Make no bones about it… Being a vegetarian won’t do your health any favors, no matter what you hear in the media and from so-called “nutrition experts.”
I’ve been warning my patients about this for years.
Despite all the hype about plant-based meals being better for you, eliminating animal protein is not a healthy option – especially as you age.
A recent study of more than 26,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69 found that vegetarians had a 33% higher risk of hip fracture compared with meat eaters.1
The study, published in BMC Medicine, looked at four groups that consisted of “occasional” meat eaters, fish but not meat eaters, vegetarians, and meat eaters who ate meat at least five times a week.
The researchers reported that vegetarians were the only group with an elevated risk of hip fractures.
And while the study focuses on women, strict vegetarianism is just as likely to be unhealthy for men’s bones.
The reason is obvious…
Compared with diets that regularly contain red meat and other animal products like butter and eggs, vegetarian diets are lower in key nutrients linked with bone and muscle health.
Deficiencies of nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamins D and B12, and omega-3 fatty acids – all of which are abundant in red meat – have long been associated with hip fractures.2,3,4
Doctors and dieticians often recommend a vegetarian diet because they don’t understand the difference between industrial feedlot animals and free-range, grass-fed, pastured animals.
But there’s a world of difference.
Despite what you may have heard from doctors and diet dictocrats, grass-fed red meat offers the highest quality nutrition – bar none.
Grass-fed red meat is not only one of the most nutritious and healthy meals you can eat, but it’s also your nutritional heritage.
The human species evolved over millions of years to thrive on meat as a healthy source of protein and fat. Research across thousands of years of human evolution reveals that our primal hunter-gatherer ancestors almost never suffered hip fractures or other bone disorders like osteoporosis.5
The kind of high-nutrient meat I’m talking about is nothing like most of the products sold in supermarkets and eateries. These days, most cattle have never even seen a blade of grass.
That’s unnatural and inexcusable. Cattle and sheep are meant to graze in open pasture, not fed corn or soy in cramped feedlots and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.
Chickens should range freely in a pasture and eat insects, grass, and worms.
You see, when you eat an industrialized animal, you’re eating a sick animal. And multiple studies show commercial beef has much less nutritional value than its pasture-fed relatives.6
For the sake of your hips and the rest of your body, I strongly recommend ditching strict vegetarianism and replacing it with balanced meals that include regular portions of healthy, grass-fed red meat and other pastured animal products.
Avoid getting duped by Big Food
The question is, how can you be sure if your “grass-fed beef” is really grass-fed? Here’s how to avoid getting duped by the big food factories:
- First, look for a label that promises “100% grass-fed and grass-finished.” That unequivocal language means a company is staking their reputation on it. But watch out for labels that only promise “natural,” “organic,” or “pasture-raised.” Chances are those cattle were “finished” in a feedlot someplace. Apply the mask evenly to a damp, clean face with your fingertips.
- Second, look for third-party certification. Groups like AGA, A Greener World, or the Global Animal Partnership offer certification labels you can check to verify it is real grass-fed beef.
- Third, buy from a local farm. AGA (AmericanGrassfed.org), A Greener World (AGreenerWorld.org), and Global Animal Partnership (GlobalAnimalPartnership.org) all carry extensive website listings of producers whose practices they inspect, audit, or certify.
To keep shipping times to a minimum and support local farmers, try to find a certified producer near you. But most importantly…find one you can trust.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Webster J., et al. “Risk of hip fracture in meat-eaters, pescatarians, and vegetarians: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study.” BMC Med 20, 275. 2022.
2. Bonjour JP, et al. “Nutritional aspects of hip fractures.” Bone. Vol 18, Issue 3, March 1996; Suppl 1, Pages 139-144
3. Merriman NA, et al. “Hip fracture risk in patients with a diagnosis of pernicious anemia.” Gastroenterology. 2010 Apr;138(4):1330-7.
4. Orchard TS, et al. “A systematic review of omega-3 fatty acids and osteoporosis.” Br J Nutr. 2012 Jun;107 Suppl 2(0 2):S253-60.
5. Ryan TM, Shaw CN. Gracility of the modern Homo sapiens skeleton is the result of decreased biomechanical loading. PNAS. January 13, 2015; vol. 112.
6. French P, et al. “Fatty acid composition, including conjugated linoleic acid, of intramuscular fat from steers or grazed grass, grass silage, or concentrate-based diets.” J Anim Sci 2000; 78: 2849-2855