Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sodas: Bad to the Bone?

Every Wednesday I teach a bone health education class at the UAB Osteoporosis Clinic. We serve lunch and yes, diet and regular cokes are among the drinks I make sure we have in plenty. The question then comes: “Beth, I can’t believe you’re serving us cokes? Aren’t they bad for the bones?”

This is a tough question to answer because the research is inconclusive. Carbonation has not been shown to harm bones so the bubbly part of the soda is not something to worry about. Too much caffeine can make you lose more calcium in the urine, but a typical caffeinate soda has about 50 mg of caffeine in 12 ounces. You’d have to be getting over 200 mg of caffeine a day for it to have an effect on your calcium loss so you can see that a can or two of caffeinated soda a day is no big deal. A cup of coffee has upwards of 100 mg of caffeine for a point of reference.

Some studies show that dark sodas may be related to lower bone strength and a higher chance of breaking a bone. But these studies are not the type that can show cause and effect. In other words, there are no studies that show that dark sodas directly cause bones to break or lower bone strength. What is it about dark sodas that may compromise your bone health? Some researchers think that the phosphorus in the sodas may be bad for bones. But other researchers disagree.

So what should you do? While I don’t think a can or two of coke or other dark soda a day is dangerous, you may want to think about switching to some healthier drinks such as milk and lightly sweetened tea. I had been drinking at least one diet coke a day and decided to drink more iced green tea sweetened with some lemonade concentrate – not because diet coke is bad for me but because tea is good for me. Sometimes we think about our diets as simply getting the bad stuff out. But we also need to think about getting more of the good stuff. Tea is natural and has some components in it that may actually be good for your bones.

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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