If your GP prescribed a diet which carried twice your current risk of breaking a bone, would you happily stock up on the ingredients? Or might you wonder why on earth anyone would adopt an eating regime that requires specialist shopping and NASA levels of nutritional knowledge, whilst threatening a skeleton as brittle as winter twigs?
This week, research was published suggesting that vegans are at almost twice the risk of broken bones as meat-eaters. As yet, it’s unclear whether that’s because vegan diets tend to lack calcium and protein, or due to the fact that vegans tend to be thinner and have less padding to break their fall. The long-term study also began in 1993, when vegan products were less available and unfortified – now, an entire industry is dedicated to adding supplements to animal-free products and the average vegan has a full supermarket aisle, rather than a dusty Tupperware stack, to choose from.
Still, to “follow the science”, it’s increasingly apparent that a vegan diet isn’t necessarily healthy, unless it’s meticulously planned to include fortified foods and milks, added vitamins and bonus omega-3 capsules. Yes, it can help to stave off certain cancers and heart disease, but it can also cause weak bones, exhaustion, anaemia and severe vitamin B deficiency – a factor in dementia.
I know all this because for three years I was a committed vegan. I was editing a vegan food magazine, and had access to all the nutritional information out there. But I was also busy, and failed to eat like a celebrity with a dedicated macrobiotic chef and a nutritional analysis app. As a result, I developed a severe nickel allergy and permanent exhaustion.
As a peri-menopausal woman, my diet was doing me no good and, after a headmistress-y lecture from one of the many specialists I visited in search of a diagnosis, I introduced sustainable fish and dairy again. Even a pescatarian diet carries a 25 per cent higher risk of broken bones, according to the study, but as a bleeding heart animal lover who doesn’t want to destroy the planet (and went vegetarian in 2005), reverting to a full meat diet feels impossible. Increasingly, however, purely for health reasons, I’m wondering if I should.
Yet despite the ongoing scientific studies suggesting that pure veganism is not the nutritional holy grail, one look at social media suggests that if, we all turned vegan overnight, not only would the planet immediately be saved but we’d all live to be powerfully bendy centenarians on a “rainbow” diet of grains and vegetables.
Over the last few years, the number of vegan recipe accounts has expanded like chia seeds in water (actually, they make a revolting gel, like slick frogspawn, despite featuring in every other recipe).
While some suggested dishes are carefully planned to include protein and vitamins, there are thousands where visual appeal is prioritized over any health benefits, with endless streams of “Buddha…