The large, longitudinal study published Sunday in the journal BMC Medicine, revealed that there were 19.4 more cases of fractures in vegans and 4.1 more cases in vegetarians for every 1,000 people over 10 years.
"This is the first comprehensive study and the largest study to date to look at the risks of both total fractures (fractures occurring anywhere in the body) and fractures at different sites in people of different habitual dietary habits," the study's lead author, Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, said in an email to CNN.
Researchers recruited nearly 55,000 healthy adults from the UK - meat eaters, pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans - to answer a questionnaire on diet, socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle, and medical history between 1993 and 2001, and followed up with them in 2010.
By 2016, the study authors found 3,941 total fractures among the participants.
On average, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes saw a 43 percent higher risk of fractures anywhere on their bodies, and specifically in the hips, legs and vertebrae.
Vegetarians and pescatarians had a higher risk of hip fractures than meat eaters - but when researchers factored in body mass index and adequate consumption of calcium and protein, that risk was lessened.
But the heightened risk still existed for vegans, even with those factors taken into account.
"The study findings support a growing body of research on bone health with protein and calcium intake as well as BMI (body mass index)," Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida, who wasn't part of the new study, told CNN. "Protein and calcium are the two major components of bone."
Katherine Tucker, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, who also wasn't involved in the study, told CNN that vegans and vegetarians "need to be very careful about getting the nutrients that they are missing if they're not including products" rich with them.
However, most of the study participants were white Europeans and women - meaning that the findings "cannot be generalized to ... other populations and further study is needed," according to Tucker.
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