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How Caffeine Affects Bone Health

One cup of coffee and one glass of dark soda sitting next to each other on a diner counter

Many people have at least one cup of coffee a day, but could this innocent cup of coffee be hurting your bones? Recent studies have found that caffeine can cause a decrease in bone density which may cause osteoporosis, especially in women.

Several studies have began to emerge showing a relationship between caffeine and a loss of bone density. However, this link is not entirely clear since some beverages like certain types of colas and caffeinated tea, do not have the same effects as other types of colas and coffee. For example, coffee and some types of colas have been found to reduce bone density, while caffeinated tea and other types of colas do not.

It is believed that one possible reason for this is because drinking caffeinated drinks means you’re not drinking other drinks, such as milk, that have higher levels of calcium. Another possible reason is that only certain sodas contain phosphoric acid, which is believed to leach calcium out of the bones. This is because calcium binds with phosphoric acid and ends up being excreted from the body with urine.

Studies have found that for every 100 milligrams of caffeine ingested, about 6 milligrams of calcium are lost. This is especially problematic when an individual is not getting enough calcium per day to begin with. The average 16 ounce cup of coffee generally contains about 320 milligrams of caffeine, while the average caffeinated cola contains about 80 milligrams.

However this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up all caffeine forever. Although that would help, simply watching your intake levels and ingesting caffeine in moderation will positively impact your bone health. It is recommended to have less than 400 milligrams, or less than four cups of coffee or two cans of cola, per day. If you want to drink more than two cans of soda per day, then simply opt for the non-caffeinated version. You can also choose a decaf, fat-free latte which will supplement an additional 450 milligrams of calcium while eliminating caffeine entirely.

It is also important to counteract your caffeine intake with calcium and vitamin D. Both calcium and vitamin D are essential to optimal bone health, yet many people, especially women, are vitamin D deficient. To improve your bone health, try eating foods rich in vitamin D and calcium, as well as possibly taking a vitamin D or calcium supplement if needed. Ideally, you should get three to four servings of calcium daily, which means calcium should be a part of every meal.

Some foods that are especially helpful at preventing osteoporosis and promoting bone health are yogurt, lean proteins from poultry and meat, and fortified orange juice. Yogurt contains vitamin D and digestive enzymes, which can help nutrients be absorbed by the body more effectively. Lean proteins contain amino acids that help build bone density and aid in calcium absorption. Finally, fortified orange juice is a great beverage choice because it does not contain caffeine and instead contains calcium and vitamin D.