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Why Your Soda Pop Habit Could Be Destroying Your Bones

Kristin Wegner, PA-C
ACMC-Marshall, Family Medicine

When was the last time you reached for a can or bottle of soda pop (the fountain kind counts, too)? This morning? Lunch? For an afternoon pick me up? All three? If you're a regular soda pop drinker, you could be putting your bones at risk for osteoporosis.

But why is that?

  • Soda is replacing more nutritional drink choices like milk, fortified orange juice or water.
  • Research has also shown that people who drink cola in higher quantities (think three or more a day)—specifically the dark sodas like Pepsi and Coke—have lower bone mineral density, which determines the strength of your bones. It is thought this is because colas contain phosphorous in the form of phosphoric acid. Phosphorous, like calcium, is a major component of our bones. But we get enough phosphorous from foods. Some studies suggest that getting too much phosphorous reduces the amount of calcium our bones can absorb.
  • Studies suggest that getting too much phosphorus can potentially reduce the amount of calcium our bones can absorb.

For good bone health—and good health period—you should limit the amount of soda pop you drink. You can also build strong bones by consuming adequate amounts of calcium.

  • Look beyond the dairy aisle for calcium-rich foods like leafy veggies and broccoli. Bonus? They're both high in vitamin K, which is another key ingredient for bone health. Beans and tofu are also good sources of calcium. If you aren't getting enough calcium, consider a calcium supplement. Adults under age 50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day; those over 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium daily.
  • Get vitamin D, too. Vitamin D plays a key role in boosting bone health. Many people are vitamin D deficient. You can find it in certain foods, but can also take a supplement to get adequate levels. The amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age and other factors.
  • Don't forget to exercise. Exercising regularly, especially weight-bearing exercises like walking or jogging, can also help build and maintain bone health.
  • Don't go overboard on retinol (vitamin A), which is frequently found in fortified foods and dietary supplements. Vitamin A is important for healthy bones, but too much vitamin A can actually weaken bones. Experts believe excessive amounts of vitamin A trigger an increase in osteoclasts, which break down bone. It's also thought that much vitamin A may interfere with vitamin D absorption, which plays an important role in preserving bone.
  • Help your kids build strong bones from the start. Bones reach their peak strength in youth and young adulthood.

So the next time you reach for that bottle of soda, think twice. Enjoy the ice-cold sensation of a refreshing glass of water instead! Drink up.