Does caffeine consumption increase lead to osteoporosis?
If you research this, you’ll find the top authorities are cautious on the answer, because few studies explore the molecular basis of caffeine on bone. So coffee and soda drinkers are left with vague comfort on the topic.
But at least one study shows that caffeine negatively affects your vitamin D levels. And this directly affects how your bones grow; how fast they become porous.
A Straight Answer on Caffeine?
Most sources state cautiously “the association between high caffeine consumption and bone loss is highly suspected, but not completely proven” and “it’s likely that the impact of coffee on bone strength is small.” (1)
Dr. Robert Shmerling M.D. of the Harvard Medical School says that caffeine ‘can impair absorption of calcium from the digestive tract; it probably is a concern only when caffeine intake is high (e.g., four plus cups of coffee daily) and calcium intake is low. (2)
Also, it’s been traditionally very challenging for researchers to draw firm conclusions about caffeine and bone loss, as it’s tricky to isolate the ‘suspect’. For instance, regular coffee drinkers are often regular smokers. So when they suffer noticeable bone loss, is it because of caffeine, or smoking (that is known to hinder bone health)?
And people who consume a lot of caffeine via soda are typically more likely than non soda drinkers to eat a sugar rich processed S.A.D.(Standard American Diets) and not engage in weight bearing exercise as much. So again, is it the caffeine or diet and sedentary living responsible for a case of osteoporosis? (3)
A vicious cycle of a bad diet and a sedentary life is a breeding ground for osteoporosis – and often goes hand in hand with high caffeine consumption…making it hard to narrow down how much bone loss is due to just caffeine.
And many experts say phosphoric acid in sodas (fizzy drinks) contributes to bone loss, making it almost impossible to conclude how much of a role, or if, the caffeine in the fizzy drinks played in creating the problem. (4)
Study Spots Smoking Gun
Caffeine is correlated with accelerated bone loss, but the ‘proof’ has been missing to say it causes it. However, absence of irrefutable proof doesn’t mean that something is not true. It can simply mean a certain piece of damning evidence is out there, but has not yet been found.
One study has come very close. Published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, it has gotten one step closer to isolating caffeine from other bone thinning culprits, effectively catching it right at the crime scene.
According to the results from researchers Prema B. Rapuri, J.C. Gallagher and Zafar Nawaz, it appears that caffeine, in any amounts, is guilty of negatively affecting vitamin D receptors in your body. And since it’s an established fact that vitamin D, or the lack of it, is pivotal for either increasing or decreasing your bone density, caffeine is therefore an accomplice.
Most health experts conclude that it’s only excessive caffeine that is detrimental for your bones. However, the researchers looked at 5 different amounts of caffeine (0.2, 0.5, 1.0 and 10 mM) on vitamin D receptors (VDR belongs to the superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors).
What’s noteworthy is they showed that caffeine, at any amount, has a profound effect. The study concludes that “caffeine dose dependently decreased VDR expression and at concentrations of 1 and 10 mM, VDR expression was decreased by about 50–70%, respectively.”
The study’s summary concluded the “data provides evidence of a direct effect of caffeine on VDR protein expression and osteoblast activity”. Osteoblasts are the cells responsible for bone synthesis and growth. And now we know that caffeine alters the growth of osteoblasts indirectly, by impairing your vitamin D levels.
As caffeine is in many things that we love, it’s hard to avoid. If you’re like me and can’t cut it out completely, then taking a calcium rich, multi mineral supplement like AlgaeCal is affordable insurance – and the backup your bones will appreciate.
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