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Caffeine Linked to Osteoporosis

January 23, 2008

By Melanie McGrath

Osteoporosis is a common disorder of the bones in which they become weak, fragile and likely to break or fracture easily. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is common in older women. Osteoporosis is a major health threat for 44 million Americans, 68% of who are women. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease. One out of every two women and one in four men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their live time[i].

Fractures of the spine, the hips, and the wrists are most common, but any bone can fracture. Low bone mass or density and an increased tendency to fall down are factors that contribute most to the risk of developing a fractured bone[ii]. Some common controlled factors that cause low bone mass include low calcium and vitamin D intake, lack of exercise, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and excess caffeine.

Caffeine is a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It’s also produced artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and elevates mood. Caffeine is in tea, coffee, chocolate, many soft drinks and pain relievers[iii]. In 1958 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified caffeine as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS.[iv])

Too much caffeine could increase the possibility of osteoporosis later in life. Since caffeine is a diuretic, it can increase calcium loss in the urine. For every 150 milligrams of caffeine approximately five milligrams of calcium is excreted out in the urine. This loss can add up and could be detrimental for your bones, particularly if your diet is already insufficient in calcium.

Experts aren’t exactly sure if drinking cola-based sodas is a direct cause of Osteoporosis, however, if you are guzzling a Coke with breakfast you’re probably not drinking the glass of milk or fortified orange juice that experts recommend. Another study suggests that the phosphoric acid, which is a major component in most sodas may be to blame. It is theorized that phosphoric acid leaches calcium from your system, increases calcium excretion in urine and robs your body of the calcium you need[v]. Phosphoric acid is the carbonation that is in sodas. Meaning that drinking cola-based sodas are really bad because it has caffeine and carbonation.

Steps to bone health and osteoporosis prevention include getting your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D, engage in regular weight-bearing exercise, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider about bone health and when appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication[vi].

According to the data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 1997, Asian Americans and Native Americans are less likely to engage in leisure-time physical activity, and a higher percentage of Native American smoke cigarettes comparing with the whites. Lactase deficiency is common in both Asian and Native American populations, which results low calcium intake in adults. Not exercising and not eating a good source of calcium puts you at higher risk for osteoporosis.

[i] National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center “Osteoporosis in American Indian/Alaska Native Women” http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/MCH/W/MatOsteo.cfm
[ii] National Osteoporosis Foundation (2008) “Osteoporosis” http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/index.htm
[iii] TeensHealth (2008) ‘Caffeine’ http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/drug_alcohol/drugs/caffeine.html
[iv] International Food Information Council (2008) ‘Everything you need to know about caffeine’ http://www.ific.org/publications/brochures/caffeinebroch.cfm
[v] Early Menopause (2005) “Osteoporosis” http://web.archive.org/web/20080531101618/http://www.earlymenopause.com/osteoporosis.htm
[vi] National Osteoporosis Foundation (2008) ‘Prevention’ http://www.nof.org/prevention/index.htm
[vii] Chen, Zhao, MPH, Ph.D. “ What do we know about Osteoporosis in Asian American and Native American Women?” www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/MCH/W/WHdownloads/AGS.doc

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