Calcium and Soda

Can calcium be leached from bones by the phosphorus in soft drinks?

Q: I’ve heard that calcium can be leached from bones by the phosphorus in soft drinks. Is that true?

Soda is definitely bad for your bones, but scientists haven’t yet figured out if the phosphoric acid found in cola is partly to blame. Some researchers believe phosphoric acid leaches calcium from our bones or interferes with calcium metabolism in other ways, but our understanding is still limited. Others hypothesize that the overall ratio of calcium to phosphorous intake has a bigger impact on bone health than phosphorous intake on its own.

Another plausible explanation for the link between high soda intake and low bone mass is that soft drinks often elbow out calcium-rich milk as individuals’ drink of choice. Back in the “good old days,” kids drank milk with lunch and dinner (and they often started the day with a bowl of cereal and milk rather than a sugary-sweet toaster pastry!). Some studies have shown that kids who drink soft drinks instead of milk have less bone density than kids who get plenty of calcium in their diets. The same is true for adults. So while soft drinks appear to be in part to blame for low bone density, we’ll have to wait and see why this is the case. Causality aside, I highly encourage you to cut soda out of your own diet and your kids’ and replace it with healthy beverages like water, skim or 1% milk, naturally flavored seltzer, and unsweetened iced tea.

Worried about whether or not your children are getting enough calcium? Read about Sneaking Calcium Into Your Kid’s Diet.

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