British Coffee Association - Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones are weakened or demineralised, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of fractures occurring. The condition affects mainly, though not exclusively, postmenopausal women. Various lifestyle factors may play a part in the development of this condition over a long period of time and these can include cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, oestrogen deficiency and poor nutrition.

Woman in labOsteoporosis may be caused by many different factors, which collectively result in a weakening of the bones to such a degree that they break easily. Coffee drinking has been implicated because it has been suggested that caffeine, which is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, and chocolate and added to cola and some energy type beverages, causes calcium excretion which in turn results in weakened bones.

However, a UK Government report on Nutrition and Bone Health, which looked at all the available evidence, concluded that concerns about loss of calcium in the urine due to caffeine intake, ‘are not well founded’ 1. Similarly, a 2002 review of the scientific literature concluded that, ‘There is no evidence that caffeine has any harmful effect on bone status or on the calcium economy in individuals who ingest the currently recommended daily allowances of calcium’ 2.

Adequate calcium intake throughout life is vital for healthy bones and many people in the UK drink their coffee with milk – an important source of calcium, so coffee drinking may contribute to an individual’s total calcium intake. It is possible that a low intake of milk rather than a high intake of caffeine-containing beverages is a true cause of impaired bone health, as suggested by research published in Osteoporosis International 3.

Summary

The National Osteoporosis Society in the UK states that, `We have yet to see any conclusive evidence that moderate coffee consumption is a significant risk factor in the development of osteoporosis. The effects of caffeine on calcium absorption are small and increases in calcium intake, for example by adding milk to your coffee, will counteract any negative effect’.

Coffee drinkers can continue to enjoy their beverage in moderation, four to five cups per day for the general population, without concern for the health of their bones. Pregnant women should however moderate their intake following the guidelines issued by the Food Standards Agency, to 200mg caffeine per day from all sources.

1. Department of Health Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Nutrition Policy, HMSO, 22, November 1998.
2. Heaney RP. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 40, 2002.
3. Hallstrom. Osteoporosis International, Online Edition, May 2006.