Further proof and scientific evidence that challenges the popular dietitian's myth that we need cow's milk for calcium to build healthy bones and maintain good bone density.
This research further strengthens the vegans argument that plant based calcium is superior to that in non human milk as plants have supporting nutrients that help with the absorbtion and retention of calcium. This study shows that even with lower intakes of calcium vegans on simple plant based diets are able to have a bone density that equals those eating meat and dairy with higher levels of calcium.
One theory by Danish scientists that explains this is that calcium may be needed to bind to and process excess saturated animal fat and thus is wasted, literally flushed away. Another theory is that calcium is also used to buffer the acidity of animal protein and is passed out in urine - once again just flushed away.
Sydney-based Professor Tuan Nguyen, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, collaborated with Dr Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from the Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University to undertake research on bone density in 105 nuns, who live in monasteries and temples in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
“We showed that although the vegans studied do indeed have lower protein and calcium intakes, their bone density is virtually identical to that of people who eat a wide variety of foods, including animal protein,” Professor Nguyen said.
The study found the nuns' calcium intake was low, only about 370mg a day, while the recommended level was 1000mg.
Their protein intake was also low - around 35g a day, compared with the non-vegetarian group, which was 65g.
Professor Nguyen said Buddhist nuns were chosen because their faith required them to observe strict vegan diets all their lives.
“We didn’t study vegetarians from the West because many are lacto-vegetarians, so could have considerable calcium in their diets,” he said.
Nutritionist in London Yvonne Bishop-Weston said today "The study shows how a diet rich in vegetables and fruit is likely to have positive effect on bone health. One point to be considered for Western vegans however is that the confounding factor in this report is the vitamin D status. I suspect that the Buddhist nuns are exposed to a healthy amount of sunshine and thus have healthy levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a very important synergistic nutrient to maintain good bone health and this may be something that UK vegans with more sedentiary front of computer lifestyles need to account for."