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Is drinking sodas bad for bones?

Apparently this is the case and there are at least three reasons to think before you drink...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

1./ There is research that does link the drinking certain types of soda with weaker bones - but it is not the carbonation that seems to be the problem. Something else seems to be the culprit.

2./ Once upon a time – and no, we are not starting a fairy tale - nutrition experts believed that it could be caffeine who might be the culprit. In a 2001 study out of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, people lost measurable amounts of calcium after drinking sodas which contained caffeine. Drinking decaffeinated sodas did not appear to have the same effect. As it turned out, though, people tended to make up for the losses by excreting less calcium later in the day, and therefore the researchers concluded that if sodas do harm to bones it is probably because people drink them in place of milk, and many children indeed seem to do just that. Or are, in fact, given colas and such instead of a decent drink of the white stuff.

3./ Another study, however, reported in 2006 by researchers at Tufts University in Boston, suggests that colas, specifically, might be problematic. Among the 1,413 women whose dietary records and bone-density scans they reviewed, those who drank a diet or regular cola at least three times a week over five years had significantly lower bone densities than those who sipped cola once a month or less. No such effect occurred with other carbonated drinks, even after researchers factored in intake of calcium from foods.

The most likely cause, therefore, would appear to be Phosphoric acid, which is unique to colas. When the body breaks down this compound, the acidity (or concentration of free hydrogen ions) of the blood increases. To neutralize acidity, hydrogen ions bind with minerals, including calcium and magnesium. If they are not available in the blood, then, so it would appear, the body draws calcium from bones.

While the occasional cola drinker probably need not worry those that drink cola every day should definitely consider an change. Those who drink it daily could be at a real and significant risk.

There are plenty of good reasons to quit a regular soda habit; carbonation isn’t one of
them. In fact, sparkling mineral waters sometimes contain a little calcium and magnesium so they might even benefit bones. But, then again, it is water in a bottle and we do not really want to advocate that.

© M Smith (Veshengro), June 2008

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