The controversy between proponents and detractors of plant-based diets has opened a new chapter. In this case, with regard to bone health. And it is that, according to a recent investigation, partially replacing animal proteins with other proteins of plant origin can help keep the skeleton in a better state.
The study in question is the one carried out by the University of Helsinki. To carry it on, be worked for twelve weeks with 107 women and 29 men, between the ages of 20 and 69, who were randomly assigned a type of diet from the three proposals. Each of them incorporated a different proportion of proteins of animal and vegetable origin, two of them unbalanced at 70% -30% and the third with a proportion of 50%.
In the three proposed diets, the sources of animal protein, from various types of products, such as red meat, white meat, as well as dairy products, were partially replaced by plant-based proteins by adding a wide range of legumes, nuts, seeds, and cereal products to diets.
An interesting fact is that dairy products fortified with vitamin D and calcium were partially replaced by non-fortified ones. Another fact that should be taken into account is that the amount of cheese was lower in the diets that contained more protein of plant origin compared to the diet rich in animal protein. Instead, the diets contained the same amount of fish and eggs.
The result of the investigation was that both bone formation and resorption increased when part of the animal diet from the diet, especially those of dairy origin, were replaced with foods of plant origin. Something that could lead to think that vegetable proteins are worse for bones; however, this is not necessarily the case.
According to the researchers, the person responsible for this would be a lower intake of calcium and vitamin D, induced by a low amount of dairy products. “The results could be different if liquid dairy products had been replaced by plant-based drinks fortified with vitamin D and calcium,” said researcher Suvi Itkonin.
Vegetable protein and calcium, a good team
Thus, it is common to point out that vegetable proteins are of lower quality and that this is related to a worsening of bone health. However, there are studies that contradict this interpretation.
As an example, we can point to this study of the University of Granada, which concluded that the consumption of plant-based protein, especially soy, improves the absorption and calcium content in the bones, since the loss of calcium through the urine can be up to 65% higher in a diet high in protein of animal origin.
But not only this, but it was also found that vegetable protein improves the absorption of other minerals that can help keep our bones in good condition.
Along these lines in favor of the benefits of vegetable protein for bone health, we also find an article that was published a few years ago, in 2013, in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine. In this study, it was recognized that proteins are necessary for healthy bones, but not maintaining a certain control over those of animal origin.
The reasons for this statement are related to the greater possibility of suffering metabolic acidosis that can lead to demineralization of bone, being a very important risk factor for diseases such as osteoporosis.
In any case, for those who choose to reduce the amount of food of animal origin, it is essential to guarantee the necessary consumption of vitamin C and calcium. This is why, as the University of Helsinki team points out, it is important, in terms of bone health, ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, either naturally or through fortified foods or supplements.