Title: Caffeine Drinks and Bone Health

Key words: bone fractures, phosphoric acid, osteoporosis, teenage girls, adolescence, peak bone mass, osteopenia, calcium, Vitamin D

Date: Aug 2000

Category: 4. Food Data

Type: Article

Author: DJE Candlish


Caffeine Drinks and Bone Health

New research shows that drinking too many soft drinks during the adolescent years could interfere with crucial bone development, which could lead to osteoporosis later in life.

This is the first study to scientifically document the association between soda drinking and bone fractures, and to show an impact on bones even at a young age, says Dr. Neville Golden, who wrote an editorial about the new research. "Osteoporosis is not only an older woman's or man's disease, but the effect can be seen at a young age." The study's author, Grace Wyshak, PhD, says teenage girls who drink any kind of carbonated beverage are three times more likely to develop bone fractures, compared with girls who do not drink carbonated beverages.

"This tells us there is an association between carbonated beverage consumption and bone fractures," says Wyshak, who is also an associate professor of biostatistics, population and international health at the Harvard School of Public Health. In a survey, 460 high school girls were asked about their soda drinking habits, physical activity levels and history of bone fractures. Nearly 80% of the girls reported drinking carbonated beverages and nearly half said they drank only cola drinks. Among the cola drinkers who were physically active, Wyshak found a five-fold risk of bone fractures. She says she could not come up with conclusive results on the effects of carbonated, non-cola drinks because there were not enough of those drinkers in the study. Nevertheless, the findings reportedly have serious public health implications. "The important thing is that what girls do in adolescence can have an affect in later life," she says. "In this case, the bone development during adolescence could carry over into the menopausal years. This issue is important for both young girls and older women."

Adolescence is an important time for achieving peak bone mass, says Golden. "Between 40 to 60 percent of one's adult bone is deposited during the adolescent years." Teens with poor health can get osteoporosis-related conditions, adds Golden, who works in the division of adolescent medicine at Schneider Children's Hospital. A recent study at his hospital showed over 90% of children with anorexia nervosa had osteopenia (reduced bone mass). Golden says the reduced consumption of milk among teens in today's society and the presence of phosphoric acid in many cola drinks could explain bone fractures. He cites prior research that associates phosphoric acid with reduced bone mass in animals. Teens who are concerned about healthy bones should make sure they get enough exercise, calcium and vitamin D, and that they are within normal body weight, recommends Golden.

Reference: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, June 2000