable diets (and without dairy product consumption), osteoporosis is less common than in the U.S., even when calcium intake is also less than in the U.S. Calcium is important, but there is no need to get calcium from dairy products.

Some studies have suggested that vegetarians may be at lower risk of osteoporosis than non-vegetarians.Bone loss is considerably less in postmenopausal women who were vegetarian than those who were non-vegetarian. The non-vegetarian diet contained higher amounts of sulphur, which derived from animal protein.

Dietary sulphur increases the acidity of urine, which results in increased urinary calcium loss. Increased urinary calcium loss is related to increased calcium loss from bone tissue.Hip fractures associated with osteoporosis has been shown to be higher in countries consuming a diet high in animal protein.

We continue to consume meat, while at the same time downing calcium supplements and prescription drugs to prevent osteoporosis, that often have drastic side effects. And most experts agree that calcium supplements are inferior to calcium derived from natural food sources. Doesn't it make more sense (and cents) to get your calcium from eating a healthier diet?

What are some good vegetarian sources of calcium? Orange juice, for one. Dry beans, such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans and black beans are another good source, as are dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale. Tofu is also a good source of calcium.
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