We had an interesting discussion about the relationship between soda and bone health during yesterday’s weight management Lunch ‘n Learn seminar at the Department of Environmental Protection in Wilmington, which inspired me to write this post. A common recommendation for anyone trying to lose weight is to cut down on consumption of soda and other calorie-laden beverages. Regular soda can contain a lot of unnecessary calories, so eliminating what may be a major source of empty calories is an easy way to work toward the goal of burning more calories than you consume. For some people, an easy solution may be to switch to diet sodas, which are virtually calorie-free. BUT, that doesn’t mean that diet sodas are “healthy,” and recent evidence shows that they may have more negative effects than we initially thought. Obviously, the artificial sweeteners contained in diet sodas pose concerns due to their chemical properties, but that is a discussion for another post. As we discussed during yesterday’s Lunch ‘n Learn, soda, whether it be diet or regular, can actually be detrimental to bone health, and frequent consumption of soda may increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.
The correlation between soda and osteoporosis is still being researched, but there are several schools of thought as to why soda is bad for your bones:
- Many sodas, especially colas, contain phosphorus (listed as phosphoric acid on the ingredients list). Phosphorus leeches calcium from bones, so consuming too much of it can strip calcium away from your bones, leaving you more susceptible to osteoporosis.
- Cola also contains caffeine, which has been known to interfere with calcium absorption. Calcium makes bones strong, and if it is not properly absorbed, your bones will not be as strong as they should be.
- For some people, frequent consumption of soda replaces consumption of calcium-rich beverages like milk or fortified orange juice. If this applies to you, it might mean that you are not getting as much calcium from food as you need.
Whether you are concerned about your bone health, weight, or both, it might be a good idea to cut back on your consumption of all types of soda. Try to drink more water, milk or non-dairy alternatives (like ricemilk or almondmilk), 100% fruit juice (in moderation, as even 100% juice still contains calories!), or unsweetened iced tea. I am a reformed diet-soda drinker who now drinks unsweetened iced tea almost exclusively. I received an iced tea maker as a gift (you can buy one at department or home stores for about $20), and use it several times a week to brew different types of flavored herbal (and caffeine free!) teas. It takes time to kick a soda habit, so try to gradually decrease your soda consumption by slowly switching to one or more alternative beverages. Your body (especially your bones) will surely thank you!