Is a Coffee Habit Impacting Your Bone Health?

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Coffee wakes you up in the morning, perks you up in the afternoon, provides a premise to meet with pals, and caps off a meal just right. But does it affect your bone health and make you more susceptible to fractures and falls?

The New York Times Well blog recently considered that very question, reassuringly citing a systematic review of the effects of caffeine – including from coffee -- published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology that concluded that daily coffee drinking “is not associated with significant concern regarding the risk of fracture and fall,” particularly for adults who are healthy and have enough calcium in their diets.

The review, which was sponsored by ILSI North America, a non-profit scientific organization that works to address issues of nutrition and food safety and is primarily funded by industry, examined caffeine’s effect on a variety of aspects of bone health, including bone mineral density, osteoporosis, risk of fracture and fall, and calcium homeostasis. The calcium in our diets is critical to maintaining bone health. (So it’s not a good idea to substitute coffee or tea for milk.)

“When calcium levels in the body are adequate, caffeine does not cause adverse effects related to bone health,” Alison Kretser, MS, RD, the ILSI North America staff dietician who served as the project officer for the review, told Healthy Eats.  “Our study found that there was no significant impact associated with intake of less than 400mg of caffeine (about 4 cups of coffee) per day on fracture and fall rates, bone mineral density and osteoporosis, or altered calcium homeostasis, particularly under conditions of adequate calcium intake.”

The review focused on healthy adults, and more research is needed to determine caffeine’s effect on those with health challenges or other sensitivities. The evidence supports a lower recommended caffeine-intake threshold for pregnant women (≤300 mg/day), as well as children and adolescents (≤2.5 mg/kg-day).

Still, Kretser notes that about 90 percent of Americans take in less than the threshold 400 mg of caffeine (four cups of coffee), with most of us consuming an average of about 165 mg per day. That means most of us are probably safe enjoying our usual morning cup (or two or three) without worrying about our bones.

Phew.

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