May Not Hurt Your Bones After All
-- Remember all that scientific noise about soft drinks being
bad for bone health, particularly in women? Well, score one for
the junk food brigade: A new study shows that bubbly beverages
won't hurt your bones -- unless you drink so much that
they take the place of other calcium-rich foods or beverages.
that the only way soda is going to harm the health of your bones
is if you choose this beverage over a calcium-rich beverage, such
as a fortified juice or a glass of milk," says study author
Dr. Robert Heaney, a professor of medicine at Creighton University
School of Medicine, in Omaha, Neb., where the research was conducted.
you throw coins in that vending machine, consider this: Experts
also say women aren't getting enough calcium-rich foods,
and part of the reason may actually be because they fill up on
the carbonated beverages.
soda, in and of itself, may not harm you. But when you consume
soft drinks to the exclusion of other foods and beverages that
do contain calcium, then yes, soda can represent a threat to a
woman's health," says New York University Medical Center
nutritionist Barrie Wolfe.
idea that soda might harm your bones was born from the theory
that too much phosphorus could leech calcium from the body, thus
increasing the risk of fracture. Because phosphorus is plentiful
in many soft drink formulas, the connection between soda and weak
bones was made.
never any scientific proof that this was, indeed, the case.
But as the soft drink industry continued to blossom -- soda is
now considered the No. 1 beverage of women between 20 and 40 years
old -- researchers began to take the pseudo-scientific theories
under greater scrutiny.
got tired of everyone assuming that soda was bad for bone health
without ever having any real proof one way or the other, and that's
why we decided to do the study," Heaney says.
-- just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
-- involved 32 women, all of whom confessed to gulping down
at least 24 ounces of soda a day.
In order to
test not only the effects of phosphorus-laden sodas, but also
other components of soft drinks, four different formulations were
tested: Coke (containing caffeine and phosphorus), Coke-free (no
caffeine but with phosphorus ), Mountain Dew (caffeine and citric
acid, no phosphorus) and Sprite (no caffeine, no phosphorus but
with citric acid).
To help ensure
that the consumption of liquid alone wouldn't yield any specific
results, plain water was used as a "negative" control,
while skim or chocolate milk was a "positive" control.
were told to fast overnight, urinate upon rising, skip breakfast
and report to the clinic, where they remained for two more hours
without food. A urine sample was then collected (to check levels
of calcium, creatinine, sodium and acid) and after that, the women
were then given a light breakfast consisting of the test beverage,
and low-calcium Italian bread with butter. The beverage serving
sizes were 20 ounces for the soda or water, and 12 ounces for
the milk. To up the difference in fluid consumption, the milk
drinkers were also asked to consume an additional 8 ounces of
water with their meal.
carbohydrate and sugar intake, some of the women were given jelly
beans along with their meal.
For five hours
after that, all the women drank about 20 ounces of water. At the
five-hour mark, another urine sample was collected.
a kind of "musical chairs" random block selection was
used so that by the time the study ended -- a period of about
one month -- each of the women had sampled five of the beverages
-- one water, two colas, one milk, and one citric acid soda.
Urine tests showed an excess of calcium was excreted in only two
groups -- those who drank the milk (an expected result) and those
who drank the caffeine-rich sodas -- although the amount was so
small it was not considered significant.
previous studies showed the calcium-robbing effects of caffeine
beverages in general are compensated for by the body.
the body makes up for the loss of calcium induced by the caffeine,
by holding on to more calcium later in the day," says Heaney.
acid component of the sodas -- the suspected culprit -- had no
effect on calcium excretion.
theory that soda is bad for bone health was finally proven not
true -- unless, as I said before, drinking soda keeps a woman
from drinking calcium-rich beverages such as milk," says
which was partially funded by a prominent dairy organization,
did not prove that soda drinkers choose carbonated beverages over
milk, or that they would drink more milk if soda wasn't available.
to Wolfe, however, the study did show that choosing a low-fat
dairy drink -- like skim milk, a fat-free yogurt shake or a calcium-fortified
juice -- over soda is the better way to go.
may not harm your bone health, but it certainly doesn't help it
-- while a calcium-rich beverage can satisfy your thirst and help
your bones at the same time," says Wolfe. She believes women
don't get enough calcium because they do fill up on soda.
it's possible to have your Coke and your calcium too: "Just
don't drink soda to the exclusion of calcium-rich foods and beverages
and you'll be all right," he says.
To find good
sources of calcium-rich foods, click
To learn how
to incorporate more calcium into your diet, without dairy products,
To find out
how calcium supplements can help, click
The U.S. Department
of Agriculture has an excellent
nutrition analysis tool on its site.
Reference Source 101