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Can Drinking Soda Damage Your Bones? The Science is Divided

sodaYou might have heard that drinking pop (or soda if you’re American) can lead to such detrimental health issues as bone loss and osteoporosis. But is this true? If you’re like me and countless others, you love your fizzy drinks, and the thought that your Soda Stream might be putting your health at risk strikes dread into your heart.

The science isn’t so clear-cut, unfortunately. But evidence does exist to suggest that your soda habit may be undermining your bone health. One study done in China found that the incidence of fractures was much higher in those who regularly consumed soft drinks. Another study done on post-menopausal women found no correlation at all between soda consumption and osteoporosis.

Some experts do warn against consuming too many soda drinks–but their disclaimers come with a few important caveats. Some authorities argue that it is the fact that pop replaces other Vitamin D-fortified drinks like milk and orange juice that makes consumption so dangerous, especially in adolescents, when bones are still growing; so it’s not the pop itself that is damaging to your health, but your lack of Vitamin D.

Other sources claim that phosphoric acid and phosphorus are the true culprits. These components, notably, are found only in caffeine-containing soda drinks, such as colas. Phosphoric acid and phosphorus, however, is also found in such foods as chicken and cheese–and you don’t hear anyone warning us of the dangers of those foods, do you? One scientific review calls attention to the fact that the amount of phosphorus found in colas is actually quite negligible in comparison to the phosphorus content found in orange juice (which health experts, interestingly, often recommend that we drink as opposed to soft drinks).

Finally, is it caffeine that can account for soda’s effect on our bones? One study done with healthy post-menopausal women did find that excessive coffee consumption was associated with a higher rate of bone loss. Caffeine in coffee does counteract calcium absorption; if you take a calcium supplement, you probably know not to take it with coffee. Interestingly (and frustratingly), the caffeine in black tea seems to have no effect on calcium absorption.

So, with all of this conflicting information, what can we do?

  • Make sure you get enough calcium in your diet: many studies done on the relationship between caffeine and bone health found that by simply ensuring that you receive enough calcium and vitamin D throughout the rest of your day, you will offset any dangers to your bone health posed by coffee consumption.
  • Vitamin D! Get that sunlight–if it’s winter and sunlight is hard to come by, consider a supplement (you can read more about vitamin D here) to help maintain your bone health.
  • Cut down on your caffeinated soft drinks where you can. One or two cans a day of cola probably won’t result in bone loss–but if you’re downing five or six a day, you might have a problem. Better safe than sorry, right?
  • Do weight-bearing resistance exercise! That’s right, strength-training is good for everything, including bone health, and we will take any opportunity to advocate for it.

We hope you found this article interesting and informative. Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!

Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.

Works Cited

Chen, L., Liu, R., Zhao, Y., & Shi, Z. (2020). High Consumption of Soft Drinks Is Associated with an Increased Risk of Fracture: A 7-Year Follow-Up Study. Nutrients, 12(2), 530. doi:10.3390/nu12020530

Fitzpatrick, L., & Heaney, R. P. (2003). Got Soda? Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 18(9), 1570-1572. doi:10.1359/jbmr.2003.18.9.1570

Harris, S. S., & Dawson-Hughes, B. (1994). Caffeine and bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60(4), 573-578. doi:10.1093/ajcn/60.4.573

Heaney, R. (2002). Effects of caffeine on bone and the calcium economy. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 40(9), 1263-1270. doi:10.1016/s0278-6915(02)00094-7

Heaney, R. P., & Rafferty, K. (2001). Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 74(3), 343-347. doi:10.1093/ajcn/74.3.343

Sodas, Tea and Coffee: Which Can Make Your Bones Brittle? (2020, July 10). Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sodas-tea-coffee-can-make-bones-brittle/

Supplee, J. D., Duncan, G. E., Bruemmer, B., Goldberg, J., Wen, Y., & Henderson, J. A. (2011). Soda intake and osteoporosis risk in postmenopausal American-Indian women. Public Health Nutrition, 14(11), 1900-1906. doi:10.1017/s136898001000337x

Whiting, S. J., Healey, A., Psiuk, S., Mirwald, R., Kowalski, K., & Bailey, D. A. (2001). Relationship between carbonated and other low nutrient dense beverages and bone mineral content of adolescents. Nutrition Research, 21(8), 1107-1115. doi:10.1016/s0271-5317(01)00324-4

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