Is Coffee Bad For My Bones?
If you’re like millions- if not billions- of people across the globe, you start your day with coffee.
In fact, the International Coffee Organization estimates that in 2016 we consumed nearly 20 billion pounds of coffee beans!
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way an association between coffee consumption- particularly its caffeine content- and decreased bone mineral density came about. In fact, you may be concerned that your beloved morning cup of Joe could be causing damage to your bones.
In addition to the intoxicating aroma, delicious flavor and jolt of caffeine, drinking coffee actually offers health benefits.
But before we dive into all the incredible health benefits of coffee, let’s address the controversy around coffee and its effects on bone health. Then, we’ll move onto all the incredible health benefits of this beloved beverage.
The Controversy Surrounding Coffee
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, coffee, has been associated with poor bone health for years. While there are some individuals who should not have coffee and/or caffeine due to medical conditions or pregnancy, it’s not necessary to stay away from coffee for the sake of your bones.
Study after study has investigated the claim that coffee causes problems for our bones. And all of them have failed to find any evidence to support this fear. In fact, their findings are just the opposite.
Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT, author of “Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life – Naturally” will explain more below in a wonderfully informative video all about coffee and bone health. But for now, let’s get to the heart of the matter and see what the science really reveals about coffee and bone health.
Papers evaluating the effect of coffee on bone were published by Swedish researchers in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2013, and Korean researchers in the Journal of Korean Family Medicine in 2014. The Swedish researchers looked at whether many years of drinking coffee was related to increased risk of fracture from decreased bone mineral density as people aged. This analysis included data on 61,433 women who were born between 1914 and 1948 and were followed from 1987 to 2008.
In this study, more than 4 cups of coffee per day was considered a “high coffee intake” versus a “low intake” of less than 1 cup of coffee per day. High intake was associated with a very small reduction in bone density, but that reduction did not translate into an increased risk of fracture.
The Korean researchers evaluated the effects of coffee consumption on bone mineral density in premenopausal women. The authors looked at data from the 4th Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This survey was conducted through 2008-2009 and consisted of 1,761 premenopausal women. Researchers found no significant association between coffee consumption and bone mineral density of the femoral neck, the femur, or the lumbar spine. (For more information on menopause and bone health, check out Your Ultimate Guide to Menopause and Its Effect On Your Bones.)
The author of a companion article in the same issue advised limiting coffee consumption to 3 cups per day, since more might be a problem if calcium intake was inadequate. 3 cups a day isn’t too restrictive, but again this restriction was only recommended if calcium intake wasn’t adequate.
In conclusion, there is no strong evidence that coffee will have a significant negative impact on bone mass density and increased fracture rates. What has been repeatedly reported and substantiated is coffee’s many beneficial effects. For instance, coffee protects us against inflammation via numerous mechanisms. Anything that helps prevent chronic inflammation helps lessen your risk of osteoporosis.
Can Coffee Increase Urinary Excretion Of Calcium?
Another component of the coffee and bone health controversy involves increased urinary excretion of calcium. It’s true that coffee can increase our urinary excretion of calcium – but only slightly. This can easily be balanced by taking your coffee with some form of calcium-containing milk, regularly eating calcium-rich foods, and taking a good calcium supplement such as AlgaeCal Plus.
Also, it’s important to have adequate vitamin D levels – a good range is 60-80 ng per mL (nanograms per milliliter) of 25OHD. The only way to know where you currently stand and to supplement accordingly is to get tested. Ask your doctor for a Vitamin D test. And discover more about the exciting benefits of vitamin D, here.
Caffeinated vs. Decaffeinated Coffee
No coffee-related controversy would be complete without discussing caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee. For those who love coffee, but cannot tolerate caffeine, decaffeinated coffee is their go-to. Then, there are coffee purists who wouldn’t even consider decaf coffee.
Whichever camp you fall into, or anywhere along the spectrum for that matter, decaffeinated coffee is simply coffee beans that have roughly 97% of their caffeine removed prior to roasting. This is typically done with water, carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or chemical solvents. While this may slightly change the color and aroma of decaffeinated coffee beans, it doesn’t impact their nutrition.
When it comes to bone health, there is speculation- not concrete studies- that since decaf coffee tends to be a specific type of coffee bean naturally higher in acid, it could have a negative impact on bones. Again, there is no study proving this, so it’s no reason to switch to caffeinated coffee or give up coffee altogether. Lara Pizzorno will also share more information about decaffeinated coffee in her video below.
Lara Pizzorno Discusses Coffee and Bone Health
Hello, I’m Lara Pizzorno the author of “Your Bones” and I’m here today to provide information to you that I hope will help you have healthy bones. Today the topic of our conversation is coffee, one of my favorite drinks, and the question is, is it safe for your bones?
Just a couple of weeks ago I heard from a woman with osteopenia who wanted to know if she should give up her morning cup of coffee and she wrote me the following:
“Would you be able to share with me what might have turned up about coffee consumption after all your research on osteoporosis. I’m so confused about whether or not a cup of coffee or two or three cups is harmful or not. I’m osteopenic and have a lot of back pain due to a series of auto accidents. Coffee helps to clear my head in the morning and also seems to reduce my pain.”
The Benefits of Coffee
Drinking several cups of coffee daily is not only just fine, but actually highly beneficial for most people.
Those of us who have trouble detoxifying caffeine will do best with decaffeinated coffee, but even decaffeinated coffee contains highly protective anti-inflammatory compounds that help prevent type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee really helps with these conditions.
Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
People who drink 4 or more cups of coffee daily have a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
How does coffee lower your risk of type 2 diabetes?
Because of two categories of compounds that are found in coffee caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. These protect cells in the pancreas that produce and secrete insulin. In addition, coffee increases the secretion of a hormone called adiponectin, which is secreted by fat cells and is involved in regulating food sugar levels and in burning fatty acids. Higher levels of adiponectin are protective against not just type 2 diabetes but obesity and atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
If you’ve read “Your Bones” you know that in each of these conditions there is a component of chronically increased inflammation and thus all of them increase the activation of osteoclasts and increase the risk for osteoporosis.
So coffee, by helping to prevent them, is helping to protect your bones. And coffee also lowers another hormone secreted by fat cells that promote inflammation called leptin, chronically elevated leptin levels are associated with obesity, overeating, and inflammation related diseases including, here we go again, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and most important to us, osteoporosis.
Coffee also lowers another marker of inflammation called high sensitivity C Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) and in many studies on bone, one of the things that they checked to see if bone resorption is occurring too rapidly, is that they check levels of hs-CRP.
Provides Key Antioxidants
Other constituents in coffee 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid or CGA and methyl pyridinium, MNP, triggered the activation of a key antioxidant, so an anti-inflammatory pathway called the NERF-2 antioxidant response element.
This is a detox pathway that is involved with the activation of some of our most important internally produced antioxidant enzymes the glutathione transferases. So these help lower inflammation in the body and thus help to protect our bones from excessive activation of osteoclasts based on serving size or daily units, coffee contains larger amounts of these very beneficial phenolic phytochemicals than does tea or even red wine.
In fact, just drinking one cup of coffee causes an increase in the resistance of our LDL cholesterol to free radical damage, which is the first step in the development of atherosclerosis. Coffee’s protective effects on cholesterol are probably a result of the incorporation of coffee’s phenolic acids into LDL. Recent studies have shown that coffee lowers risk of all-cause mortality. Translated into English, this means death from all causes.
Lowers Risk of Death From All Causes
A recent study (August 2017) published in the Annual Review of Nutrition reviewed 127 meta-analyses to evaluate associations between coffee and caffeine exposure and various health outcomes. Most of the evidence came from meta-analyses of observational studies, and some from meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Comparisons of pooled analyses of observational studies and RCTs were possible only for blood pressure and hypertension, and low birth weight; the findings for these analyses were inconclusive. Based on these results, there is probable evidence of the beneficial effects of coffee consumption for a number of chronic diseases, including some cancers (endometrial, prostate, colorectal, and liver), cardiovascular disease and metabolic-related outcomes (such as type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome), and neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression).
Among the studies providing dose-response analyses, some relations were linear but others showed the lowest risk at about 4–5 cups/day. Adverse effects were limited mainly to pregnancy-related outcomes ONLY following caffeine intake, not related to the other components in coffee, as controls were administered decaffeinated coffee.
So the key takeaways were this:
- Coffee consumptions has beneficial effects for a number of chronic diseases, including cancers, and cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological conditions
- The dose-response effect in most meta-analyses was linear, with the lowest risk reached with the consumption of about 4-5 cups/day
- Adverse effects were mainly limited to pregnancy-related outcomes associated with caffeine intake rather than other components of coffee
- Evidence retrieved for other potential adverse effects, such as lung and gastric cancers, were found to be due to the confounding effect of smoking
Further results of a very impressive, very large study showing that coffee helps lower risk of death from all causes was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May of 2012. This was a very large study involving 229,119 men and 173,141 women who were participants in the National Institutes of Health AARP Diet and Health Study and were 50-71 years of age at baseline.
When the researchers compared the risk of death of those who drank coffee compared to those who did not, they found it was 10% lower for men drinking 2-3 cups of coffee per day and 12% lower for men that drank 4 cups. Among women, the reduction of risk of death from all causes was even greater, 13% for 2-3 cups and 16% for 4-5 cups.
But are there any other benefits of coffee? Let’s find out…
Vitamin and Mineral Composition of Coffee
Coffee obviously is not a great source of vitamins and minerals but as a plant-based drink, it does contain some and a few that we should be getting more of. Let’s start with magnesium.
A cup of coffee provides:
- Magnesium: About 7 mg of magnesium, which is a drop in the daily requirement bucket. But because we don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains the average American’s intake fall about 100 mg short of the daily goal recommended for magnesium intake. And a cup of coffee can help close that gap a little.
- Potassium: A cup of coffee also provides about 116 mg of potassium, which can help offset some of the negative consequences of the excessive amounts of sodium in all the processed foods that most of us eat. And about 116 mg of potassium per cup, coffee’s contribution towards the 4700 mg of potassium we are supposed to be getting daily is quite tiny, but it’s still something.
- B Vitamins: And a cup of coffee also has tiny amounts of niacin, choline as well, two B vitamins that are very beneficial for numerous reasons.
The Bottom Line on Coffee
As you can see, you can still enjoy your morning (and afternoon) coffee and have healthy bones.
In fact, drinking coffee can actually help improve your bone health! So don’t worry about having that cup, or two or three each day– so long as you’re not dousing it in bone-depleting sugar!
That said, the best route to healthy bones is a healthy diet with lots of calcium rich-foods, along with an active lifestyle. Better still, add in the world’s only calcium supplement guaranteed to increase bone density each year. It’s guilt-free as well: coming from a natural, plant-based calcium source that also contains all 13 trace minerals your bones need for optimal density.