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Caffeine intake & bone density..what’s the scoop?

November 11th, 2015

By Morgan Bailey, PharmD Student Cedarville University School of Pharmacy

In college and even in the workplace, caffeine has consumed our lives. Our generation turns to caffeine to give us the burst of energy that we need to make it through the day. According to Healthresearchfunding.org, almost 90% of people in the world consume at least one beverage with caffeine in it daily.1 These beverages would include coffee, energy drinks and soda or pop. Caffeine is considered to be a stimulant to the body, which is why whenever you drink a lot of caffeine you tend to feel more energized and awake. Even though we may get a great feeling from these drinks, are they really being beneficial to our bodies? Recent evidence debates whether consuming large amounts of caffeine can increase your risk for osteoporosis.

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Osteoporosis is condition where your bones become brittle and can make you become more at risk of breaking or fracturing your bones. Research on this topic leads some to believe that the caffeine stops the absorption of calcium in the bones, therefore causing them to become thin. Studies have also shown that caffeine acts on the bone promoting an increase of calcium excretion, inhibition of osteoblast proliferation and delay in tissue repair process, raising the risk of fractures, osteoporosis, periodontal disease and affecting the success of bone reconstructive procedures.2, 3

In 2015, The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study looking at the influence of dietary patterns on bone mineral density and osteoporosis. This was a cross-sectional study that looked at Brazilian women aged 45 and over. The five categories retained were; “healthy”, red meats and refined cereals”, “low-fat dairy”, “sweet foods, coffee and teas”, and “western”. After analyzing that data that they received, they found that excessive sweet foods and caffeinated beverages appeared to have a negative affect on the bone mineral density. Although the study did find a negative effect on the bone density, they could not make a direct link to increased risk of osteoporosis. This was also a cross-sectional study, which was only looking at a specific time period; other results may have been revealed with a longer follow up study.4 In addition, recall bias may have affected the results due to patients self-reporting diet. There was also not any specific type of caffeine separated out (ie is there a difference between coffee, tea, or soda).

Similar findings were found in a 2006 study that found women with high coffee consumption, more than four cups a day, had an increase risk of bone fractures.5 On the other hand, a 2012 systemic review of multiple trials, concluded coffee intake did not increase risk of bone fractures, however suggested more research is needed.6 In 2013, a study was conducted on the long-term effects of coffee consumption and how that relates to the risk of bone fractures. The researchers found that there was no increased risk when the women drank low amounts of coffee, but when they drank more than four cups per day then they found that there could be a reduction in density of the bones.7 This cannot be directly linked to osteoporosis, but is considered a possible risk factor.

While it is not completely clear whether or not caffeine intake (or which type of caffeine) can increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, there is a lot of promising research being done to answer these questions. It appears there is a trend that over 4 cups a day may be an issue. If you are someone that drinks a lot of caffeine throughout the day, you could discuss supplementing with calcium and/or vitamin D and also consider limiting the amount of caffeine that you consume in a day and increase exercise.8, 9

Even though you may not be seeing the results of your caffeine intake now, would you still drink the same amount of caffeine if you knew that it could potentially hurt you in the future?

References

  1. 25 Shocking Caffeine Addition Statistics. HRF website. http://healthresearchfunding.org/shocking-caffeine-addiction-statistics/. August 30, 2014. Accessed October 20, 2015.
  2. Hallstrom H. Coffee consumption in relation to osteoporosis and fractures: Observational studies in men and women. DiVA. 2013.
  3. Vanin, Carla, Harter ,Danielle, Ribeiro RV,Pinto, Kato ,Sergio, Dibi R,Papandreus, Stein ,Airton. Effects of caffeine intake on bone tissue in an animal model of osteoporosis. 2015. 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.02.185
  4. De Franca N.A.G., Camargo M.B.R., Lazaretti-Castro M., Peters B.S.E., Martini L.A. Dietary patterns and bone mineral density in brazilian postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: A cross-sectional study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.27. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Hallstrom H, Wolk A, Glynn A, Michaelsson K. Coffee, tea and caffeine consumption in relation to osteoporotic fracture risk in a cohort of swedish women. Osteoporos Int. 2006; 17(7):1055-1064.
  6. Huifang L, Ke Y, Wenjie Z, Jun Z, Taixiang W, Chengqi H. Systematic review/Meta-analysis
coffee consumption and risk of fractures: A meta-analysis. Arch Med Sci. 2012;8(5).
  7. Hallstrom H, Byberg L, Glynn A, Lemming EW, Wolk A, Michaelsson K. Long-term coffee consumption in relation to fracture risk and bone mineral density in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2013; 178(6):898-909.
  8. Sanders S, Geraci SA. Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: Considerations in prevention and treatment: (women’s health series). South Med J. 2013; 106(12): 698-706.
  9. Suzanne Sanders, M.D., Stephen A. Geraci, M.D. Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: Considerations in prevention and treatment (women’s health series).

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27 Responses to “Caffeine intake & bone density..what’s the scoop?”

  1. Aaron J Oliver Says:

    Great blog! I knew that caffeine may be unhealthy but I did not know that it could cause osteoporosis. Is that why people say that when you drink too much caffeine, it could stunt your growth?

  2. Vineeta Rao Says:

    Good post with a very relevant topic to college students. 🙂 I am definitely guilty of choosing to meet a short-term need over a long-term need by drinking caffeine. This post was a good reminder to think of the bigger consequences! Although, it’s nice to know a calcium supplement could be a good option for caffeine lovers! I would also be interested in seeing more studies on the difference between the effects coffee and tea on bone health!

    I also found it interesting that all of the studies mentioned involved only women. I know osteoporosis is far more common in women, but I would be interested to see more studies done on how caffeine intake effects bone health of both men and women.

    AJ brings up a good point about caffeine stunting your growth – I wonder if this is part of the reason?

  3. Nicholas Rudy Says:

    Good topic! The article mentioned supplementing with calcium and vitamin D. Since black cohosh has been used as a supplement for osteoporosis, I wonder if it would be effective for this purpose in caffeine consumers?

  4. Myriam Says:

    AJ, I found a link to a study where they looked at caffeine intake and growth. I agree with you that this would be an area of further study especially for teenagers who consume coffee.
    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/127/2/306.short

  5. Abby Savino Says:

    This is super interesting! You mentioned that Calcium can help I am wondering if you immediately, when you begin to drink coffee, supplement with Calcium on a daily basis that it will inhibit the negative effects of caffeine consumption that can be seen later on?

  6. Micah Bernard Says:

    Great article, Morgan!
    It’s great that research is being done to determine what the risks of caffeine are, especially considering how much college students often drink! I noticed in the The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study in 2015, they grouped sugary foods and caffeine together as one experimental group. Did they have any way to determine if the decrease in bone mineral density was due to the caffeine or to the sweet foods? Also, I am curious if any research has found negative effects of drinking very moderate amounts of caffeine, such as a couple cups of week?

  7. Katie Distel Says:

    Considering the previous post concerning calcium supplements, I wonder if a change in diet (including more calcium and vitamin D) would be a good solution for moderate coffee drinkers.
    I also found it interesting that the studies mentioned included only women. It would be interesting to see if caffeine has a similar effect on men or if women’s predisposition to bone issues magnifies caffeine’s action.

  8. David J Fisher Says:

    Nice article!
    I am definitely guilty of consuming a lot of caffeine throughout the day. Has there been any research on the long term effects of caffeine from different sources (i.e soda, tea, coffee)?

  9. Dominic Yeboah Says:

    This is a great piece, considering everything we eat and drink and their repercussion on our bodies is very scary. I realize the the study did not mention the minimum quantities that one need to consume for it to have negative effect on the body.
    Secondly it seems the study was basically on women was there anything both negative and positive effect for men?

  10. Katie Woodard Says:

    I loved your article, Morgan! With finals coming up, this is a great reminder for me! I thought it was interesting when I read your article, it reminded me of the health information papers that are posted in Chucks. Yesterday at lunch I noticed an article which described a study with similar statistics and guidelines (today I’ll check to see if it’s the same one). I just thought it was interesting that the information we discuss in self care and on this blog is also being spread to other students in different ways because it is relevant information that students need to know.

  11. Morgan Says:

    Micah, there really wasn’t a huge impact on bone density in people that only drank caffee every once in a while, most of the impact was when people were drink like four cups per day.

  12. Caleb Thompson Says:

    I agree that a long-term study looking at the effects of different types of caffeine would be interesting. An area I would be interested in seeing more research done is with energy drinks versus coffee or tea. Energy drink consumption is increasing, especially among high-school and college-aged students. Do energy drinks cause negative effects on bone more quickly than other caffeine drinks?

  13. Hannah Chittenden Says:

    This is a very interesting and relevant article, especially for college students.

    Even though high consumption of caffeine impacts bone health, I do not know how effective this article will be in changing habits on how often people drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages. The points are outlined well and are very informative, but it provides no other option for what else can people do if they need the boost of energy. Is there a safer option out there? I know having good sleep habits is a must for feeling awake and having energy, but is there something else people can take/eat/drink if they are unwilling or unable to make this lifestyle change?

  14. Casey A Nelson Says:

    I found this to be an interesting read, as I had no clue that an increased amount of caffeine could cause potential harm to your bones. This research makes me wonder if those who drink coffee less than a moderate drinker would still develop similar problems, but further down the road in life. Also, many times people will add milk in with their coffee, do you think that adding milk in with coffee may slow the effects that an increased amount of caffeine would have on the body.

  15. Akwasi O Appiah Says:

    Another great piece of information . I am a victim but i feel that’s what keeps me productive most of the time. I do not consume more than 2 cups in a day though but i feel my body could be robbed off some calcium. Caffeine absolutely has no health benefit from all angles. Can caffeine intake still be a risk factor if I consume adequate calcium?

  16. Caleb H VanDyke Says:

    With all the new studies showing that Coffee may help your heart it is nice to see an article about still keeping good things in moderation. I like Abby’s comment about the Calcium supplement or instead of taking a completely separate supplement maybe add milk? to your coffee? I know cream and sugar would probably increase the negative effects of coffee, but I wonder if straight milk added to coffee could decrease the osteoporosis risk that coffee brings. Definately an area of possible research. Thanks for the great article and the discussion that followed Morgan!

  17. Brandon Spears Says:

    I am definitely one of those moderate caffeine drinkers so this article is absolutely talking about me. I know that your blog mentioned that caffeine causes an increase in calcium excretion from the bone, but did any of your research mention anything about caffeine inhibiting calcium absorption? I feel that this would be much more concerning since it would mean that even if you supplemented with calcium or increased the calcium intake in your diet, you still would not be able to replenish the calcium lost from your bones.

  18. Emily Bruce Says:

    This article makes me wonder what our generation will be up against when we get older. Our generation seems to be walking around sleep deprived because of all the work that has to get done in a day and it seems like it is just going to continue getting worse. Caffeine seems to be the first thing people reach for because it is convenient but I doubt that anyone has looked into what it truly does to their body. It will be interesting to see if the rates of diagnoses osteoporosis increase in our near futures.

  19. James Baffoe Says:

    Nice article! However, it looked like almost all the research you talked about were done on women. I know men are less likely to have osteoporosis due to the greater bone density but did you look into how it can affect them as well. Do you think there are other factors plus caffeine intake that leads to increase osteoporosis in women?

  20. Ankit Pandav Says:

    Very interesting article Morgan.
    For the women that are participating, I wonder how much does their daily diet play role along with consumption with caffeine? Also, I know that I was always told to eat more peanuts because they have high energy, but are there there any other foods that we can eat to compensate for the caffeine?

  21. Travis Mentch Says:

    I personally drink caffeine usually at least once a day, but I also drink a decent amount of milk which is high in calcium. I wonder if there is a balance between the types of drinks that affect risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, it looked like the studies only research caffeine effects on women, would these results be applicable to men as well? There have also recently been studies saying that coffee (a common caffeine source for people) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A broad perspective on the benefits vs. risks of drink coffee might be good research in the future, until then I’ll still drink my coffee and soda.

  22. Sam Franklin Says:

    I’ve also heard that caffeine is good for colon cancer prevention… Did you read anything about that? Thus, it might make a good beverage for those of us predisposed to colon cancer. I don’t fear for osteoporosis, although I don’t intend to drink tonnes of sugar, either!

  23. Kofi Amoah Says:

    Good job on this article, Morgan! This was an eye-opener for me! I never associated caffiene with a decrease in BMD. Did you look into other similar studies? I believe that the study group might even be prone to Osteoporosis, due to their small-built structures. I am curious to see this study done on a different group of women with lower risk of becoming osteoporotic, such as African-American women.

  24. Elizabeth Aziz Says:

    Great Article! I can see from all the comments that this topic is definitely relative to our group of students. We love to drink coffee. I especially do. This is why this article was very interesting for me to read. It is one of my fear that the decisions I make today will effect my health later in life. So if there was concrete evidence that showed that coffee intake can cause low bone density in the future, to answer your question, I would limit my coffee in take. My question is: what exactly in coffee/ caffeine impacts bone density? I believe that a lab study on that would be interesting.

  25. Matt Madden Says:

    Nice article! I think I can safely say that we are all guilty of drinking to much caffeine. Maybe once we all get out of Pharmacy School we’ll remember this and drop the habit! Toward the end of your article you stated that 4 cups or more (of coffee) a day seems like where the problem starts getting more serious. I was just curious how much worse 4 cups of coffee was compared to 1 cup.

  26. Tori Bumgardner Says:

    This was so interesting to read! I think a couple of other people mentioned it, but I’m also interested in the thought about supplementing to offset the effects of caffeine. Putting milk in the coffee or supplementing with a calcium tablet while you drink the coffee. Right now, I don’t drink the 4 cups a day, but this is something I will definitely keep in mind!

  27. Insang Yang Says:

    Great and interesting article since we are in pharmacy school and it seems like we need a lot of caffeine!
    I would love to see the further researches on this topic because i do consume fair amount of caffeine with energy drinks. So i would like to know the actual dose of harmful caffeine contained in 4 cups of coffee because there are different types of coffees and some people just drink it with Starbucks Venti Cups.

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